Justice says chief justice blocked her dissent
© 2008 The Associated Press
Oct. 14, 2008
AUSTIN — A state appeals court justice wants the Texas Supreme Court to intervene after she says Chief Justice Ken Law refused to file her dissent in a case involving two associates of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
Justice Jan Patterson, a Democrat on the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals, claims that Law, a Republican who's up for re-election, blocked the filing of her dissent to a ruling last week that overruled a motion asking Justice Alan Waldrop to step aside in the money-laundering case involving DeLay's associates, the Austin American-Statesman reports in its Tuesday editions.
DeLay and his associates, John Colyandro of Austin and Jim Ellis of Washington, have been accused of laundering corporate money into political donations to Republican candidates in 2002. Use of corporate money is generally banned from state campaigns.
Before any trial, Ellis and Colyandro challenged the constitutionality of the law.
Last month, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle asked the court to remove Waldrop because Earle claimed Waldrop betrayed his bias four years ago, before he became a judge, when he called a similar money-laundering allegations in a related civil lawsuit "politically motivated" and an attempt to "harass political opponents." At the time, Waldrop was representing a client who was a political ally of DeLay.
Waldrop wrote an opinion in August that upheld the constitutionality of the law on money laundering but warned that the prosecutors had a fatal flaw in their case, a view that two trial judges and one other appellate judges have disagreed with.
Waldrop, Law and a third Republican justice, Robert Pemberton, wrote that the charges against DeLay and his associates should be dismissed because they used a check, not cash, in their transaction. Waldrop argued that the law — before it was changed in 2005 — did not cover checks during the 2002 election.
Patterson declined to comment beyond her filing late Friday afternoon. Law did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press on Tuesday.
In a reply to the Texas Supreme Court, Law denied that he tried to suppress Patterson's dissent, the American-Statesman reported Tuesday. He said he was only trying to make her follow the court's internal procedures by circulating her opinion first among colleagues to give them the opportunity to respond.
"Justice Patterson was informed ... that she would not be allowed to circumvent the court's circulation policy ..." Law wrote in his reply. "Justice Patterson's dissenting opinion is currently in circulation at the court and will be released together with any other opinions in the matter upon completion of that process."
On Tuesday, Texans for Public Justice filed a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct alleging that Waldrop should not have written the opinion. The Austin-based group that tracks money in politics said in a statement that Waldrop's "impartiality is questionable."