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More Drama In The Third Court of Appeals

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a dispute that was coming to a head in the Texas Third Court of Appeals, which is housed in Austin.  The dispute involved the criminal case against Tom Delay and his business associates.  The Third Court issued a ruling in the criminal case that was very favorable to Delay and the defendants.

After the decision was handed down, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle filed a Motion to Recuse, asking one of the judges to be removed.  The judge had formerly represented Texans for Lawsuit Reform, which involved many of the same players as the criminal case, and had allegedly made disparaging remarks about a civil suit that was based on the similar facts as the criminal case that was at issue.  Based on that history, Earle asked that the judge recuse himself or be removed from the case.

Last week, the Third Court handed down an order denying the motion.  The order was issued without the benefit of an opinion.  So the claim is over, right?  Not so.

Yesterday, the Austin American Statesman, had an article that contained allegations from Justice Jan Patterson, one of the justices on the Third Court, that she wanted to issue a dissenting opinion but that Chief Justice Ken Law had ordered the clerk of the court not to accept the dissent.  Justice Patterson filed a petition with the Texas Supreme Court seeking an order requiring the release of her dissenting opinion.

Today, the Statesman had another article and Justice Law claims that he has no problem releasing the dissent, but that Justice Patterson failed to circulate the order per court rules.  (Justice Patterson has written plenty of dissenting opinions so it’s not clear to me why the rules would be an issue now, but not in the other instances).

I’m not sure how this story will play out, but it is interesting because you normally don’t get this quibbling between justices in the press.

It is also interesting because Chief Justice Law is up for re-election this year, and has a tough race against Woodie Jones, who was formerly a judge on the Third Court.  In a State Bar of Texas poll of attorneys in the Third District, Judge Jones received over 85% of the vote.

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