Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mr. Justice Felipe Reyna Responds To DA's Allegations

...documents to show I did not violate the Canons of Judicial Ethics... - Felipe

Waco - I never think of the Honorable Felipe Reyna, Associate Justice of the 10th District Court of Appeals of the State of Texas, without seeing him seated on the bench of that august chamber with his study materials arrayed around him, working in the middle of the night on obtaining the Juris Doctor degree and preparing for the State Bar examination that would one day place him there again, enrobed in judicial black and duly elected.

He was many things at the time and he is today a man of parts – Navy blue jacket, probation officer, prosecutor, District Attorney, Judge.

But Mr. Justice Reyna was a janitor in those days, a man who worked the night shift keeping the appeals court and its chambers clean and orderly. He quit his day job as a probation officer so he could attend Baylor Law during the day. It was a job his father, a member of the custodial crew at the McLennan County Courthouse, that venerable palace of justice, arranged for him to perform. It was a great location, to say the least, adjacent to one of the most complete law libraries in Central Texas.

To hear him tell it, Mr. Felipe Reyna would be an attorney – or else.

Some fathers are that way and apparently Mr. Reyna, Sr., was determined that his son Felipe would study the books, pass the tests and become a practitioner of that discipline we know as the law in the pursuit of justice.

So it's a special pleasure to watch an able practitioner roll up his sleeves and settle down to work at his profession – that of proving up his case under the law as applied by the judges who breathe life into that body of verbiage and make it come to life.

When I opened my e-mail box and saw the message, I was delighted. Subject: “...documents to show I did not violate the Canons of Judicial Ethics...” From: Felipe Reyna.

The judge merely spoke the truth on Facebook, that he would like to see his son Abelino elected District Attorney. The incumbent DA, Mr. John Segrest, has requested that Justice Reyna recuse himself from all matters that have a bearing on the works of the office of Criminal District Attorney of McLennan County for the duration of his term on the Court, which will expire on December 31, 2010. He alleges that the judge violated Canon 2B and 5(3) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct “as they related to political endorsements by members of the judiciary.” That is serious business and I will give my opinion as to why.

With this request Justice Reyna promptly complied. After all, he has worked hard to amass a pension in his long career and to collect it, he will be honored to serve as a Visiting Judge when appointed by the Presiding Judge in various Judicial Administrative Districts.

They say doing legal research is a lot like writing news copy. Once you get started, the hardest thing to do is to know when to quit.

As Mark Twain once wrote, “Eschew surplusage.” By the way, that's a real word and a legal term, according to the 10th Edition of Collins English Dictionary and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Law, 1996. Middle English in its origin, meaning “non-essential matter; especially: matter contained in a pleading that is unnecessary or irrelevant.” No doubt the old rip found it in a legal opinion or pleading that figured in his coverage of the day and “stole it fair and square.” May he rest in peace. It just jumped off the page when I read it in a brief in support of the opinion of Justices Fitzgerald and Mazzant of the Supreme Court of Texas in re: an allegation of similar judicial misconduct of one of their own, Associate Justice Nathan Hecht, in a 2006 case.

As it happens, Justice Hecht ventured an opinion on the ill-fated nomination of Ms. Harriet Miers to replace Ms. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court. A former Assistant Chief of Staff to Mr. Karl Rove, she ultimately withdrew from the nomination in a fire storm of gridlock, political bickering and controversy.

Justice Hecht had been summoned to Capitol Hill to testify on the recommendation of Mr. Rove, a former chief of the White House Office of Political Affairs, Office of Public Liaison and White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, and a once and future political consultant who guided the nomination and election of Bill Clements as Governor, John Ashcroft as Senator and George “Dub-yah” Bush as both Governor and President of the United States of America. According to well-informed sources, the President's fond nickname for Mr. Rove is “Turd Blossom.”

Justice Hecht said that Ms. Miers is of good character and a well-respected practitioner of the law trained at SMU. For that transgression, his enemies in that particular act of the comic opera known as national politics called down the hounds of gotterdamerungs and the fat lady began to scream in high-pitched tones. No less a personage than the Honorable William G. Arnot, chairman of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, admonished the justice publicly.

That's when Justice Hecht appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court of Texas.

The ruling was as swift as the sword and as sure as the scales held by the lady in the blindfold.

After clearing their collective throats by making noises about legislative intent and the three-pronged mission of judges to be “governed by the law, conduct a fair hearing and dispense justice,” they ruled in regards to Justice Hecht's statements to the press that Ms. Miers is of sterling character, that her nomination was solid and giving his positive ideas about her appointment, “do not constitute a request of appeal for others to support her nomination.

“We conclude the commission has failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Petitioner endorsed (Ms.) Miers. We conclude under the particular circumstances presented that Petitioner complied with the spirit and letter of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct. Accordingly, we conclude Petitioner is not guilty of violating” the statute.

Furthermore, in scathing tones, the Court gave the opinion that “Assembly line justice is a close cousin to no justice at all, and is, in reality, an absurd oxymoron. Assembly line justice should be foreign to a judge's vocabulary and an extinct concept in our democracy.”

Essentially, Justice Reyna told readers of his Facebook page that his son Abelino is a candidate for Criminal District Attorney and “That's my boy!”

Shame of it all!

Something the justices focused upon is the amendment in 1990 by the Supreme Court in a recommendation to the Legislature, a majority of the members of which concurred, that a prohibition of “endorsement” should be replaced with a prohibition of “authorization” of others to publish one's recommendation or endorsement of a candidate for public office.

It is Justice Reyna's opinion that the ruling in Hecht, the Public Statement of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, and a strict construction of the statute itself prove that he did not commit a violation of the ethics law.

He supplied The Legendary with the documents I have cited, and added the laconic statement, “...I did not violate the Judicial Canons of Ethics as Segrest and WacoTrib have said I did. Do whatever, if anything, you desire. Call me if any questions...Thanks, Felipe.”

Thank you, shipmate. As a loyal denizen of King Neptune and a faithful follower of his Royal Scribe, Davy Jones, The Legendary is entirely gratified by your wise counsel. I bid thee joy and good health, Sailor Man, both to you and to yours.

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