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Fact Sheet: Attitudes on Money in Texas Court Elections

Pay to Play: How Big Money Buys Access to the Texas Supreme Court- April 24, 2001 - A report analyzing appeals filed with the Texas Supreme Court from 1994 through 1998 concludes there is a direct correlation between the amount of money an appellant contributed to the justices and the likelihood that the appellant’s case would be heard by the court. Overall, the chances that an appeal filed by a campaign contributor would be heard by the court were four times greater than an appeal filed by a non-contributor.

News Oct 18, 2001: Craig McDonald talks to TomPaine.com: Texas Sized Contributions to Texas Supreme Court

Texas Supreme Court Clerk Perks: Big Bucks Batter an Ethical Wall- January 30, 2001 - Clerks working at the Texas Supreme Court between 1992 and 2000 faced 402 potential conflicts of interest, an analysis of court records indicates. During this period, 76 clerks worked at the court at the same time that their immediate future employers had cases pending there.  Driving this “clerk-perk scandal” is the fact that many Texas law firms recruit court clerks by offering them hiring bonuses before they start their one-year clerkship. Top firms currently offer clerks subsidies worth more than $45,000. Some firms pay these benefits before the clerkship; others pay upon clerkship completion. Texans for Public Justice contends that these bonuses violate the plain language of Texas law. The Travis County Attorney’s Office is investigating the practice.

News Flash, March 9: NPR's Morning Edition reports on the Clerk Perk's scandal. Listen to the report (7 minutes) on Realmedia: Paying Law Clerks.

Checks & Imbalances:How Texas Supreme Court Justices Raised $11 Million
April 11, 2000 - A new study revealed that the nine current members of the Texas Supreme Court raised a total of $11 million in their most recent general election campaigns between 1994 and 1998. Texans for Public Justice classified and analyzed thousands of donors by their business and ideological interests and found that lawyers and law firms supplied $5.2 million (48 percent) of the justices' money. Business and defense attorneys accounted for 79 percent of the total amount from lawyers.

The Dollar Docket - Feb. 1, 2000 - Texans for Public Justice unleashes a new series on the role of campaign contributions in the Supreme Court.  Every month a new Dollar Docket will report on apparent conflicts of interest in the Supreme Court by laying out the contributions from litigants and their lawfirms to Supreme Court justices.

Payola Justice - In Feb., 1998, Texans for Public Justice released a report entitled Payola Justice, which documented the links between the Texas Supreme Court's fundraising and its docket. We proved that over 40% of the money this court takes in comes from parties and lawyers with cases before the court.

This money, raised in partisan elections, gives at the very least the appearence of corruption. Texas must take money out of our judicial system by:

  1. Immediately banning docket driven fundraising
  2. Moving to a system of appointed, rather than elected, judges
Nov. 1, 1998 60 Minutes features Payola Justice Report

TPJ's Payola Justice report prompted Mike Wallace and the CBS "60 Minutes" crew to take a second look at fundraising scandals at the Texas Supreme Court. The broadcast was a follow-up to Wallace's 1987 investigation of Texas Supreme Court fundraising. "60 Minutes" concluded that, as detailed by Payola Justice, Texas Judges still take huge amounts of money from parties in their courtrooms. The notable difference with the passage of 10 years is that now this money comes from corporations and defense law firms, rather than plaintiff attorneys. The broadcast has renewed calls for changes in Texas' antiquated judicial selection process.

Sept. 8, 1998 Justice, 'just say no' (letter to the editor)
Aug. 4, 1998  Corporate Lawyers Rally to Defend Ethically Challenged Court
July 28, 1998 NPR Court Report (3.5 minutes, RealPlayer Audio file)
July 7, 1998 Tainted Supreme Court Justices Expand Tolerance of Judicial Bias (press release)
Mar. 23, 1998 Supreme Court Justice Few Folks Can Afford (opinion)
Feb., 1998 Payola Justice - How Supreme Court Justices Raise Money from Court Litigants (report)
Feb. 23, 1998 Texas Supreme Court Fundraising Closely Tied to Court's Case Load (press release)
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