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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

NEW COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST JUSTICE HECHT - Soliciting Contributions for Damage Control Violates Judicial Canons

By Alex Winslow - Texas Watch - Aug. 14, 2007
NOTE: To see a copy of the complaint filed August 14, 2007 against Justice Nathan Hecht, as well as all supporting material.

AUSTIN – Texas Watch filed a new complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct (SCJC) against Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht today, alleging an additional and separate violation of the canons of judicial ethics. This complaint alleges that Hecht’s solicitation of funds from attorneys and other parties with business before the Texas Supreme Court in order to take legal action to clear his record is a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Through an open records request, Texas Watch obtained a copy of a previous admonishment issued by the SCJC which serves as a precedent for the complaint filed today. In a 1987 ruling, the Commission admonished then-Justice William Kilgarlin for circumstances similar to those surrounding Hecht today.

Justice Kilgarlin was admonished for soliciting funds from parties practicing before the Court to pay for expenses arising out of a defamation suit meant to clear his name. Hecht’s situation is similar in that he solicited funds from attorneys, lobbyists, and litigants with business before the Court in order to cover legal costs related to his appeal of a 2006 admonishment issued by the SCJC. In a February 3, 2007 solicitation letter, Justice Hecht asked for the funds to “clear my record.”

Alex Winslow, Texas Watch’s Executive Director, wrote to SCJC Executive Director Seana Willing that “the Kilgarlin admonishment appears to be a precedent that can be directly applied to Justice Hecht’s actions.” In both cases, the justices were soliciting contributions from parties with business pending before the Court in an attempt to remove a blot on their reputations.

This new complaint comes after Texas Watch filed three separate complaints with the SCJC, the Texas Ethics Commission, and Travis County District Attorney last month. Those complaints center around a so-called “discount” Hecht received on his legal fees from Jackson Walker, the law firm which represented him to during his appeal of a 2006 SCJC admonishment. In letters to Texas Watch, all of the pertinent authorities have confirmed that they are investigating those complaints.

See Texas Watch

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