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November 03, 2005

Jujitsu, Travis County style

Travis County District Atorney Ronnie Earle kicks it up a notch:

"In an unprecedented move, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle filed a motion Thursday asking a Republican presiding judge to remove himself from the decision about who will be the trial judge in the conspiracy case against U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land. Earle, a Democrat, argued that Judge B.B. Schraub, the presiding judge for the 3rd Administrative Judicial Region, should step aside for the same reasons that state District Judge Bob Perkins, a Democrat, was removed from hearing DeLay's case: Both had given political donations.

In the retaliatory motion, Earle wrote that he was using the same rationale that DeLay's lawyers used to get Perkins removed from the case. He said Schraub of Seguin, like Perkins of Austin, is a fair and impartial judge with a "sterling reputation" of honesty and integrity." [Austin American Statesman]

[Big ol' hat tips to OT and jedmunds]


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My father predicted this.

Breaking breaking, atrios posts this: Delay was paid huge expense for flying that perp walk. whew. the corruption never ends.

Is This Normal?

Fox pays $14,000 for DeLay's travel expenses?

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) "filed a report with the Clerk of the House of Representatives indicating he received free travel valued at $13,998.55 from Fox News Sunday for 'officially connected travel' on October 1-2, 2005, from Sugarland, TX to Washington, D.C. and back to Sugarland, TX. Rep. DeLay appeared on Fox News Sunday on October 2, 2005, the weekend after his indictment on September 28, 2005."

I take issue with the word "unprecedented" in the first paragraph. Delay and his attorney set the precedent when they demanded the first judge's recusal. Now I wonder who in Texas is going to try this case.

And $14,000 to appear on Fox News? WTF? If that's not some kind of typo or something, that's just plain weird.

Sorry for the length of this, but what a whirlwind trip through the Texas judicial system this day has been. In the course of it, however, some really rancid connections between the state’s highest judicial official and the Republicans’ rawest power brokers got exposed along with what appears to be a conflict of interest that is astounding even by Texas standards.

Tom DeLay set the stage last week by winning removal of Travis County District Judge Bob Perkins on the notion that an elected judge who had contributed to his own (Democratic) party wasn’t fit to sit in judgement of an uber-Republican like DeLay.

Travis County DA Ronnie Earle, you’ll recall, opposed the motion; saying an elected judge’s support of his own party was hardly reason to remove him from hearing a criminal case.

The decision to remove Perkins came after only a four-hour hearing. Retired Judge C.W. “Bud” Duncan, who heard the recusal arguments, gave no reason or explanation for his decision to pull Perkins from the case.

By doing so, Duncan bounced the judge-picking back to the region’s administrative judge, Republican B. B. Schraub, who - according to records the Austin American-Statesman dug up - had given at least as much money to his (Republican) party as Perkins had to Democrats.

In addition, Schraub was a contributor to and beholden to TX Gov. Rick Perry for his administrative judge job and would be relying on Perry for a reappointment next year. Gov. Perry is an open DeLay crony and his unabashed co-conspirator in the unprecedented mid-census gerrymandering of Texas’s congressional districts. That gerrymander led to the U.S. House Republican victories that DeLay was financing with all his alleged corporate money-laundering.

Earle cited the political connections outlined by the AA-S in a motion filed ONLY THIS MORNING with Judge Schraub, asking him to recuse himself from picking a new judge and either leave it up to the usual administrative workings of the Travis County Courts or ask the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to find a judge.

(Note: In addition to having elected judges, Texas has a weird, bifurcated court system, in which there is a separate high court for criminal cases - the Court of Criminal Appeals).

Schraub agreed ABOUT NOON TODAY to get out of the loop, but instead of doing any of what Earle asked, he handed-off the judge-picking decision to Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, also a Republican.

But not just any Republican....

In calling in Jefferson, one wonders whether Schraub already knew this somewhat startling fact, quickly reported by (amazingly fast-moving) American-Statesman reporter Laylan Copelin who updated the story throughout the day as the race from court to court tore on:

“...[Jefferson] has deep partisan ties: He shared the same campaign treasurer and consultant as DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority. One of his largest campaign donations — $25,000 — was from the arm of the Republican National Committee that's at the center of the allegation that DeLay and his co-defendants laundered corporate money into political donations in 2002. He also was endorsed by DeLay's committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, and made campaign appearances with DeLay's co-defendant, John Colyandro, and attended a Houston fund-raiser with the chairman of the Republican National Committee.”

In other words, where Perkins and Schraub were, at most, contributors to their parties, Jefferson was a beneficiary of political endorsements, was showered with money from and made political appearances with THE ACTUAL DEFENDANTS AND CENTRAL PARTIES IN THE CASE. Based on the novel standard DeLay established last week, if Perkins was tainted by contributing to fellow Democrats, Chief Justice Jefferson would appear to be a downright snakepit of tangled, conflicted interest in this matter.

Fast as Copelin moved in gathering key facts and updating his story, Justice Jefferson moved even faster. Not even a news cycle passed before the story changed again. Where Schraub had taken days to try to find a new judge for the DeLay trial, Jefferson took only hours before assigning it to retired Judge Pat Priest - a fellow San Antonian and -at least, nominally - a Democrat. Jefferson made the assignment only minutes before Earle got to the Texas high court THIS AFTERNOON with a motion challenging Jefferson’s ties to the DeLay committee.

So at this point, things are moving too fast to guess what the net result of this carousel ride might be for an ultimate trial of DeLay, but it’s clear that some Republican-connected judges did some mighty fast ball-handling today. I think Lindsay accurately described Earle’s move as “jiujitsu,” but the response, unfortunately, was “wrecking ball.”

Involving the state’s top jurist, though, did manage to expose how intertwined our judiciary is with the interests of the purely political manipulators. I don’t think most Texans, who vote rather blindly for judge candidates, really understood that. Now maybe some will.

I think it’s ironic that one of DeLay’s lawyers argued disingenuously last week that unless Democrat Perkins was removed from the case the public would think “the Texas fix was in.”

Oh. Ha. Ha. Ha. With Republicans dominating every branch of Texas government, the idea of Democrats being able to “fix” anything here is a sick joke.


This just in:
Retired Judge to Preside in DeLay Case
Appointee Was Chosen for Apparent Nonpartisan Stance

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 4, 2005; A04

"The state of Texas finally found a judge yesterday to preside over the criminal trial of former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), but not without a new, last-minute dispute about partisan political interference.

Administrative judge B.B. Schraub, who earlier this week removed a judge overseeing the proceedings against DeLay for alleged liberal bias, withdrew yesterday from decision making about a replacement judge after an official complaint about Schraub's links to Republicans.

Schraub passed the decision to the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, Wallace B. Jefferson. But within hours, political activists in Texas complained that Jefferson had close ties to individuals and political contributors at the heart of the allegations against DeLay.

By day's end, Jefferson seemed to settle the matter by appointing a retired judge from San Antonio, Pat Priest, whose only recent political donations were three checks of $150 each to Democratic candidates for the Texas House in 2004, according to the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice.

The task of finding a supposedly apolitical arbiter for DeLay's trial was complicated by the fact that Texas -- like seven other states -- elects its judges in partisan elections. It also allows elected judges to make financial contributions to partisan causes, and it even permits those with business before the courts to subsidize the judges' political campaigns."

Woo! Hoo! Lindsay, I think you and Amanda better have a talk about accommadations. Something like room and board, with maybe a little light housekeeping thrown in. Because covering this properly is going to be a full time job.

If this snippet from the WaPo story is correct, about The Bugman flying a tobacco jet to Texas, then what the heck was Fox paying $14k for? Or is DeLay double-dipping? Which would be, like, fraud.

The firm's Web site states that O'Reilly previously represented the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company in antitrust litigation. R.J. Reynolds is one of DeLay's longtime financial supporters -- having given to both his election campaigns and his legal defense fund -- and recently flew DeLay to Texas on one of its corporate jets for his first court appearance.

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