struggling financially to make it.” Bob Richter, Jefferson Thinking Positive, San Antonio Express-News, January 12, 2002.
Column discusses the campaign of Texas attorney Brooks Harrington for a seat on the Tarrant County District Court. In an effort to spur judicial election reform, Harrington is running as an independent who won’t take campaign contributions. He explains, “I’m trying to show that it’s at least possible within the present legal system to run in a different way.” Concerning his independent status, Harrington asserts: “Trial judges are the referees of democracy. I don’t think communities ought to trust the parties to select the judges who are going to referee the system.” Concerning Harrington’s decision not to accept campaign contributions, the columnist points out the controversy now brewing over Enron’s campaign contributions to Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, who has been nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit: “Did she deliberately help a campaign donor? Most probably not. Will she be able to escape the taint? Most probably not?” (See Court Pester, January 22.) Harrington will have to gather 500 signatures from voters who did not participate in party primaries to appear on the November ballot. Linda Campbell, Seeking Truly Independent Judicial Elections, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 24, 2002.
Syndicated columnist Marianne Means argues that the Enron scandal “dramatizes an embarrassing weakness in the judicial system,” the fact that elected judges take money from the interests likely to appear before them. The 5th Circuit nomination of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen has sparked opposition because Justice Owen, after receiving $8,600 in contributions from Enron, wrote an opinion reversing a lower court decision requiring the corporation to pay $15 million in school taxes. (See Court Pester, January 22.) A report by Texans for Public Justice asserts that 85% of Justice Owen’s decisions were in the interest of her campaign donors and that she failed to recuse herself when faced with conflicts of interest. Means concludes that the only solution is for states to stop electing judges. Marianne Means, The Fallacy of Electing Judges, Seattle Post- Intelligencer, January 29, 2002.
56. Texas Supreme Court candidate Steven Smith has brought a federal lawsuit against the State Bar of Texas, challenging the Bar’s restrictions on judicial candidate speech as an abridgment of his First Amendment rights. The Texas Code of Judicial Conduct prevents candidates from making statements that “indicate an opinion on any issue that may be subject to judicial interpretation.” Candidates usually interpret the provision as allowing little more than discussions of their legal experience. In his suit, Smith states that he has told voters that his judicial philosophy is similar to those of Justices Scalia and Thomas but that he has also made sure not to suggest how he might rule on individual cases. Last year, the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct gave Judge Tom Price of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals a public warning for indicating a bias in favor of