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Time for the daily salute to the new judge

And we have a new judge in the DeLay money laundering trial: Pat Priest.

A Democratic judge was named on Thursday to preside over the money-laundering and conspiracy case against U.S. Republican Rep. Tom DeLay in an appointment made by the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court.

Senior Judge Pat Priest of San Antonio will replace state District Judge Robert Perkins, who was forced off the case on Tuesday after DeLay’s attorneys complained he was too staunchly Democratic to give their client a fair trial.

Priest was appointed by Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, a Republican endorsed and aided by DeLay’s Texans for a Republican Majority, or TRMPAC, a political action committee at the center of the criminal charges.

Jefferson made the appointment after a Republican judge in a lower court, B.B. Schraub, recused himself earlier on Thursday after prosecutors charged he was too staunchly Republican to make a fair choice.

[…]

Priest was a respected judge in San Antonio for years, but no longer works full time on the bench.

This judge-hopping was fun and all, but maybe now we can get down to business. Kudos to Justice Jefferson for dealing with this hot potato in an expeditious manner. A dKos diarist named Zarate, who says he has near-daily business with Judge Priest, offers some hearty praise for him. Welcome aboard, Judge Priest. Let’s get down to business.

UPDATE: Here’s the latest.

“I don’t know how this case landed on me,” said Priest, 64, of San Antonio. “I hope it’s because someone told them I’d be fair.”

Priest said he has no idea how long he might last as presiding judge.

“You’ll have to ask the lawyers in the case to see if they find me objectionable,” he said.

DeLay’s lawyer, Dick DeGuerin of Houston, said his first motion before Priest will be to ask him to move the trial from Travis County to DeLay’s home of Fort Bend County.

Fort Bend! In your dreams, dude. Aren’t change-of-venue motions supposed to give alternate locations which are similar to the original? How in the world does Fort Bend County qualify as “similar” in any material way to Travis? Will DeLay demand that the Fort Bend DA’s office be put in charge of the prosecution, too?

DeGuerin said he did not think DeLay would find objectionable three $150 donations Priest had made to San Antonio Democratic state representatives last year. All three lawmakers were involved in a House walkout in 2003 that temporarily blocked DeLay’s redistricting efforts.

Priest said he gave the money to the lawmakers because of an unusual situation in which judges who retired before him and after him received more pay. He said the lawmakers were “kind enough” to carry a bill to make his retirement pay the same as other judges.

Though officially retired, Priest remains active as a judge and said he is a Democrat.

Last month in Dallas, Priest took over for a judge who was removed in a criminal case because prosecutors claimed he was favoring the defendant.

In 2000, he presided over the corruption trials of county officials in Karnes and Atascosa county accused of stealing from their governments. He sentenced both to prison.

Priest’s most high-profile case was in 1990 when he ordered a San Antonio TV reporter jailed for six months for refusing to comply with his order to turn over notes in a capital murder case.

Priest was elected as a district judge in 1980 and remained on the bench until he ran for the 4th Court of Appeals in 1994. He lost the Democratic primary to an opponent who accused him of being “soft on crime” for reducing the $1 million bail set for two murder defendants by another judge.

Since then, he has served as a senior judge, handling cases that are assigned to him by an administrative judge.

Welcome to the spotlight, Judge Priest. Watch your back.

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4 Comments

  1. Rick says:

    In the game of musical benches I rate Ronnie Earle the winner. DeGuerin, like his Republican client, thought they had checkmate with the Supreme Court as thae determining Court, but found that there were still moves to make. Now the game is afoot.

  2. TAK CHANG says:

    DESMISS THE TRAIL AGAINST TOM DELAY.

  3. Ken says:

    Dismiss the charges against Tom DeLay? On the day his assistant pleaded guilty to strong arming officials for donations and whatnot? Hogwash!

    DeLay (notice the French name) is guilty as sin! He’s basically been running the Mafioso branch of Republican finances. If this think plays out as it should, and witnesses are called, it’ll be fun. What’s more fun is when witnesses are called in the Abramoff case. Can’t wait for that.

  4. […] are no more judges on the Third Court who haven’t already recused themselves. Recusals have been the norm in this case and in the related case of DeLay associates Jim Ellis and John Colyandro. I once […]