Before being fired last month, a Tarrant County juvenile court judge continued hearing cases – even after he signed onto another judge’s temporary order to stay away from children under 16 unless supervised by an adult.
The order was part of an ongoing investigation into the welfare of his own son.
Former Associate Judge Shane Nolen, of Tarrant County Juvenile Court, also failed to complete a mental exam as ordered, saying he was “too busy to do all this since he is a sitting judge,” according to court documents filed by child welfare workers.
Nolen was fired in November by his boss, presiding juvenile court Judge Alex Kim.
Kim said Nolen was terminated for violating rules but would not elaborate.
It’s not clear whether, as judge, Nolen was around any children alone. But the fact he was under an order to stay away from children unsupervised, and was involved in his own dispute, raises questions about his fitness to preside over juvenile cases involving others.
Nolen, who is now running for spot as a Tarrant County district judge, declined to comment.
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“I’m on vacation right now,” he said Thursday when reached on his cellular phone. “I’m on the mountain,” he said.
Asked if he had any comment on the case, he said, “I really can’t even talk to you.”
Nolen’s attorney, Brent McMullen of Southlake, did not return a phone call.
The documents, in Denton County District Court, indicate Nolen’s 5-year-old son had been living with his mother and was removed from her home in June after she tested positive for drugs, including heroin.
“There was an immediate danger to the physical health and safety” of the child, a Child Protective Services worker wrote in a court filing.
CPS began an investigation after it had received a tip last year that the mother took the boy with her to a drug house, and smoked marijuana around him at home, a child welfare worker said in a court filing
When CPS initially tried to contact Nolen this summer, after removing the boy from his mother’s home, he did not respond and blocked their calls, a caseworker said.
Nolen hired an attorney and tried to get custody of his son in August, but a judge declined his request. Instead, he was allowed short, supervised visits.
According to the court records, Nolen attended eight court-ordered parenting classes and had two left. It is unclear from the public record whether Nolen attended the final two sessions.
But the leader of the parenting class said Nolen presented himself as a judge rather than a participant, evaluated the course as “great for everyone else,” and had an “arrogant attitude,” according to the records.
Nolen also failed to present evidence that he was paying child support of $1,300 per month and had placed his son on his health insurance plan, as instructed, the documents said.
In a court filing, Nolen generally denied the allegations against him.
The boy was originally placed in foster care but is now living with a relative outside Texas. A review hearing is planned in three months.
In November, a CPS worker wrote that the 5-year-old was happy and “wise beyond his years.”
“He is inquisitive … and knows his parents are working hard to get him home,” the worker said.
The boy’s mother, Ashley Norwood, said in a telephone interview that she’s struggling with an addiction to prescription drugs but denied using heroin.
“I’m not proud of it,” she said. “From here I am going to keep moving forward. I’m going to try to heal and move on in a positive way. I want my kids to have a healthy mom.”
At the same time, she said Nolen also had been a bad father.
“Obviously we have a history and I do care about him,” Norwood said. “But I also think his judgement is a little skewed.”
Meanwhile, another woman who claims Nolen is the father of her daughter was granted a restraining order in Tarrant County to keep him away from the girl without supervision, citing the Denton County case involving his younger son. The mother said Nolen had been living with their daughter in violation of the Denton County order.