A justice of the peace in Texas can no longer give parents the choice of paying a fine or paddling their children in open court for now, says a judge’s ruling reported by the Associated Press. Justice of the Peace Gustavo Garza was sued by three families who say Garza left them with no real option when he told them they must pay a fine for their children’s transgressions or paddle them in open court. Until District Judge Abel Limas can resolve that case, he ordered Garza to halt the paddling.
The lawsuit was initially brought by the parents of a 15-year-old girl who appeared in Garza’s court in April for skipping school. Daniel Zurita paddled his stepdaughter with one of the two wooden paddles Garza displays in his courtroom after the justice said it was either that or pay a $500 fine. Garza said offering paddling as an option was lawful and that 98 percent of parents took that choice. Garza is “basically turning the courtroom into something more resembling ‘The Jerry Springer Show’ than a court of law,” said plaintiff’s attorney Mark Rossi.