Christian Feldman, an attorney for the watchdog group, Texans for Public Justice, claims, “They’ve methodically flooded the Supreme Court with money at the same time they’ve had cases pending before the court.” An attorney for Halliburton responds that the company does not wish to influence court decisions. Miles Moffeit and Diana Hunt, Halliburton Gifts Target Areas Where It Has Stake, Records Show, Fort Worth (Tx.) Star-Telegram, July 29, 2000.
Column argues that the recent pardoning of Roy Criner reveals the flaws in Texas judicial elections. Criner was sentenced to a 99-year sentence for murder and rape, but DNA tests supported his claims of innocence. However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied him a new trial. (See Court Pester, August 17.) According to the column, “only when Montgomery County District Attorney Michael McDougal sought a pardon . . . was Gov. George W. Bush able to release Mr. Criner.” Criner’s case, in the column’s view, “shows the flaws in a system in which all judges are elected. At a time when the public wants judges to lock ‘em up and throw away the key, it is much simpler to deny a new trial to a man many thought had raped and bludgeoned a teenage girl.” The column concludes by endorsing a legislative proposal for judicial appointment. Henry Tatum, Justice, Dallas Morning News, August 23, 2000.
Article reports that the chief justices of the 15 most populous states with judicial elections will hold “a summit meeting” to discuss judicial electoral reform. (See Court Pester, August 31.) According to Tom Phillips, the Chief Justice of Texas and an organizer of the meeting, the escalating costs of judicial campaigns and the increase in attack advertising make the changing nature of judicial elections “a national problem and one that has to be looked at nationally, not just in whatever state is having an election at the moment.” Chief Justice Phillips says that, in searching for solutions, the participants will focus on limited reforms that can be achieved, rather than sweeping changes. However, some observers have questioned the participants’ commitment to reform, noting that the Justices owe their positions to the very system they seek to change. Tom Smith, the director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, states that “it is our fear that ! what will result is a strategy for defense of the system rather than an effort to find solutions.” William Glaberson, Chief Justices Plan to Meet on Abuses in Judicial Races, September 8,
21. Editorial refers to the meeting of 15 state Supreme Court Chief Justices in December to discuss judicial electoral reform and asserts that “a summit on judicial elections can make improvements but not solve the fundamental problem.” The purpose of the conference is to identify “improvements that realistically could be made within the existing framework of judicial elections.” The editorial applauds the attempt but concludes that real progress will be achieved in Texas only when “the state takes the blatant politics out of selecting its judges.” Court Conundrums, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, September 17, 2000.