Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Texas justice isn't for sale -- because it's already been paid for

Two revealing reports about the state of Texas jurisprudence this week. First, from RG Ratcliffe of the Chron, it seems that Mikal Watts has been spreading more than just his money around:

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mikal Watts of San Antonio once tried to pressure a legal opponent into a $60 million personal injury lawsuit settlement by claiming he would have an advantage on appeal because of his firm's "heavy" campaign financial support to an appellate court's justices, "all of whom are good Democrats."


"This letter seems to confirm what everybody thinks about Texas justice. Very seldom is it this well-articulated," said Craig McDonald of Texans for Public Justice, an organization that advocates for campaign finance reform. "It confirms the fact Texas courts are filled with politics."

Naw. Ya think?

Watts said Tuesday he noted his contributions in the letter because defense lawyers always tell trial lawyers they cannot win their cases ultimately because the Texas Supreme Court consists of all Republican justices.

"It was in response to the garbage we hear from defense lawyers every day," Watts said.

Opposing counsel, he noted, typically will say, "It doesn't matter what a jury is going to do because we've got nine angry Republicans on the Texas Supreme Court who will take away whatever a jury does."

Oh. So it was just "aggressive negotiations". I get it now.

The only qualification Mikal Watts seems to have in standing for public office is that he has millions of dollars to spend getting himself elected. I just can't see much difference between him and John "Bush's Box Turtle" Cornyn.

Pretty hideous if that's our two choices in 2008.

You knew where I stood on this race sometime ago, but really there's no underscore I can add about the differences between Watts and Rick Noriega. If you see this as your opportunity to personally Change the Equation, then here's your link.

Update: Markos has more.

And from the Lone Star Project:

Study Shows Harris County Republican Judges are Financial Conduits to Non-Judicial Candidates and GOP Party Efforts

A detailed review of campaign finance reports filed by Harris County Judges shows that the Harris County Republican Party and its allied partisan Republican organizations received a surprisingly large level of support from Harris County GOP Judges. Over the last 6 years, Harris County partisan Republican political efforts received nearly one half million dollars from Republican judges.

Harris County Republican
Judge Donations

Donations to Harris County Republican Party


Donations to GOP Allied Republican Groups


Total Donations to GOP Causes and Candidates


Source: The Texas Ethics Commission

Donors to judicial candidates generally contribute because they support the individual candidate and do not take into account partisan considerations. In light of this, many Harris County donors might be surprised to learn that their contributions to Harris County incumbent Republican Judges are often quickly cycled through judicial campaign accounts and into the coffers of the Republican Party itself and to non-judicial Republican candidates.

Sitting judges usually try to avoid appearances of overt partisanship. Their campaign funds are typically used to support their own election efforts or activity not related to campaigns. Texas election law includes many specific restrictions on how judges can raise and spend money in order to a avoid conflict between partisanship and public service. (Source: Texas Election Code - Section 253.151)

Judge Sharolyn Wood
Source: Harris County Website

Harris County’s Republican Judges who have been especially generous to the Harris County Republican party include Judge Sharolyn Wood, who donated $19,500, and Judge Ken Wise, who donated $6,700 over the last three and a half years. On average, Harris County Republican causes have received more than $5,000 per GOP Judge.

Harris County Republican
Judge Donations

Judge Sharolyn Wood


Judge Ken Wise


Average Donation from all Harris Ct. GOP Judges


Source: The Texas Ethics Commission

We're going to have an excellent slate of Democratic judicial candidates in Harris County, and one of the ancillary benefits will be the end of this practice.

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