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1675Texas Supreme Court Justice Admonished for Support of Harriet Miers

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  • Greg Cannon
    May 24, 2006

      Texas Supreme Court Justice Admonished for Support of
      Harriet Miers
      Tuesday, May 23, 2006

      AUSTIN — The Texas Supreme Court justice who publicly
      supported close friend Harriet Miers for the U.S.
      Supreme Court last year has been admonished by the
      state judicial conduct commission for using his office
      to promote her nomination.

      By telling White House staff to send media inquiries
      about Miers' career to him and discussing her
      qualifications in about 120 newspaper, radio and
      television interviews, including her religious
      background and views on abortion, Nathan Hecht
      improperly used his position to support her for the
      federal bench, the Commission on Judicial Conduct

      The commission's written admonishment was dated May 10
      and released Tuesday.

      Texas judicial conduct rules prohibit judges from
      lending the prestige of their office to boost the
      private interests of themselves or others.

      They also prohibit judges from allowing their names to
      be used to endorse candidates for office.

      "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," the
      commission said.

      It said his statements "would be construed as an
      endorsement of Miers' candidacy, as those terms are
      commonly used and understood."

      Hecht, a Republican, said the ruling restricts his
      right to free speech. He hired prominent First
      Amendment attorney Chip Babcock of Houston 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 said in a prepared statement.

      Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson
      appointed three appeals court judges, Kerry FitzGerald
      and Amos Mazzant of Dallas and Ann McClure of El Paso,
      to consider Hecht's case.

      Babcock said judges have long been asked to give their
      views on judicial nominees without facing similar

      "Judges have been appearing before the judiciary
      committee and talking to the press for at least 40
      years about nominees for the judicial bench," Babcock
      said. "Nobody had a problem with it before."

      President Bush nominated Miers for the court last year
      to replace the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor. Miers
      eventually withdrew her name under fire from
      conservatives who wouldn't support her.

      According to the commission, the White House contacted
      Hecht two days before her nomination was made public.
      He agreed to discuss her experience and background
      with Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.

      Hecht also discussed the large media interest in her
      nomination and agreed to have the White House send
      reporters to him. He agreed to make daily reports to
      the White House about his media contacts.

      In some of his interviews, Hecht said Miers'
      nomination would be "good for the country" and that
      she would make a "good justice."

      Two complaints were filed against Hecht. One remains
      anonymous under state law and the other came from the
      commission itself, said Seana Willing, the
      commission's executive director.