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Belt-whipping Texas judge suspended: Sign of shift on corporal punishment?

The Texas Supreme Court suspended the family-law judge who was caught on video beating his 16-year-old daughter. The move could signal that views on corporal punishment of kids are changing – even in the South. 

Hillary Adams declines to give comments at the Aransas County Courthouse in Rockport, Texas, on Monday. Adams's father, Judge William Adams, is fighting for visitation with his 10-year-old daughter after a temporary restraining order was issued, barring him from visiting without permission from her mother. The restraining order was issued following the October posting of a 2004 video on YouTube showing Adams beating Hillary.

Michael Zamora/Corpus Christi Caller-Times/AP

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The Texas Supreme Court has suspended the Texas family-law judge whose daughter secretly videotaped him belt-whipping her, suggesting to some observers that, even in the socially conservative South, where corporal punishment is seen as important in shaping character, the fine line between discipline and abuse is shifting. 

Texas' highest court on Tuesday suspended Aransas County Judge William Adams with pay while the State Commission on Judicial Conduct investigates. Judge Adams, who makes rulings on whether parents are fit to oversee their children, found himself at the center of a national firestorm when his 23-year-old daughter, Hillary, posted a video to YouTube in October that showed him beating her. The incident had taken place in 2004. 

Adams maintains that he did nothing wrong, and the investigation could exonerate him, but the fact that the Texas court took this step is significant, says David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire Crimes against Children Research Center.

"We're in a normative shift regarding views on corporal punishment, and what shifts the fastest are views on extremes of what is tolerated," says Mr. Finkelhor. "This video is in the cusp area where there's a lot of controversy right now."

In the YouTube clip, Adams says, "Go get the belt. The big one. I'm going to spank her now." As Hillary wails and begs her father to stop, he lashes her with a belt across the legs.

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