Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Chief's Lame Defense of his Travelgaters; Loyalty Trumps Logic

Three of Chief Jefferson's colleagues, Medina, Hecht, and Green are enveloped in ethics clouds. While the smoke has lifted - at least temporarily - from David Medina' loan and lien incineration troubles, complaints over misuse of campaign funds have been filed against all three. Controversy and suspicion is smoldering on.

Asked about the ethics cloud in his recent interview with the legal trade paper TEXAS LAWYER Chief Jefferson takes umbrage at the insinuation that something is amiss, and bewails the effect of the adverse publicity on the public's perception of the Court and its confidence in it, blaming the charges brought against the trio on - you guessed it - politics.

After all - so the appeal to common sense goes - we have an elected judciary here, and we are in the heat of campaign season.

There is, alas, a slight problem with that defensive theory, plausible as it might sound. The three brethren whose ethics (or reputed lack thereof) have most recently come under strict scrutiny are not (unlike the Chief himself) up for re-election this year.

One would hope non-sequiturs such as this - it's campaign season, that's why any criticism of those not running can't be taken seriously - will not in the imminent future corrupt the intellectual integrity of Chief Jefferson's own contributions to the Court's emerging non-monolithic jurisprudence.

But then again, the notion that under our judicial selection system any and all supremos are in nothing short of a "permanent campaign" certainly has a redeeming - or shall we say pragmatic - quality to it - especially coming from the Chief.

It would help explain why a justice would do a lot of circuit riding on top of participating in the court's outreach program that takes them to orals at sundry law schools around the State. It should also demonstrate to the saticsfaction of the ethics police, if not their civilian instigators, why the trips back home four years prior to the next date with the voting public are properly construed as campaign-related wooing activities, and thus legitimate expense items. Or does it?

One thing is sure. Chief Jefferson has shown himself a good sport and a good union man, apt at crafting his state of the judiciary address into a special plea for more bread and butter for the bench holders of the state's many courts. Why should we expect any less loyality to one, or two, or even three of his own inner circle, at a time when misfortune strikes, not to mention malevolence spewing forth from opponents with an agenda of their own. A worthy leader sticks up for and protect the members of the team - when they find themselves at the short end of the budget stick, or interest rate squeeze, or under an occasional criminal indictment - as the case might be.

If only the Legislature weren't so stingy when it comes to assuring the financial fitness of those who run the court of last resort in non-criminal matters! Members would not be forced to tap their campaign chests to burn rubber commuting to work, much less let the loan-ridden homestead they can ill afford on their $150K salary go up in flames and become migrant laborers in the state's capital.


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