Tarrant County judge removed from baby life support dispute case

A judge who signed a restraining order preventing a Fort Worth hospital from removing a child from life support will have to recuse himself from the case.

Tinslee Lewis was born with a rare heart defect and has been in intensive care her entire life. Doctors at Cook Children’s Medical Center say despite several complex surgeries, her health will never improve. Tinslee was supposed to be taken off a ventilator, but lawyers for the family obtained a temporary restraining order.

The hospital was in court on Wednesday and was successful in its effort to have Judge Alex Kim taken off the case.

Lawyers for the hospital say Judge Alex Kim violated procedures by assigning himself the case. As part of their case, they say the judge also liked posts on Facebook in support of an anti-abortion group that helped contact him to sign the restraining order.

At the center of the fight is Texas’ Advance Directives Act, or the 10-day rule, which allows a hospital to discontinue life-sustaining treatment 10 days after giving written notice if doctors consider the patient’s condition to be incurable.

In their filing, attorneys for the hospital said Judge Kim was influenced by groups trying to end that rule and therefore cannot be impartial. The recusal motion also alleged some conservative state lawmakers influenced the process of finding a judge like Kim who would support the injunction.

Kimberlyn Schwartz works with Texas Right to Life. It is one of the groups against the 10-day rule.

“I think judge Kim is a very fair and impartial man,” she said. “I don’t think that anything that the hospital has said today proves that he’s biased or should be recused in any way.”

Joe Nixon is the lawyer representing Judge Kim. He says he’s not biased.

“You can interpret it as showing some bias or prejudice but he didn't,” Nixon said. “At the end of the day he was clear he hadn't made up his mind. But in these cases the safe play is to recuse and you avoid any problems so I understand why the court ruled the way it did.”

A spokesperson for Cook Children’s Medical Center said doctors have done all they can for Tinslee and think everyone needs to do what is best for the child.

“Tinslee is suffering. This is not fun for her. This is suffering for her. So that’s why it’s so important that we really deal with her situation as quickly as we can,” said Wini King with Cook Children’s. “There is nothing more that can be done for her. But what we have to do is help Tinsley right now. Not two months from now. Not in the spring. Not in the fall. We want to help her right now. She deserved that because she is suffering. We just want a judge to be fair and impartial.”

Cook Children’s says more than 20 hospitals have reviewed Tinslee’s case. None will treat her.

Another judge will be assigned to hear the temporary injunction on December 10. Until then, the child will remain on life support.