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Texas Supreme Court justices raise millions of dollars for their partisan political campaigns from lawyers and litigants who have cases before these same justices. The court’s own poll revealed that 83 percent of Texans believe that such campaign contributions significantly affect judicial decisions. For this reason, commenting on Texas’ clerk perk scandal, an attorney at the Brennan Center’s Judicial Independence Project said that this state does not “need another conflict-of-interest problem.” In contrast, Chief Justice Tom Phillips has said, “We’re not convinced there’s a problem.”
The Texas Supreme Court needs to recognize and tackle its clerk-perk scandal by:
- Acknowledging that there is good reason why the law prohibits court employees from taking anything of value from interests with business before the court;
- Self-policing itself to prevent court employees from taking anything of value from interests with business before the court;
- Prohibiting court employees who have been recruited for future jobs from participating in any court matters involving that employer; and
- Making all such employment relations and related recusals public.
If the court cannot attract quality clerks at the current salary, the solution is to seek higher publicly funded salaries for these employees. By turning a blind eye to the latest scandal over the influence of private money on court business, the justices will only further damage the court’s already tarnished reputation.
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