An evidentiary hearing was held this morning on a requested temporary injunction. Sometime later in the day:
District Judge Amy Clark Meachum announced that she would not grant Pool’s request for a temporary injunction. She did not indicate the reason but said, in a letter to lawyers, that an order will be prepared and distributed in the future.
Texas election season really begins with the first ballot-eligibility challenge.
This year, there is a challenge to whether one of the incumbent Texas Supreme Court Justices, the recently appointed Jeff Brown, is eligible in the Republican primary.
The suit is brought by Joe Pool, Jr., his opposing candidate for the Republican nomination. It seeks an injunction against Republican Party officials to remove Justice Brown from the ballot. Its allegation that Justice Brown did not obtain a sufficient number of signatures (50) in each of Texas’s fourteen appellate districts for ballot eligibility.
Quorum Report says that a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday in Travis County. The Travis County website shows a 9:00 setting for a hearing on a temporary injunction. (( I’m not sure the viability of “temporary” relief in a situation such as this, other than the side effect of getting before a judge quickly. ))
Read more: Petition (excerpts), Joe Pool Jr. v. Steve Munisteri and the Republican Party of Texas, No. D-1-GN-13-004324 (filed Dec. 27, 2013). I omitted the backup pages containing the affidavits because they also contained voter names and IDs. Attorneys can access the full document through the Travis County website.
In 2014, four seats on the Texas Supreme Court will be on the ballot. The official candidate lists are still being assembled after the Monday December 9th filing deadline. This appears to be the list:
Chief Justice (Place 1)
Chief Justice Nathan Hecht is running for re-election. He will be opposed in the GOP primary by former state representative Robert E. Talton (election history).
The Democratic candidate will be Bill Moody, a district judge from El Paso who in previous campaigns for the Texas Supreme Court used some attention-getting transportation (Wikipedia) to draw press interest to the kind of race that newspapers otherwise avoid.
The Libertarian candidate will be Tom Oxford, who also has previously campaigned for the Court.
Recently appointed Justice Jeff Brown faces a challenger in both the primary and general election. In the GOP primary, he will face Joe Pool Jr., who in 2012 ran against Justice Medina and now-Justice Devine in a three-way primary.
The Democratic candidate will be Judge Lawrence Meyers, currently serving on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. As reported by the Star-Telegram, Justice Meyers is switching from the Republican to Democratic Party. (( The newspaper also notes that “Meyers’ party switch makes him the first statewide Democratic officeholder since 1998.” ))
The Libertarian candidate will be Mark Ash, who was also a candidate in 2012.
Justice Jeff Boyd will be running for re-election unopposed in the GOP primary.
The Democratic nominee will be Justice Gina Benavides, who has served on the Thirteenth Court of Appeals since 2006.
The Libertarian candidate will be Don Fulton.
Justice Phil Johnson will be faced in the GOP primary by Justice Sharon McCally, who was elected to Houston’s Fourteenth Court of Appeals in 2010.
At this time, there do not appear to be any Democratic candidates for this seat.
Justice Don Willett and John Devine (who beat the incumbent, Justice Medina, in the primary) were both running without a Democratic opponent. Justice Willett won with 78.8% and Devine won with 75% of the vote.
The seat contested by both major parties was between Justice Hecht and Michele Petty. Justice Hecht won 53.7% of the vote to Petty’s 41.9%, with the remaining 4% going to third-party candidates.
The Court remains at eight Justices because of Justice Wainwright’s departure. Now that these elections are settled, we may see the Governor choose a new appointment to the Court from the pool of justices in the courts of appeals (creating, in turn, an appointment possibility on that appellate court).
With that in mind:
Courts of Appeals
The outcomes in these races varied greatly depending on the geography of each district — and much less candidate to candidate. In most districts, that resulted in a one-party sweep. In one, it resulted in some very close contests.
In my local Austin Court, the Republicans swept with winning vote totals in a fairly consistent range between 51.7% and 53.8%.
The incumbents Justice Puryear, Justice Pemberton, and Justice Rose won reelection. The Democratic incumbent up for reelection, Justice Diane Henson, lost to Scott Field by 51.7% to 48.3%.
San Antonio Court
If you’re looking for courts divided along party lines, then “The San Antonio Court is the new Austin Court.”
Five of the Court’s seven seats were up in this election cycle, with each previously held by a Republican. The outcomes were split 3-2 in favor of Democratic candidates.
The closest race was divided by about 1%, with incumbent Republican Justice Marialyn Barnard defeating Baldemar Garza (50.5% – 49.5%).
Republican incumbent justices Rebecca Simmons, Steve Hilbig, and Phylis Speedlin each lost reelection. (The Democratic candidates winning those seats were Patricia Alvarez, Luz Elena Chapa, and Rebecca Martinez.)
A fifth Republican incumbent, Karen Angelini, won reelection with 51.8% of the vote.
Houston (1st and 14th Courts)
For the First Court, there were five seats up for election, all held by Republicans. Each won reelection — with vote totals falling in the range 53.3% to 53.8%.
For the (geographically identical) Fourteenth Court, there were four seats up for election, with three held by Republican incumbents and one open seat. The Republicans won each seat, in a slightly wider range of votes (52.3% to 54.3%).
The winners were Justice Jane Bland (1st), Justice Harvey Brown (1st), Justice Rebeca Huddle (1st), Justice Terry Jennings (1st), Justice Michael Massengale (1st), Justice Jeff Brown (14th), Justice Brett Busby (14th), Justice Martha Hill Jamison (14th), and John Donovan (14th – open seat).
The five seats up for election in the Dallas Court all went to Republicans, with the winning vote totals in this region falling in a very tight range between 52.3% to 53.1%.
Three Republican incumbents won reelection: Justice Jim Moseley, Justice Douglas Lang, and Justice Bob Fillmore.
Winning election for the first time to the court were David Lewis and David Evans.
In this appellate district, three seats were up for election. The Democratic candidates won with vote totals ranging from 57.6% to 59.6%.
Nora Longoria defeated Tom Greenwell (59.6%-40.4%) for the one open seat (which had been held by Justice Rose Vela). Justice Nelda Rodriguez and Justice Gina Benavides won reelection.
On the Texarkana Court, Republican incumbent Bailey Moseley won reelection with 72% of the vote.
On the El Paso Court, the Democratic candidate Yvonne Rodriguez defeated the incumbent Republican Chris Antcliff with 62% of the vote. (Antcliff had been appointed to this court in October 2011.)
I haven’t written much about this year’s elections for the Texas Supreme Court. In 2010, there was an open seat, and it seemed like there was quite a bit of media activity.
But there is now some actual news coverage to pass along. The Statesman‘s online edition reports on a lawsuit filed by Michele Petty — the presumed Democratic nominee — against Justice Hecht, arguing that he should be ineligible for both the 2012 Republican primary ballot and the 2012 general-election ballot. The suit seeks injunctive relief.
The reason? Each candidate for statewide judicial office is required to have a certain number of signatures from each of the state’s fourteen appellate districts. The petition argues that some of the petitions in Fort Worth were defective, dropping Justice Hecht below the required total.
You can read more:
Early voting started before this lawsuit was filed, so I think it particularly unlikely that a district court will enjoin the ongoing Republican primary, just to investigate (as the petition asks). The petition does, however, also challenge the November general-election ballot. That claim may play out over a longer timeframe.
SafeShred, Inc. v. Louis Martinez, III, No. 10-0426. Are there exemplary damages for a Sabine Pilot claim (wrongful firing for an employee refusing to do an illegal act) and, if so, was the amount of exemplary damages awarded here excessive? (>> earlier post)
Shell Oil Company, et al. v. Ralph Ross, No. 10-0429. Broadly, the case is about how the statute of limitations applies to royalty claims when there is an allegation of fraudulent concealment.
Weeks Marine, Inc. v. Maximino Garza, No. 10-0435. A Jones Act (maritime) case about how to divide responsibility between the worker and the employer. >> earlier post
Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America v. William Justiss, et al., No. 10-0451. In a nuisance claim about a reduction in property value alleged to have been caused by the gas pipeline: (1) how much worse must the condition get to re-start the statute of limitations and (2) what evidence is proper to show the reduction in property value? A potentially much broader issue here is the petitioner’s request for the Court to limit the “property owner rule” that (traditionally) lets an owner testify as to its value without the need to hire an expert witness.
Hearts Bluff Game Ranch, Inc. v. The State Of Texas and the Texas Water Development Board, No. 10-0491. Can the State’s actions, which were alleged to have directly interfered with the issuance of a federal permit, constitute a taking under state law? >> earlier Texas Tribune article
Matthew W. Wasserman, M.D. v. Christina Bergeron Gugel, No. 10-0513. Do “health care liability claims” include allegations of assault or sexual assault by health-care providers? >> earlier post
Port Elevator-Brownsville, LLC V. Rogelio Casados, et al., No. 10-0523. Does the bar against lawsuits created by the workers compensation law apply equally to suits by temporary workers?
In re United Scaffolding, Inc., No. 10-0526. How much specificity is needed in an order granting a new trial based on the great weight of the evidence?
Rusk State Hospital v. Dennis Black, et al., No. 10-0548. What should courts do when a government agency raises sovereign immunity during a limited interlocutory appeal challenging something completely different?
In March 2010, Rick Green surprised many by finishing first in a six-way race for the Republican nomination for an open Texas Supreme Court seat, forcing a runoff with Debra Lehrmann. In April 2010, Lehrmann won the runoff and serves on the Court today.
Last week, roughly a year after the April 2010 runoff, Rick Green filed a libel suit against several political detractors (including former Chief Justice Phillips and the Texas Association of Realtors), as well as the Texas Tribune and one of its reporters.
A damaged reputation and impressions and opinions of distrust, dishonesty and a lack of ethics and integrity has likely resulted in voters not voting for Green and in many people across Texas and the nation not wanting to have anything to do with Green.
The three sitting members of the Texas Supreme Court facing re-election in 2010 all won handily. With 99.98% of precincts reporting:
Debra Lehrmann (R)-I
Jim Sharp (D)
William Bryan Strange, III (L)
Paul Green (R)-I
Bill Moody (D)
Tom Oxford (L)
Eva Guzman (R)-I
Blake Bailey (D)
Jack Armstrong (L)
These outcomes fairly closely track the performance of other statewide Republican candidates in contested races, in which Republican incumbents received around 60% of the vote. (( The exception was Governor Perry, of course, who obtained roughly 55% of the vote in a significantly more contested race. ))
Other Appellate Elections
The two most interesting contests of the night were in the Thirteenth Court and the Third Court. (In each of the other contested races for the court of appeals, the Republican incumbent won with at least 56% of the vote.)
The Yañez/Perkes race was the closest appellate contest of the night. With 100% of the precincts reporting:
Greg Perkes (R)
Third Court: Goodwin wins the open seat
The race for the open seat on the Third Court received a great deal of attention locally in Austin. In part, that was because Democratic nominee Kurt Kuhn had drawn a wide range of Republican supporters, including several former Justices of the Texas Supreme Court.
But in the voting booth, the night’s pattern of a Republican sweep continued. With 100% of precincts reporting: