Texas Supreme Court Justice Admonished for Support of
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
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
"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.