Jun 08 2012
A San Antonio Express-News article explains just how frequently lawyers contribute to judicial election campaigns. Picture this: a group of probate attorneys gathering together in order to discuss the re-election of a probate judge while drinking scotch and beer. The probate judge, Tom Rickhoff, stops by with a list of attorneys who could potentially contribute money to his re-election campaign.
Attorney Mark Stanton Smith was present at the re-election meeting, which led his opposing counsel in a guardianship case to request the recusal of Judge Rickhoff. Judge Rickhoff refused to recuse himself, leading to an appeal decided by Judge Peeples.
Smith explained that he and Judge Rickhoff were not close friends, but conceded that he had contributed money to Rickhoff’s re-election. “‘It’s a typical thing that I do to the judges that are in the courts.’” Smith admitted there had been similar meetings in 2010 and in 2006. “The attorneys had agreed to call about 20 people each and solicit cash for the judge’s re-election.”
Judge David Peeples ruled that this was not unusual enough to require Judge Rickhoff to recuse. However, he also noted the broader issue at stake. “‘If you are correct,’ Judge Peeples said, ‘potentially, wouldn’t (this affect) every judge in cases involving lawyers that help them significantly in their campaigns, more than just contributing money, contributing a big sum of money, work for them, send out letters, work the poll for a morning on election day, put out the yard signs, all these judges that got some of these lawyers in their court?’”
The column’s author, Brian Chasnoff, explained that this was not a denial of such contribution activity, rather it was an acknowledgement of the rampant contributions from attorneys to judges’ election campaigns. “It’s also another reason that Texas needs to find a new way to pick judges.”Tags: campaign contributions, elections, fundraising, judicial elections, Texas