The way this is going, we may have to start importing judges from other states.
Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s appeal has taken an unexpected turn as three Republican justices removed themselves from his money laundering case in just a matter of days.
That leaves the fate of DeLay, a high-profile Republican who argued that he couldn’t get a fair trial in the Democratic Travis County, in the hands of a 2-1 Democratic majority on the 3rd Court of Appeals.
On Friday, DeLay’s appellate lawyer, Brian Wice, filed a motion to remove Justice Diane Henson, a Democrat, because of “anti-Republican” remarks she made at the state Democratic Convention in 2006.
In his motion, Wice said Chief Justice Woodie Jones, a Democrat, and two Republicans, Bob Pemberton and Jeff Rose, were initially scheduled to hear oral arguments.
Then, last week, Wice said he learned that Henson had replaced Pemberton and that Rose was stepping aside as well. But Rose’s replacement, David Puryear, another Republican, removed himself Thursday.
That left the lone remaining Republican on the court, Melissa Goodwin, to join her two Democratic colleagues.
Justices typically don’t say why they recuse themselves, but in Pemberton’s case, his re-election opponent is Bryan Case, a prosecutor involved in the DeLay case.
Puryear stepped aside Thursday, and Wice filed his motion challenging Henson’s impartiality the next day.
First they have to decide who will hear Wice’s motion to recuse Judge Henson, which may require a judge from another court being appointed for that hearing by Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson. Then, if Wice is successful in his attempt, a third judge will need to be appointed to hear the case, since there are no more judges on the Third Court who haven’t already recused themselves. Recusals have been the norm in this case and in the related case of DeLay associates Jim Ellis and John Colyandro. I once suggested we skip all of this folderol and go straight to the World Court in The Hague. Looks to me like that’s still a good idea.