Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Texas Lawyer: Commission on Judicial Conduct Admonishes Justice Hecht
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct has issued a public admonition to Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, below left, regarding comments he made to the press last year in support of the nomination of White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Last fall Hecht estimated that he gave 120 interviews to the press about Miers' qualifications for the bench -- including information about her religious beliefs and views on abortion -- after her Oct. 3, 2005, nomination came under attack from conservative groups. [See "Texas Attorneys Support Dallas Native's High Court Nomination," Texas Lawyer, Oct. 10, 2005, page 1.]
At that time, Hecht jokingly said to Texas Lawyer that he had been acting as a "PR office for the White House" and had been filling in gaps about Miers' background to the press, countering some conservatives' skepticism about her qualifications -- statements that were referenced in the commission's admonition. [See the commission's admonition.]
On Oct. 27, 2005, Miers withdrew her name from consideration to become a high court justice.
In its May 10 admonition, released today, the commission found that Hecht's actions constituted "persistent and willful violations" of two canons of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct. Canon 2b states that "a judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others." And Canon 5(2) states that "a judge or judicial candidate shall not authorize the public use of his or her name endorsing another candidate for any public office, except that either may indicate support for a political party."
"The commission concludes from the facts and evidence presented that Justice Hecht allowed his name and title to be used by the press and the White House in support of his close friend Harriet Miers, a nominee for the office of United States Supreme Court justice."
In a statement, Hecht says he disagrees with the commission's admonition and he plans to challenge it.
"I believe that my statements on matters of national public interest did not offend canons of judicial ethics and were fully protected by the First Amendment as core speech," Hecht says. "As best I can determine, the Commission's action is unprecedented despite many judges, over the years, providing factual information and endorsements to the judiciary committee and the public concerning nominees to the federal bench."
Full Texas Lawyer article.
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