Friday, July 27, 2007

Money--The Real Chief Justice of the Texas Judicial System

An editorial in the Austin American-Statesman, titled Plopping $447,000 onto the scales of Texas justice, provides an unsettling account of how very influential money is in Texas government, even in the judiciary. The article explains how Justice Nathan Hecht, when in legal trouble with the Texas Ethics Commission, solicited money from major law firms to help pay for his legal defense. The main problem proposed by this editorial is that the lawyers that donated money to Hecht practice before his court. The obvious question, then, is "How will this affect Hecht's objectivity when the donors bring their cases before him and the Supreme Court?"
The author of this article does a good job of staying clear and objective. He or she does not make broad assumptions about the relationship between fiscal donations and judicial decisions. They even present a slightly counter argument in saying that "Almost all judges and judicial candidates despise the need to ask for money to run for their offices", but still questions the influence that money has on decision making. Although the author's objectivity in presenting this question to the public (so that we can make our own decision) is admirable, there are stark facts that could have been included in this article. For example, the UT Texas Politics website explains that the Texans for Public Justice reported that between 1994 to 1998, the Texas Supreme Court justices "were seven and one-half times as likely to accept petitions filed by contributors of at least $100,000 than by non-contributors. Further, they were ten times as likely to accpet petitions filed by contributors of $250,000 then by non-contributors."
The facts are there, and I personally find it a bit disturbing how influential monetary issues can be in the Texas Judicial System.

1 comment:

KSeago said...

Very nice work. I think "Starch facts" should be "stark facts."