Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Another loss in court for Abbott

Judge Dietz will stay on the school finance case.

State District Judge John Dietz will remain the presiding judge in the long-running Texas school finance case after a motion by the attorney general to oust him was rejected on Monday.

State Judge David Peeples of San Antonio dismissed allegations that Dietz engaged in improper communications with attorneys for school districts suing the state. At a hearing on Friday, lawyers for the attorney general’s office said Dietz exchanged multiple e-mails and coached school district attorneys while he was working on his final judgment in the lawsuit.

“The circumstances shown by the evidence do not justify recusal (removal),” Judge Peeples said in his order. He added that the evidence indicated the state had agreed to the “ex parte” communications.

“This court emphatically rejects any suggestion that Judge Dietz intentionally or knowingly engaged in ex parte discussions without thinking that (all) the parties had agreed to allow this,” he said in his nine-page ruling.

It is common practice in civil suits for a judge to receive input from attorneys on the prevailing side in writing a final judgment in the case.

Dietz is now expected to resume work on his estimated 350-page decision on whether the current Texas school finance system is constitutional.

Quorum Report picks up on the mocking tone Judge Peeples used in denying the state of Texas' request.

In his brief opinion sent to lawyers and media alike (late Monday evening), Peeples opined that correspondence indicated the state clearly understood the communication between Dietz and plaintiff attorneys, even if the state didn’t recognize the extent of that communication. The extent Dietz’s procedure might be considered rare, if not possibly unique, but it did not meet the legal threshold for impartiality.

“The State knew that the ISD plaintiffs would be drafting proposed (findings of fact and conclusions of law) and sending them to the court,” Peeples wrote in his opinion released tonight. “Submissions from a prevailing party cannot be expected to be neutral and dispassionate, especially in a case like this one. It seems implicit that this procedure contemplated some feedback in each direction, some back-and-forth discussion. All parties must have understood that there would be some give and take, such as: “Let’s keep A, omit B, and modify C. Why do you suggest D? E seems better, but I am interested in your explanation for preferring D.” Is it the better practice to be explicit when deviating from usual procedures? Absolutely! But, as said above, the inquiry in this recusal proceeding is not best practices but whether a judge’s impartiality can be reasonably questioned.”

Greg Abbott is a shit lawyer, and apparently he hires other shitty lawyers to work in the OAG.  Having to argue a losing case is one thing.  Having an extreme partisan political bias in arguing a losing case is another; being wildly incompetent is something else further.  He's not stupid so much as he is obstinate about thinking he's right when he's so wrong.  (I grant that some people might consider that stupid.)

It just never ceases to amaze me that Abbott can repeatedly demonstrate his lack of understanding about the law, about legal strategy, about essentially everything necessary to conduct oneself as a competent attorney and never be held to account for it.  It's not greatly different from the massive ineptitude demonstrated by other nominees on the Texas Republican ballot, like Glenn Hegar and Sid Miller and so forth.  But it seems as if the mission of Republicans all across the country is to govern in the least effective manner possible... in order to demonstrate how useless government can be.

You know, the joke goes: "Government is broken! Elect me and I'll break it into smaller pieces".

It has a whiff of anarchy about it.

Update: More on Abbott's continuing misfortunes from Socratic Gadfly.  And the fallout from the ruling, via the Austin Chronicle.

It's far from good news for Abbott. The generous interpretation is that, as attorney general, he has been stuck with defending a piece of legislation and a funding situation. Now he is the Republican contender for governor, and so his first act in the mansion could be handing court-mandated instructions to the new legislature to create a new system and properly fund it. He may still appeal Peeple's ruling, and even if Dietz stays on the case, Abbott could also appeal any ruling to the Texas Supreme Court. But this is not necessarily the kind of issue that he wants hanging over his head during an election cycle.

On the other hand, it could well be good news for his opponent, Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. She actually rose to prominence in Democratic circles, not through her 2013 reproductive rights filibuster, but her 2011 fight against the Shapiro-Eissler compromise. She has already called on Abbott to end the state's challenge to the lawsuits. Today she applauded Peeple's ruling, saying that "every day, Abbott is proving he's more interested in working for his political insider friends than protecting Texas public schools, and his request to remove Dietz shows just how far he'll go to protect those interests."


Gadfly said...

It's a bad week all around for him, and it's only Tuesday! http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2014/06/its-bad-week-for-gregabbott-and-its.html

Gadfly said...

I also have a professional angle on this one; one of the smaller school districts in this county is a plaintiff in the case.