Texas Watch[ed]


Today, Texas Watch filed three complaints against Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, all of which stem from a twenty-five percent discount given Justice Hecht by the law firm that represented him in his successful challenge to the wrongful admonition handed down by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Justice Hecht

Texas Watch filed complaints with the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s office, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, and the Texas Ethics Commission, claiming the discount Justice Hecht received was worth at least $100,000, and therefore exceeded the $5,000 limit for individual donations and the $30,000 limit on donations from political action committees.

Justice Hecht’s attorney, Chip Babcock of Jackson Walker, said that his firm considered the discount to be pro bono work. For his part, Justice Hecht voluntarily recused himself from all cases before SCOTX in which Jackson Walker was listed as counsel during the pendency of his appeal.

Admitting the scattershot approach his organization (which is a historically left-leaning lobbying organization, despite its laughable claim to being nonpartisan) had taken in simultaneously filing three complaints–the first ever filed by Texas Watch–with three different oversight agencies undercut the viability of Texas Watch’s claims, Executive Director Alex Winslow acknowledged: “[w]e don’t think it’s possible for Justice Hecht to have committed three offenses here, but we felt that there’s enough of a question with each of these, that we needed to file all three.”

For whatever it’s worth, my continuing take on this latest round in the Days of our Hecht Saga is that all three complaints are each very serious allegations that will invariably and quickly cost Justice Hecht the $100,000 in defense costs of which Texas Watch complains he was spared during the previous round of vexatious litigation.

Of the three, however, the one that would give me the most pause is the complaint with the Travis County D.A.’s office led by Ronnie Earle, who gained recent notoriety empaneling several, successive grand juries to indict Tom Delay, only to have that indictment thrown out because it didn’t actually allege actions which constituted a crime at the time the actions were alleged to have occurred.

Accordingly, Ronnie Earle has demonstrated that he is unafraid to use his office to pursue a blatantly partisan political agenda, and thus, might relish the thought of going after a famous conservative intellect like Justice Hecht.

We’ll keep you posted as this develops ….

Thx to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the San Antonio Express-News

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Earlier this week, I posted a short retort to the Austin American Statesman‘s condemnation of Justice Nathan Hecht‘s fundraising to pay the legal fees he incurred in defending himself against an admonition later found to be unconstitutional and silly to boot.

SCOTX

Partners at BigTex firms in this state (where the majority of sitting SCOTX Justices have begun their practices) routinely make anywhere from $400k to $2.5 M per year. Counting the new raise SCOTX Justices just received in 2005, they now make $150k per year, a full $10k less than their clerks do as soon as they walk out of the Tom C. Clark building.

How on Earth could a few thousand or even a few million in campaign donations (which must be reported and can’t be spent on personal expenses without risking imprisonment and disbarment) be even slightly corrupting to someone who could make that much and more in the private sector without any of the ethics reporting requirements or public scrutiny?

The sheer ignorance of some like Texas Watch or Texans for Public Justice of the personal financial sacrifice imposed by choosing to sit on the bench instead of in a firm office is glaring. Anyone so easily corrupted by money would never choose to walk away from the private sector in order to someday “pay back” donors with favorable decisions, all for a relative pittance in compensation.

Agree that the system is not ideal in a myriad of ways, and subjects our judges to the appearance of impropriety, but the reality of the financial gaps between public service and private employment is now so huge, that to argue someone runs for a seat on the appellate bench for the money is laughable.

Thx to our Texas judiciary

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