IS JUSTICE FOR SALE IN TEXAS?
When lawyers of the multibillion Pennzoil-Texaco cases came to trial, they were not in any means in a strange place. The lawyers had previously made big donations towards the campaigns of justices officiating the trials. Funding justices' campaigns in Texas is not uncommon, neither is it illegal. Of the nine states where judges are chosen through partisan elections, Texas is the only state that chooses all members of the bench through elections and additionally, the only state that does not place a cap on campaign gifts. Due to this, bench polishing tactics are common phenomena. Voters and citizens, legislators and governors are partisan’s politicians in Texas (Newell, Prindle, Riddlesperger, & JR., 2010). They represent organized interests and political parties where they raise money from those organizations to carry out their campaigns. Once politicians win elections, members of the public expect them without limitations to serve the special interest and the partisan that helped them win the elections (Stromberger, 2008). In Texas, members of the public expects judges to abide by the elections within partisan contest in order to raise cash for campaigns through friendly interests and thereby treat everyone who shows up in courts equally and fairly. In Texas, money influences the politician’s campaigns and those concerned become great with regard to judges (Schmidt, Bardes, Shelley, Crain, & Maxwell, 2007). The legislature of Texas attempted ineffectuality in addressing the roles of money during the judicial elections in the year 1995 Judicial Campaign Fairness Act (JCFA) (Newell, Prindle, Riddlesperger, & JR., 2010). The act limits law firms, amounts of the individuals, and PACs can raise to judicial candidates and therefore forbids corporate IS JUSTICE FOR SALE IN TEXAS?
contributions. Individuals can contribute up to $5,000 to candidates in statewide judicial. On the other hand, laws firms can contribute up to $30,000. Restrictions of candidates participating limit them to accepting not more than $300,000 from the PACs (Charldean Newell, Kraemer, Newell, & Prindle, 2007). For those candidates accepting the JFCA regulations, they should also accept the limits as per population of the districts they are running. The spending level ranges from $100,000 for trial courts within the districts containing less than 250,000 citizens to $500,000 for appeal courts within the districts of more than 1 million citizens. The spending limits for statewide races candidate’s ranges from $1 million to $2 million for candidates running for Texas Courts of Criminal Appeals and the Supreme Courts (Jillson, 2011). These guidelines are voluntary and candidates can chose to not to follow through simple public declarations (Jillson, 2011). Recent studies carried out by public interest groups, Texas for public justice also known as ‘lowering the bar’ indicated that 72% of the campaigns donations to the judges for the fourteen appeals courts emanated from the law firms and the lawyers with interest groups appeared before the courts (Stromberger, 2008). In Texas, lawyers, voters, and judges believe that cash affects the fairness and openness of the courts (Jillson, 2011). The case between Bob Perry Homes considered being the top republican contributor in Texas against Mansfield is a case example. Bob Perry Homes contributes up to $28 million to the republicans since 2000. A couple named Jane Cull and Bob highlighted the issue (Jillson, 2011). The Culls, after believing that their home was defective thought of suing the Perry’s but they later changed IS JUSTICE FOR SALE IN TEXAS?
their mind and rather sought arbitration. The arbitrator awarded them $800,000, which was later upheld in appellate and in districts courts. Perry appealed in the Texas appeal courts. There before, Perry had political contribution of up to $260,000 to the nine republican judges in the Supreme Court (Charldean Newell,...
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