The Statesman’s legal beat writer reports “Justice fined by ethics commission”
More context on today’s hearing is provided by the Houston Chronicle. The legal fees at the heart of this complaint were incurred as Justice Hecht defended himself from charges that it was improper for him to have publicly endorsed Harriet Myers as a potential U.S. Supreme Court justice. Justice Hecht was ultimately exonerated from those charges, but a discount he received on the legal fees incurred in that defense led to this complaint.
I don’t know enough about these particular facts to comment on how the Ethics Commission’s decision squares with its own rules.
But it’s very difficult to understand how Texas thinks it has a good system for resolving ethical complaints against judges when — if I’m understanding this correctly — the Texas Ethics Commission says that it is improper for law firms to do significant portions of this work pro bono and that, instead, judges are supposed to solicit additional campaign funds to pay full freight legal fees.
This reminds me of the multiple-choice ethics test that law students have to take before being admitted to the bar (the MPRE, Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam).
What advice are law students given about how to pass? “The ‘correct’ answer is usually the second most ethical option.”
An ethics commission asking judges to raise more campaign money to pay legal fees strikes me as a “second most ethical” answer.