Federal Law

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Seeks Re-election. We Look at the Alternatives and Endorse One.

Abbott, the front-runner for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, is a former state Supreme Court justice who was on the bench with Hecht before he ran for attorney general. In September, when Hecht was chosen for the position of chief justice, he tweeted, “Solid conservative pick.”

LIT COMMENTARY

At Laws In Texas, we’re not flag waving for republican or democrat. We don’t think either party has maintained a standard that is ethically correct in Texas law. They are both filled with self-serving lawyers, lawmakers, judges and justices.

In the majority, the candidates bios are filled with family values and humble upbringings.  Sady, the reality is the candidates are usually married to partners who present direct conflicts with those values and/or are reaping financial rewards on the back of their spouses.

Two words explain away all of it. Nepotism and Corruption. If you subscribe to LIT, you’ll see we don’t need to search far to regularly highlight both. This article looks at the upcoming election with a focus on the states highest judicial position.

That stated, in order to change Texas in the short term, you have to pick one candidate that you believe is possibly for the citizens and not a part of this rat-infested Texas legal community for their own personal gain.

Out of the 3 candidates running, we would endorse Jerry Zimmerer.

Texas Chief Justice’s Election Bid Highlights Mandatory Judicial Retirement

Justice Nathan Hecht in 2024 will turn 75 years old, which is the age limit for justices in Texas. It means he’ll have to retire in the fourth year of the six-year term for which he’s currently running for reelection.

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht is running for his last term on the high court.

But if elected, he could only serve four of the six-year term, which runs 2021 to 2027.

The reason: The Texas Constitution sets an age limit of 75 years to serve as a judge or justice of an appellate or district court in the Lone Star State.

Hecht, who’s running unopposed in the Republican Primary in March, will reach the 75-year milestone Aug. 15, 2024. The date would fall within the first four years of his term, and in that situation, Texas Constitution Article 5, Sec. 1-a, requires his seat to become vacant at the end of the fourth year of his term.

It would mean Dec. 31, 2024, would be his last day on the court, where he’s served since 1988.

“I still have a lot to do, and I want to pursue it to the end,” Hecht said. “We’re still trying to improve technology in the judiciary. We’re working on reforms in collections of fines and fees, in how bail is set, just a number of things that have to do with the administration of the judiciary that I’ve done a lot of work on, and I want to continue to work on. Certainly, access to justice.”

The Texas Legislature in 2007 passed—and voters later approved—a constitutional amendment to set an age limit of 75 for judges and justices in Texas.

After Hecht’s retirement in 2024, the Texas governor at that time would get to appoint a chief justice to serve from Jan. 1, 2025 to Dec. 31, 2027.

If Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is still governor then, and did get to appoint a replacement for Hecht in 2025, that appointee would be the fourth justice that the governor has appointed to the high court. Abbott has also appointed Jimmy Blacklock, Brett Busby and Jane Bland.

The last time the chief justice seat was vacant was in 2013, when then-Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson retired from the high court and returned to private practice. Then-Gov. Rick Perry chose Hecht, an associate justice at the time, to ascend to the chief position. Voters then elected Hecht as chief justice in 2014.

If history repeats itself, it’s likely that Hecht would win another term. Texas voters have not elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1990, although political pundits lately have voiced opinions that the state might finally be “turning blue” in 2020.

The Democratic candidates running for chief justice in March are 201st District Judge Amy Clark Meachum of Austin and 14th Court of Appeals Justice Jerry Zimmerer of Houston. The winner of their race will oppose Hecht in November.

Meachum wrote in an email that the race is historic in two ways.

“Texans have the opportunity to elect the first woman ever to serve as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, or Texans can elect the first chief justice ever constitutionally prohibited from serving a full term,” she said. “It’s time for the next generation of judicial leaders to provide some much needed balance on the all-Republican Supreme Court.”

Zimmerer said he doesn’t question Hecht’s intention to serve four more years, and doesn’t hold any ill will toward him for desiring to do so.

“I think it would be almost inappropriate for me, as a Democrat, to challenge him simply on the basis of age. It’s not why I’m running for the position. I’m running because I believe I’m the best candidate for the job,” Zimmerer said. “I believe that Texans deserve more.”

The Nathan Hecht War on Love, Ethics and Political Donations

Summary provided by Wikipedia

Background

Chief Justice Hecht was born in Clovis, New Mexico to a farming family, and graduated from Clovis public schools.[2] He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Yale University in New HavenConnecticut, with honors in Philosophy and graduated thereafter cum laude from the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. He was a law clerk to Judge Roger Robb of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He practiced law in the area of general litigation with the Dallas firm of Locke Purnell Boren Laney & Neely, and was a shareholder in that firm prior to his appointment to the bench.

While on the District Court, Chief Justice Hecht was the local administrative judge, presiding over all county and district judges in Dallas County and representing them before other branches of government.

He began his judicial service on the 95th District Court of Dallas County, to which he was appointed by Governor Bill Clements, on September 1, 1981, elected in 1982, and re-elected in 1984. In 1986, he was elected to the Texas Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas at Dallas, where he served until his election to the Supreme Court. Throughout his tenure on the Supreme Court, Hecht has been designated to oversee all changes in state court rules.

Harriet Miers nomination

In the days after the October 3, 2005, nomination of Harriet Miers to be an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Hecht became nationally known as a strong supporter of White House Counsel Miers based upon his long friendship with her. According to Hecht, he and Miers dated in the past and were members of the same church. Hecht gave 120 interviews in support of the eventually-unsuccessful nomination.[3]

The New York Times has reported that, on the day of Miers’ nomination, Hecht participated in a conference call with the Arlington Group, a coalition of Christian conservatives, assuring them of her pro-life views.

In May 2006, Hecht was admonished by the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct for “an improper use of his office and position to promote Miers’s private interest” during the nomination; a three-judge panel exonerated Hecht of the charge after he appealed the decision.[4]

In March 2007, Hecht said that he had asked then Texas State Representative Tony Goolsby to propose a bill that would make the state reimburse his $340,000 legal fees acquired from the case before the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct. His lawyers had discounted his fees by $167,500.[5] Goolsby withdrew the bill after learning that Hecht had already been reimbursed for the bill through “donations.” Hecht defended his position by saying, “Here is the problem: If judges are sanctioned like this and it’s unjust and it’s wrong and they want to prove it, they can represent themselves or hire a lawyer that you can’t pay for on a judge’s salary.” He is paid $152,500.[6]

In December 2008, he was fined $29,000 by the Texas Ethics Commission in connection with the discount, which the Commission ruled was an improper political contribution.[7] Hecht has filed an appeal of the decision in Travis County District Court, which wiped the fine clean.[7] The appeal was filed in January 2009 and it began the whole process over again.[7] The case is still pending.[7] 

LIT Note: the case is not pending, it settled for cents on the dollar. Hecht new payment amount is $1,000, not the $29,000 ordered (as discussed in the articles below).

Texas Chief Justice’s ethics case dragging into 5th year

Originally Published; Dec. 3, 2013

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, already the longest-serving member of the state’s highest civil court, has the dubious distinction of owning another record: the longest running appeal of a state ethics fine.

With the case dragging into its fifth year, watchdog groups are pointing the finger at Attorney General Greg Abbott for not pressing harder in court for a final resolution.

Hecht, who was tapped in September to fill the vacancy of chief justice after Wallace Jefferson resigned, has been locked in a running legal battle with the Texas Ethics Commission to try to beat back a $29,000 fine.

Though appeals are rare, an individual fined by the Ethics Commission can mount a challenge by suing in state district court. In such an instance, the fine is wiped clean, the case is treated as if it is brand new and the attorney general’s legal team steps in to represent the Ethics Commission.

The appeals process generally is lengthy. It took three years to resolve the high-profile ethics case involving Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, who appealed her $100,000 fine in district court and eventually settled for $25,000 in August.

Hecht’s case is set to reach its fifth anniversary in Travis County District Court next month, making it by the far the longest-running legal challenge over an ethics panel fine in the agency’s roughly two-decade history.

“This whole matter has been swept under the rug for years and years without any resolution,” said Alex Winslow, director of Texas Watch, which monitors the state Supreme Court and filed the ethics complaint against Hecht. “Greg Abbott has the full discretion for pursuing this case and reaching some resolution for it and for whatever reason he’s opted not to do that.”

Served together

Abbott, the front-runner for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, is a former state Supreme Court justice who was on the bench with Hecht before he ran for attorney general.

In September, when Hecht was chosen for the position of chief justice, he tweeted, “Solid conservative pick.”

Abbott’s office has been tasked with defending the Ethics Commission’s finding that Hecht broke campaign finance laws.

The commission made the ruling in December 2008, after Hecht accepted a $168,000 discount for a legal bill incurred while successfully fighting abuse-of-power charges stemming from his public support of former U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers.

The Ethics Commission concluded the discount Hecht received for his legal bill was equivalent to a campaign contribution, one that he failed to report.

Neither Hecht, who first was elected to the court in 1988, nor his attorney, Steve McConnico, responded to requests for comment.

In court filings, Hecht’s lawyer said the discount for legal services was aboveboard, and the ethics panel’s decision “creates a different legal fee structure for judges alone.”

“Under this new structure, adjustments to legal bills to establish a reasonable fee turn into improper campaign contributions,” Hecht’s lawyer said in a 2009 filing. “At the same time, representation of a Texas judge for free does not violate the election code.”

A trial date on Hecht’s appeal has not been set, though Abbott’s legal team in July 2012 asked the court for a jury trial.

On Tuesday, Abbott’s office said it is not its responsibility to speed the ethics appeal along. That falls on Hecht’s shoulders, according to the Abbott’s office, since he filed the case.

“These watchdog groups’ claims make no sense because, to the extent the case is not advancing quickly, the result is that the attempt to overturn the Ethics Commission’s ruling is not advancing,” Abbott spokesman Thomas Kelley said in a statement.

Off the radar

The watchdog groups, however, said the case has seemingly fallen off the radar for both sides: it has sat dormant for more than a year, with not a document filed since October 2012. That marks the second time the case has gone at least 12 months without so much as a single filing.

With the ethics case hanging overhead, Hecht won re-election in 2012 to the Supreme Court and recently was sworn in for the promotion to chief justice.

“It gets more important every day now. Texans need to know whether the ruling of the Texas Ethics Commission that Hecht violated the law is valid,” said Craig McDonald, director of the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice, which filed the ethics complaint against Keller that resulted in a $25,000 settlement.

“It’s the burden of the attorney general to prosecute the case and from the outside it looks like the attorney general’s office has thrown this case in a dusty file cabinet.”

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice settles ethics fine of $29,000 for $1,000

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht has agreed to pay $1,000 to the Texas Ethics Commission

Originally Published; Oct. 26, 2015

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht has ended an ethics dispute that languished in state court for nearly seven years, agreeing to pay a substantially reduced fine to settle charges that he broke state campaign finance laws.

The settlement, made public in court documents Wednesday, concludes a high-profile case that has become the longest-running appeal of a fine levied by the Texas Ethics Commission in the roughly two and a half decades since the agency was created.

Hecht was fined $29,000 in 2008, one of the largest campaign finance penalties ever issued in the state, after the commission determined he broke campaign finance laws while successfully fighting allegations that he abused his position by openly supporting President George W. Bush’s short-lived U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers.

Hecht accepted a six-figure discount for his legal bill in the course of challenging the abuse-of-power charges. The commission concluded the discount was equivalent to a campaign contribution, one he failed to report, and that the total amount exceeded the $5,000 contribution limit on donations from law firms to judicial candidates.

Instead of paying, Hecht decided to fight the fine in state district court. And the lawsuit has stalled in the courts since it was filed in January 2009, raising the ire of watchdog groups that accused the state’s Republican machine of working to bury the case.

Under the settlement, Hecht agreed to pay $1,000 and to “obtain a written fee agreement with any lawyer or law firm he hires to represent him either before or within a reasonable time after the representation commences.”

Watchdog groups snarled at the final conclusion to the case, saying the commission let Hecht “off the hook” and that the fine is coming years late and “$28,000 light.”

“This saga makes a mockery of so-called ethics enforcement,” said Alex Winslow, executive director of Texas Watch, a liberal consumer rights group that filed the ethics complaint against Hecht in 2008. “Apparently, the way high ranking officials can beat the rap is to simply delay the process indefinitely.”

Hecht is the second high-ranking justice in recent years to have a fine from the commission largely reduced by appealing in state district court. Sharon Keller, the Presiding Judge for the Court of Criminal Appeals, sued in 2010 to challenge a record $100,000 fine for failing to fully disclose her personal finances and had it reduced to $25,000 three years later.

Hecht, the longest-serving member of the state’s highest civil court, declined comment through a Supreme Court spokesman, and his attorney, Steve McConnico, did not return a message seeking comment. In court filings, however, Hecht’s lawyer said the discount for legal services was above-board, and that the commission’s ruling “creates a different legal fee structure for judges alone.”

The case taps into a long-simmering frustration for members of the commission, as it is one of the few state agencies to have its fines challenged in court in what is known as a de novo appeal. Under that system, commission fines are appealed in district court without a judge ever reviewing the agency’s evidence or official record.

The Hecht case, the commission says, is a prime example of an appeals system in dire need of a fix.

At a meeting earlier this year, commission Chairman Paul Hobby publicly expressed frustration with how Hecht’s case has sat for “seven years …. with no trial date.”

“If you think I’m personally vested in the outcome, I wasn’t here. I don’t care. I’m glad to lose,” Hobby said in February. “I just want the system to work, and I want a trial on the merits.”

The settlement still requires final approval from a judge.

Once that happens, it will officially end a sticky ethics saga for Hecht that dates back to 2006 when he gave dozens of interviews to advocate for the nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court of his longtime friend and onetime girlfriend Harriet Miers.

His defacto spokesman status drew a reprimand from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which Hecht eventually beat back with the help of First Amendment lawyer Chip Babcock.

In the process, Hecht racked up a hefty legal bill and received a discount of roughly $168,000. Hecht, who asked two lawmakers to file legislation to allow him to be reimbursed by the state for his legal fees in the Miers case, ended up putting out a call to donors to help him cover the remaining $314,000 legal tab.

He paid off the debt with campaign money, which led the commission to conclude the discount for the legal fees was a political contribution— one that flouted state law because it exceeded limits for law firms to judicial candidates and was never reported.

Hecht’s appeal in district court languished with little movement, prompting liberal watchdog group Texans for Public Justice to intervene last year to try and force action. Craig McDonald, director of the group, said it took too long for a resolution to be reached in the case and that the final fine should have been bigger.

“When the Chief Justice shows contempt for the Ethics Commission’s authority,”  he said, “the campaign finance laws become meaningless.”

Optimistic Democrats are lining up to run for Texas’ high courts in 2020

The depth of the bench for non-marquee statewide races, like the state’s two high courts and the Railroad Commission, is a measure of how high Democratic hopes have soared ahead of the 2020 election.

Originally Published; Nov. 14, 2019

For Brandon Birmingham, a state district judge in Dallas, the 2020 race for Texas Court of Criminal Appeals started on election night 2018.

As he watched Beto O’Rourke win more votes than any Texas Democrat ever had in a statewide race, Birmingham — who won reelection that night with 100% of the vote in his countywide district — began to mull his own chances at winning Texas. Within weeks, he’d reached out to the state Democratic Party. By December, he’d sat down with party officials over breakfast in Dallas to discuss a possible run.

Now, as the 2020 election season begins in earnest after the start of the filing period Nov. 9, Birmingham is one of 14 Democrats seeking one of seven seats on the state’s two high courts — an unusually crowded and unusually qualified field for races that have, over the past two decades plus, proved suicide missions for Democrats. This year, with a controversial Republican president on the ballot and sky-high stakes for Texas Democrats, candidates are hoping the races look more like heroes’ journeys.

“In 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012, the last four cycles, the month of October was spent talking and begging people to come to us, to run for these kinds of offices,” said Glen Maxey, a former Texas House member who is coordinating statewide judicial races for the Texas Democratic Party. “That’s what’s different about 2020. We did not make a single phone call. … We have not twisted a single arm about doing this.”

In past years, Maxey said, the party was often scrambling to find “any qualified attorney” to put on the ballot. This year, nearly every race involves at least one sitting judge or justice with years of experience.

It’s often easier to find Democrats interested in running for the top jobs — U.S. Senate, governor. But the depth of the bench for non-marquee statewide races, like the state’s two high courts and the Railroad Commission, is a measure of how high Democratic hopes have soared ahead of the 2020 election.

The judicial candidates still have to earn their spots on the ballot by gathering dozens of signatures in each of the state’s 14 appellate judicial districts. But assuming all do — most said in interviews that they are close to meeting the threshold, and the party has been helping — all but one primary race for the state’s high courts will be contested.

Amy Clark Meachum, a longtime district judge in Travis County, kicks off her campaign for chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court in Austin.  Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune

Democrats have not run a contested primary for the state’s high courts since 2008. As recently as last year, Democrats failed even to field a candidate in one race for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

But “2020 is going to be the year when the blue tide overtakes the state,” said Chrysta Castañeda, a Democratic Dallas attorney seeking a seat on the Railroad Commission. “Our numbers are increasing. They were phenomenal in 2018, even over 2016 — all the movement is in that direction.”

The party is hoping to replicate a 2018 election cycle during which modest Democratic gains had outsized impacts on the judiciary. Democrats lost races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, but they won majorities on seven of the state’s 14 appeals courts; before the election, Democrats held seats on just three of those courts.

Their stars, the theory goes, have aligned again: a controversial Republican president at the top of the ticket bringing national attention (and dollars) to the state, an outright offensive to seize control of the Texas House, and helpful flukes of timing on the courts themselves. This year, due to personnel shifts, four seats are up for election on the Texas Supreme Court instead of the usual three. If Democrats were to sweep the races, the nine-member court — entirely Republican for more than two decades — would see a 5-4 party split. If a Democrat wins a seat on the Railroad Commission, it would be the first time the three-member governing board has included a Democrat since 1995.

“You saw what happened in 2018 — the numbers of people that had never voted before that came out to vote was outstanding,” said Justice Gisela Triana of the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals. Triana, a longtime judge in Travis County who was among the Democrats who overtook the state’s urban appellate courts last year, is running this year for the Texas Supreme Court. “Everything shows that’s what’s going to happen in 2020. I’d like to feel like I’m doing my part in it.”

Democrats draw their hope from the tight margin between O’Rourke and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at the top of the 2018 ballot. But Republicans, equally bullish on next year’s statewide ticket, would prefer to focus on another figure: In 2018, Democratic candidates for the high courts lost to Republicans by about 7 percentage points on average, a relatively consistent number across all the races that included candidates from both major parties.

“Republican judges in Texas have built a long and impressive track record of resisting the urge to legislate from the bench, and they are appropriately rewarded for that history by support from Texas voters,” said James Dickey, chairman of the state GOP. He added that “a significant portion” of party fundraising and operation efforts will be devoted to “ensuring that every Texan continues to benefit from a free and fair application of the rule of law.”

Judicial candidates are unlikely to be their party’s rock stars. They run low-information races and are the first to acknowledge that their campaigns are equal parts political engagement and civic education: Yes, we do elect our judges in Texas; yes, the Court of Criminal Appeals is important, too; no, I won’t tell you how I’ll rule on abortion cases.

Strategists sometimes consider statewide judicial races the best measure of the state’s true partisan split: Whom do voters pick when they know little or nothing about either party’s candidate?

Statewide judicial races are “important to watch in terms of partisan vote behavior,” said Mike Baselice, a GOP pollster. They show a “good reflection of base Democratic and base Republican vote in the state.”

That also means that judicial candidates typically rise and fall as a slate: Most likely, either all of them will win or none of them will, strategists acknowledge. It’s a blunt theory, but it offers clear strategic guidance: A rising tide lifts all boats.

“We won’t have them each deciding to be at the same chicken fry in Parker County on the same Friday,” Maxey said. Instead, he said, they’ll tell nominees, “We need you to travel. We need you to be making appearances as seven people in seven different media markets every day, so that people are hearing a Democratic message about equal justice, all over, everywhere.”

The biggest ripple effects, of course, will come from the very top of the ticket: the Democrats who take on President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

Jerry Zimmerer, a justice elected last year to the Houston-based 14th Court of Appeals, acknowledged that his race for Texas Supreme Court “is probably going to be determined by the top of the ticket.”

“My goal was and continues to be to make sure that the Democrats have good quality candidates representing the party,” he said.

Dickey said he’s confident that Trump will carry the state — but even if he doesn’t, it’s not unusual for down-ballot candidates to outperform the top of the ticket. Most Republican judges on the ticket will be incumbents who have the advantage of having served, and in many cases, run, before.

But that hasn’t deterred candidates like Amy Clark Meachum, a longtime district judge in Travis County who hopes to defeat Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, a 30-year veteran of the Texas Supreme Court. If she wins, Meachum would be making history in more ways than one: She’d be the first female chief justice ever elected to the court.

Last month, she told supporters at a kickoff event at a North Austin restaurant that she’s gotten used to the question, “Can you win?”

“Yes!” roared back a room of optimistic Austin Democrats, gathered with their families on a rainy Tuesday to cheer on her campaign over beers, queso and the occasional chocolate milk. “Yes, you can!”

“Yes! Yes is the answer to that question,” Meachum agreed. “Yes, we can win. Even the skeptics will tell you: This is the best chance the Democratic party has had in 25 years.”

Why Judge Amy Clark Meachun is a No-No

Judge Meachum’s Campaign Website

Amy Clark Meachum has been the presiding judge of the 201st District Court of Travis County, Texas, since January 2011. She currently serves as Civil Presiding Judge for all the civil and family courts in Travis County and is the judicial liaison for the Administrative and Public Law Council for the State Bar of Texas.

Judge Meachum grew up in the small Central Texas town of Lorena, and attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where she graduated magna cum laude with degrees in both political science and journalism. She then attended the University of Texas School of Law, where she was a member of the prestigious Texas Law Review and graduated with honors in 2000.

She began her legal career as an associate at Carrington, Coleman, Sloman and Blumenthal in Dallas. She later joined the Austin-based law firm of McGinnis Lochridge, where she became a full equity partner at the age of 31.

Judge Meachum was named a Rising Star for general civil litigation by Texas Law & Politics Magazine in 2007, 2008 and 2009. She was the recipient of the Austin Young Lawyer of the Year Award for 2010 and the Austin Under 40 Award for the Legal Industry in 2011.

Judge Meachum first ran for judge in 2010 at the age of 34 and won the contested Democratic primary with over 68 percent of the vote. She then won consecutive general elections in 2010, 2014, and 2018, running unopposed each time.

She was the recipient of the Travis County Women Lawyers’ Association Pathfinder award in 2015, and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer for the State Bar of Texas, Austin Bar Association and Texas Center for Legal Ethics.

Active in the non-profit and volunteer community, Judge Meachum is a former board president of Bookspring, where she helped expand programs that provide children’s books to underserved communities and families in Austin and the surrounding areas. She is a former board member of the Austin Children’s Museum and Thinkery and currently serves on the board of Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas.

She and her husband Kurt have been married for 17 years and have three children. They live in Northwest Austin, where you can find both of them coaching various youth sports and attending youth soccer tournaments.

Pol. Ad. Paid for by the Amy Clark Meachum Campaign, in compliance with the voluntary limits of the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act. Dan Richards, Treasurer.

Kurt Meachum, Who is He?

With more than 30 years of combined legislative and political experience, Philips & Meachum Public Affairs is a full-service government relations firm providing a comprehensive, effective approach to governmental affairs focused on results for a broad array of clients.

“Kurt Meachum and Jerry Philips, late of the Texas Progress Council and the House Democratic Campaign Committee, respectively, are hanging out a lobby shingle. They’re both House rats, working for Democrats there for the last half-dozen sessions.” (February, 2009).

Kurt Meachum has spent the past decade working at the highest levels of state government for some of the best and brightest Democrats in Texas.

In 1998, Meachum moved to Austin from Dallas to work the 76th Legislative Session for then State Representative Steve Wolens (D-Dallas), Chairman of the powerful House Committee on State Affairs.

Meachum spent the 77th, 78th and 79th Legislative Sessions leading the office of State Rep. Pete P. Gallego (D-Alpine).

Under the Chairmanship of House Democratic Leader, Jim Dunnam, (D-Waco), Meachum became the first Executive Director of the House Democratic Campaign Committee.

In addition to consulting for the Texas Progress Council, Meachum has also advised the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.

Meachum graduated from Southern Methodist University, where he earned a full-tuition Presidential Scholarship.

More recently, he earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business. He lives in Austin with his wife, Amy Clark Meachum, their twin daughters, Allie and Kendall, and son Benjamin.  In 2014,

Amy was re-elected to serve a four year term as District Judge for the 201st Civil District Court in Travis County.

Email: kurt@philipsmeachum.com

Before cofounding Philips & Meachum Public Affairs in 2009, Jerry Philips worked each legislative session and campaign cycle since 1997, connecting the session’s legislative strategy with election year political strategy.

Beginning as a volunteer intern during the 1997 Legislative Session for Representative Ken Yarbrough, Jerry worked for Rep. Yarbrough through the 76th Legislature and 2000 election season.

As Communications Director for Texas House Speaker Pete Laney’s Texas Partnership PAC during the 77th Legislature, Jerry worked with Members and staff across the state. During the 78th Legislature, Jerry served as Chief of Staff for Representative John Mabry from Waco who was chosen as “Freshman of the Year”.

As Chief of Staff for House Democratic Leader Jim Dunnam during the 79th Legislative Session, Jerry played an integral part in developing legislative strategy and message for the House Democratic Caucus.

In 2005, Jerry became the Executive Director of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, chaired by
Representatives Jim Dunnam, Garnet Coleman and Pete Gallego.

Jerry’s family immigrated to College Station from South India, and he was the first person in his family born in America. Having grown up in Houston, Jerry is an avid fan of sports, barbeque and historic fiction.

Jerry and his wife, Zeena Angadicheril, an Assistant Vice President for Legal Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin, enjoy traveling with their sons, Christopher, Aaron and Miles.

Email: jerry@philipsmeachum.com

Kurt Meachum | Jerry Philips – Example Lobbyist Work as PR firm

After many years of working in and around the Texas House for multiple Democratic members, Kurt Meachum and Jerry Philips joined forces in 2009, hanging a shingle under the name Philips & Meachum Public Affairs.

They have each served as chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, thereby playing an integral role in electing the vast majority of House Democrats. Last session, they took up the cause with TAFP, helping get the new physician education loan repayment program through the House.

And according to the internet, there may be some conflict of interest between the Meachum’s interests.

Zeena Angadicheril, Who is She?

Zeena T. Angadicheril joined the Office of the Vice President for Legal Affairs in 2014 as an assistant vice president.

Prior to joining the university, Angadicheril was an attorney in the Office of General Counsel of The University of Texas System, and was in private practice as an associate in the Government Enforcement/Regulated Industries Litigation and Real Estate Finance sections of Winstead PC in Austin and Dallas, Texas. 

She regularly advises university officials on a variety of areas of law impacting higher education, including the Texas Public Information Act, employment issues, contracts, student discipline, and policy and statutory interpretations.

Angadicheril graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2001 with a BBA in the Business Honors Program and concentrations in Marketing and Finance.  She received her doctor of jurisprudence degree from The University of Texas School of Law in 2005.

From the Winstead Website

Real estate lender litigation: Winstead attorneys are involved in defending numerous multimillion dollar claims against lending clients, wherein claims for wrongful foreclosures on major commercial properties resulted in a significant opinion being rendered by the Texas Supreme Court.

Texas Governor Fills State Courts With Judges Rejected By Voters

Originally Published: 14 May, 2019

Texas has long been one of the most conservative states in the country, a massive state utterly dominated by Republicans at every level of government. But Democrats saw promising results in the 2018 midterms, as they succeeded in winning two GOP-held Congressional seats while Beto O’Rourke came within three points of upsetting incumbent Senator Ted Cruz in a much-watched Senate race.

But while the Senate and House races received significant national attention, Democrats also succeeded in winning a handful of under-the-radar judicial races, evicting multiple conservative judges on important benches across the state. No one was staying up late on election night watching MSNBC coverage of Texas judicial races, but these are important positions that exercise significant influence over the day-to-day lives of hundreds of thousands of Texans.

However, Abbott took steps to ensure that many of the judges defeated on Election Night weren’t unemployed for long. The governor has appointed several of the judges to new judicial seats, raising eyebrows – if not significant opposition – among the state legislature’s Democratic minority.

Democratic Gains in the Texas Courts

Like many states, Texas holds partisan elections for many of its judgeships. These races are often sharply contested, especially on the state Supreme Court, which has frequently served as a launching pad for its justices’ political ambitions.

The Texas governor has broad powers to appoint various judges, and those appointments are rarely contested in any serious way. And since Republicans have controlled the Texas governor’s mansion since 1995, the GOP holds broad dominance of the state courts. However, these are not lifetime appointments, and judges appointed by the governor eventually have to face voters.

Democrats were unable to flip any of the seats on the Texas Supreme Court in 2018, but they otherwise had a solid night in judicial elections. The party was able to defeat nine incumbent Republican judges across the state, often by thin margins. In doing so, they secured majorities on a handful of important benches in major metropolitan areas.

Appointing Qualified Judges or “Thumbing His Nose at Voters?”

As the Associated Press reported in March, Governor Abbott – who easily won his own re-election contest in 2018 – had made six judicial appointments since Election Night.

Four of those appointments were judges who had been defeated in the 2018 midterms.

Brett Busby

The most prominent among them was Brett Busby, a member of the conservative and highly influential Federalist Society.

Busby had first won election to the Houston-area 14th Court of Appeals in 2012.

But he was defeated in 2018 by Democrat Jerry Zimmerer, who won by about 42,000 votes and three percentage points.

Governor Abbott ensured Judge Busby had a rather pleasant consolation prize – a seat on the state Supreme Court.

The appointment – made so soon after Busby’s 2018 defeat – raised eyebrows, but Busby experienced a smooth confirmation process and won unanimous approval from the state Senate in late March.

Greg Perkes

Another judge, Greg Perkes, was appointed to the 13th Court of Appeals.

Judge Perkes had already served on that court, only to be voted out in 2016. He ran for a seat on the 13th Court in 2018 and lost again. He will serve with the two Democrats who defeated him in those elections.

Governor Abbott and his spokespeople have claimed that the judges were chosen strictly for their qualifications and dismissed their previous election results as irrelevant.

Under Texas law, the governor’s appointees must win a 2/3 vote in the state Senate.

Democrats are in the minority in the Senate, but – in theory – they have enough votes to block the governor’s judicial appointments if they vote unanimously against those appointees.

However, it is unusual for legislators to meaningfully oppose a governor’s appointments, and Democrats have not mounted any opposition to Governor Abbott’s judicial choices.

In fact, three of the judges were presented to the Senate by their local Democratic Senators.

All of Governor Abbott’s judicial appointees will face voters in the 2020 elections if they wish to keep their job

Laws in Texas Would Endorse Jerry Zimmerer, Here’s Why.

With only 2 opposing candidates to Hecht, it’s small pickings but Zimmerer is the only viable choice.

LIT read this article from the Houston Chronicle, and they were very accurate on their endorsement and their view on Zimmerer. It reflects how LIT would currently summarize Jerry Zimmerer and why we have elected to endorse him over sitting Chief Justice Hecht or Judge Meachum for the Texas Supreme Court appointment. Zimmerer, despite his party switch, appears to have never been at @fedsoc meeting and is not a Federalist Society member. That’s good because the members of the Federalist Society who are judges and justices breach their ethical canons, as it is a partisan, political organization.

Democratic

Justice, 14th Court of Appeals Place 3: Jerry Zimmerer

This primary race presents voters with a choice between two candidates who each offer different strengths.

Jerry Zimmerer, who earned two Master of Law degrees from University of Houston Law Center in addition to his law degree from South Texas College of Law, considers this judicial bench an academic job. He has spent close to 25 years in private practice, and yet the candidate had trouble touting any cases where he fought for justice or had a lasting impact on jurisprudence in Texas.

His opponent, Joseph R. Willie II, is a retired dentist and Navy veteran in addition to being a lawyer, and he pointed to several significant appellate cases where he successfully advocated for the innocent and underdogs. However, Willie’s law license twice suffered a fully probated suspension imposed by the State Bar of Texas for running afoul of professional codes. At the end of the day, it’s hard to endorse someone with blots on his record even if he evinces the passion for the law that Willie demonstrates.

Our nod goes to Zimmerer, 63, who switched parties decades ago, noting that the Republican Party “has left me as it has left a lot of people.” The candidate, also a former corporate counsel, is credentialed in domestic and international commercial arbitration by the A.A. White Institute and is currently a member of the Board of Advisors to the Health Law and Policy Institute at UH Law Center. Zimmerer displays the requisite judicial temperament and said he would like to see the 14th Court of Appeals give more deference to jury verdicts.

A combination of Zimmerer’s academic background with Willie’s passion and experience would be closer to the makings of an ideal appellate judge. But we have to choose, and voters should back Zimmerer to run against Republican incumbent Justice Brett Busby in November.

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Seeks Re-election. We Look at the Alternatives and Endorse One.
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Laws In Texas is a blog about the Financial Crisis and how the banks and government are colluding against the citizens and homeowners of the State of Texas and relying on a system of #FakeDocs and post-crisis legal precedents, specially created by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to foreclose on homeowners around this great State. We are not lawyers. We do not offer legal advice. We are citizens of the State of Texas who have spent a decade in the court system in Texas and have been party to during this period to the good, the bad and the very ugly.

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