October 20, 2006

"I'm a P.R. office for the White House."

Said Texas Supreme Court justice Nathan L. Hecht about his active promotion of the nomination of Harriet E. Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court. Later, he said that was a joke. The state Special Court of Review will announce today whether it agrees with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct said that he "improperly lent the prestige of his office to advance someone else’s 'private interests,' illegally used his name to endorse 'another candidate' for 'public office,' and violated the State Constitution by conduct discrediting the judiciary." The Texas ACLU has taken the justice's side.
In testimony to the Special Court of Review in August, Justice Hecht traced the start of his involvement in Ms. Miers’s nomination to a call from President Bush’s senior adviser, Karl Rove, on Oct. 1, 2005, two days before Mr. Bush announced his choice to fill the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Justice Hecht told the court that Mr. Rove had asked him to talk to callers about Ms. Miers’s “faith, about her religious background,” and that the group included James C. Dobson, a conservative leader and founder of Focus on the Family.

Justice Hecht said he also answered news media queries, which he said were so numerous that he was asked to report back to a White House aide on the nature of the questions.

He conceded to the court that he told one reporter, “I’m a P.R. office for the White House,” but he later called that a joke.

Justice Hecht said he had considered the Code of Judicial Conduct during his campaign in support of Ms. Miers’s nomination but did not think he was in violation of it. That opinion, he said, was reinforced by two senior appellate judges with whom he conferred.

The evidence [Mark L. Greenwald, a special counsel for the commission] presented to the special review court included a television interview in which Justice Hecht vouched for Ms. Miers as an opponent of abortion, citing her attendance at “a church that is — takes an open pro-life stance.” He also said of Ms. Miers: “She is very charming, of course. Everybody says gracious, but also very determined.”

UPDATE: Hecht wins. Good.


Icepick said...

The Texas ACLU has taken the justice's side.

Damn those lefty jerks in the ACLU! Can't they leave us conservatives alone?


What, you mean they're on our side? Nevermind.

stephenb said...

I'm not sure I see what the problem is. A seat on the Supreme Court isn't an elected position. Harriet Miers wasn't a candidate; she was an appointee. There's a difference. But if there isn't a difference between election and appointment, then what's the difference between Justice Hecht vouching for Harriet Miers and President Bush vouching for her?

Too Many Jims said...

I am not sure that Hecht violated the Texas code (because it is not clear to me that Miers was a "candidate") but the federal judge who was on the calls with Dobson et al surely violated the Code for U.S. judges. I suspect he was either quietly admonished or no one bothered to complain.

Too Many Jims said...

"Hecht wins. Good."

Just curious but is it "good":

1. because now it is over?

2. because he didn't violate the code of ethics because it wasn't an endorsement?

3. because "Debate on the qualifications of candidates for public office is at the core of our electoral process and of First Amendment freedoms"? (As the majority opinion states.)

4. because the state rules in question simply are unconstitutional? (As the minority opinion suggests.)

If it is 3 and/or 4, what does that say about other codes of judicial conduct that adress the issue including the code for U.S. judges which is fairly clear in frowning on these kinds of actions?

Ricardo said...

As someone once said on another topic, but it applies here: "In Texas, we call that 'walking'."

How can it be illegal if everyone does it?

Simon said...

I would have thought that promoting Harriet Miers as Supreme Court material was per se "conduct discrediting the judiciary," but I second Jim's request for clarification as to how and why this should be seen as a good thing? I don't really have an opinion either way, just curious.

amba said...

Isn't that the guy who was her boyfriend?