Monday, July 26, 2010

Former Texas Supremes Betray the Republicans that Elected Them

by Timothy Bradberry
President, Central Texas Republican Assembly (CTRA)
On behalf of the CTRA Board of Directors

In similar vein to Speaker Joe Straus “endorsing” Democrat Patrick Rose by headlining a fundraiser for Rose while Rose’s very viable Republican opponent, Jason Isaac was ignored by the Speaker, three former Republican members of the Texas Supreme Court have explicitly endorsed Democrat Kurt Kuhn in his bid for the 3rd Court of Appeals while Kuhn’s very viable Republican opponent, former District Judge Melissa Goodwin, is left with what can only feel like a knife in her back.

Here is how the announcement of this latest Republican betrayal is reported on the Texas Lawyer Blog (Tex Parte Blog):
On his campaign website, Kurt Kuhn, the Democrats’ nominee for a seat on Austin’s 3rd Court of Appeals, touts endorsements by three former Texas Supreme Court justices, all Republicans. Former Chief Justice Tom Phillips and former Justices Craig Enoch and Scott Brister confirm they have endorsed Kuhn, a partner in Austin’s Brown McCarroll. Phillips, now a partner in Baker Botts in Austin, says, “Most of us who have been on the [Supreme] Court in recent years do not regard the judiciary as a partisan enterprise.” Enoch, a shareholder in Winstead in Austin, says, “I’m retired [from the bench], so I’m free to express my opinion.” Brister, a partner in Andrews Kurth in Austin, says he has known Kuhn for a long time. “I think he’ll do a great job,” Brister says. Kuhn says he is trying to run a broad bipartisan campaign. “I’m not going to be a Democrat if I’m elected; I’m going to be a judge,” he says.
The former “Republican” Supremes may not view the judiciary as a partisan enterprise but if they truly want themselves to be seen as apolitical, they picked a strange time to stir the political pot by endorsing a Democrat in a general election. Also, former Chief Justice Tom Phillips' motivation for taking off his robe at this time in this election is clouded by the fact that he advocates for appointed rather than elected judges.

Regardless of their apolitical status or reasons for endorsing a Democrat I ask, like I did about Speaker Straus, what kind of Republicans are they? If they were members of the Central Texas Republican Assembly they would be expelled from membership as our members are not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates of other political parties. Though we did not end up making an endorsement in the Republican Primary in the 3rd Court of Appeals race, once Republicans choose Melissa Goodwin we were and are bound to follow the lead of the Republican Primary voters and put our weight behind the Republican nominee. What the three former Supremes have done is to betray Republican Party voters, many of whom had previously voted them into office.

Apparently ignored by the three former Supremes, the reason we need Melissa Goodwin on the 3rd Court is her extensive experience with administrative law, criminal law, and family law. These three facets of the law account for nearly 2/3 of the cases that the 3rd Court will potentially hear on appeal. Goodwin brings the most experience to the table on these important areas of law and fills a void on the existing 3rd Court, which is made up almost entirely of former civil litigators who have represented deep pocketed clients and have very little experience representing the little guy or gal. Kuhn fits that mold, and if he is elected, he would add nothing to the court that's not already heavily represented (and thoroughly dominates at the Texas Supreme Court).

All evidence from her prior jurisprudence indicates that if Melissa Goodwin gets on the court she would not carry water for trial lawyers or business interests but would be fair and respect the right to a trial by jury. She would also bring important expertise in areas of law that are very much underrepresented on the appellate courts as described above. She has a lot to contribute that isn't there yet, unlike Kuhn.

In summary, Goodwin’s experience covers a supermajority of the kinds of cases that will come before the 3rd Court of Appeals and on the flip side Kurt Kuhn is lacking in the experience that is sore needed on the Court.

So, let me just say in response to this betrayal, Republicans should ignore the three former Supremes and give our full support (read money, money, money, etc.) and encouragement to Melissa Goodwin in her bid to be the next elected Republican on the 3rd Court of Appeals.

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