A new revelation about a Texas woman who has held a license to practice law since 2007 has sparked controversy in the city of Corpus Christi.
As KRISTV reports, a recent discovery regarding Municipal Court Judge Young Min Burkett has prompted city council to place her on unpaid leave.
The detail — namely, that Burkett is not actually a U.S. citizen — was announced following a closed-door city council session on Tuesday.
The discovery was made during a recent review of the citizenship status of all local judges, one that tied in with a state law that requires judges to also be able to serve as a qualified voter.
While Burkett — who reportedly came to the U.S. from South Korea specifically to study law — is both a permanent resident and eligible for lawful employment, it is her lack of official citizenship that prevents her from serving as a judge.
According to Corpus Christi City Councilman Rudy Garza Jr., however, the mistake was not Burkett's, but the city's:
“The error was a city error and we don't feel Judge Burkett was insincere or did anything in her application or interview that led to any dishonesty on her part.”
Nonetheless, the revelation has not settled well with everyone, including Councilwoman Carolyn Vaughn:
“We're talking about a judge that's not a citizen of the United States and she's sitting up there ruling on our citizens. I mean, to me that is a simple thing that should have been checked out.”
The city council appointed Burkett to serve as a judge in 2015 and then again in February of this year. She has worked as a prosecutor in the state since 2008.
While Burkett herself has yet to respond to any requests for comment, her husband, Nathan Burkett, did provide a statement to the local Corpus Christi Caller-Times:
The job posting specified only the ability to work in the U.S. She has never made a representation that she is a citizen ...
South Korea (her country of birth) doesn't allow dual nationals like many other countries, so that's why we hadn't applied before now.
The city council has since given Burkett 90 days to attain her citizenship and continue in her role.
They also “determined that past rulings of this judge are not invalidated” despite her lack of citizenship.
According to city records, local Presiding Judge Gail Loeb has noted that Burkett's performance on the bench has been “above standard.”