March 21, 2006
The judges in the court go round and round

Another appeal in the DeLay money laundering case, another opportunity to complain about judicial bias.

On Wednesday, one 3rd Court of Appeals panel will hear Earle's appeal of a district judge's ruling throwing out charges against DeLay, R-Sugar Land, of conspiring to violate the state's election code.

There are still charges pending against DeLay on money laundering that accuse him of participating in a scheme to convert illegal corporate cash into money Republican candidates could use in 2002 Texas House races. DeLay denies any wrongdoing in the case.

The other 3rd Court panel is reviewing an appeal brought by DeLay's co-defendants, Jim Ellis and John Colyandro. It challenges the legal theory of Earle's original money laundering indictment brought against the men.

The issues are so similar to the charges against DeLay, that if Colyandro and Ellis win, the case against DeLay could evaporate.

One 3rd Court judge who serves on both panels, Justice Alan Waldrop, was a paid lobbyist for Texans for Lawsuit Reform, or TLR, in 2002, according to Texas Ethics Commission records.

That political committee worked closely with the DeLay-founded Texans for a Republican Majority, TRMPAC, in affecting the outcome of the elections for the Texas House that year.

And during the 2003 legislative session, Waldrop worked with TLR consultant Chuck McDonald in coaching Republican House members on how to pass major tort reform legislation. McDonald has been a grand jury witness in the case involving DeLay, Ellis and Colyandro.

Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, chairman of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus, temporarily blocked the tort reform bill under House rules because of Waldrop's coaching. Gallego said Waldrop is "brilliant and a good jurist" but said Waldrop's ties to TLR make it inappropriate for him to be hearing anything related to TRMPAC.

"There should be the same sort of discussion about Judge Waldrop as there was about Judge Perkins," Gallego said.

Another judge who is serving on the Wednesday panel hearing Earle's appeal, Justice David Puryear, gave $250 in 1996 to a Republican candidate who was seeking to oust Earle. At that time, Puryear was an elected Republican county court-at-law judge in Austin.

The candidate, Shane Phelps, had been recruited by the GOP to run against Earle after the prosecutor failed in his effort to convict U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of misuse of office.


[DeLay defense attorney Dick] DeGuerin on Monday said Perkins' situation was unique because he was making political donations while sitting on the court. DeGuerin said the actions of the 3rd Court justices all occurred before they took the oath of office as a judge.

"Everybody who becomes a judge has done something in their past. They've represented one side or another," DeGuerin said. "If they took the oath of office and believe in the oath and impartially administer justice, that's all you can ask for."

Well, now, that's in the eye of the beholder, isn't it? You opened this can of worms, Dick, and you were the one pushing a ridiculously broad definition of "bias" when it suited your purposes. If this comes back to bite you in the ass, you have no one to blame but yourself.

The good news, at least for those of us who believe that there comes a time in any litigation to shoot all the lawyers and let the process move forward, is that Travis County DA Ronnie Earle doesn't appear (yet) to be interested in pursuing a recusal motion. So maybe we'll have a ruling in a matter of days instead of weeks. I agree with the contention that the ruling on the Ellis/Colyandro motion is more important, since if they win there won't be any crime to prosecute for all intents and purposes. Since their claim is that money laundering is only illegal if cash is involved and not checks, I have a hard time imagining how any rational judge could side with them, but you never know. Stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 21, 2006 to Scandalized! | TrackBack

Justice David Puryear gave $250 in 1996 to a Republican candidate who was seeking to oust Earle.

I'm not so concerned about that. I don't think we should expect a judge to be completely apolitical just because he's going to rule in a political case.

I'm much more concerned with Waldrop, who was essentially working with the defendants in this case!

Posted by: Mathwiz on March 21, 2006 3:21 PM