Monday, March 02, 2009

JUDGE WATCH: Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht - Ethics Complaint Dismissed for Insufficient Evidence

Here in Texas, our highest courts in the adjudication of Texas law are split -- civil matters go to the Texas Supreme Court (TSCt), and criminal cases are reviewed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA).

And, there's something to ponder in the fact that the national media has justices on both these courts in their headlines for possible bad acts. Yes, folks, let's ponder that for a bit.

While CCA Chief Justice Sharon Keller (see earlier post on her impending trial and possible impeachment) will be in the news for months to come, TSCt Justice Nathan Hecht is probably going to fade away from the national media scene because of a decision released last month, and hitting the media news late last week.

Texas Ethics Commission Clears Justice Hecht

On February 12, 2009, the Texas Ethics Commission issued a final order in a year-long investigation into activities of Justice Hecht. The TEC dismissed the complaint against the Texas Supreme Court justice because "insufficient evidence" was found that the state election code had been violated.

Justice Hecht Accused of Using Political Contributions for Personal Use

Over a year ago, Hecht was accused of using campaign money to travel to Carrollton, Texas (Hecht lives in Austin). Hecht, however, has a home in Carrollton, attends church in Carrollton, does some of his TSCt work in Carrollton, and has "lots of friends" in Carrollton.

Justice Hecht's Reprimand and $29K Fine Still Holds

Of course, this doesn't change the reprimand that Justice Hecht received last fall, from this same ethics commission, to the tune of $29,000. In that matter, Justice Hecht was found to have received an illegal campaign contribution amounting to $168,000 because the law firm Jackson Walker discounted his legal fees by that amount during his legal fight against allegations that he had abused his position as a justice on the TSCt by openly supporting Harriett Miers in her failed bid for the United States Supreme Court.

(Hecht's argument to the underlying legal challenge? He's prohibited from supporting a candidate running for judicial office under the Code of Judicial Conduct, not from supporting someone nominated for appointment.)

That's Not All Folks ....

And, if you're thinking this is all there is to ethics investigations into the high courts of our fair state, think again. There's the 2008 investigation into TSCt Justice David Medina - alleging that he may have violated state law when he reimbursed himself $57,000 in mileage (commuting between his Houston home and Austin) out of campaign funds.

You'll remember that Houston home -- it's the one that Justice Medina's wife was accused of burning down when arson charges were filed against her.


Associated Press

International Herald Tribune

Dallas Morning News

Houston Chronicle