In a midnight move before tomorrow’s election, 10th Court of Appeals Justice Felipe Reyna fired the opening salvos of a defamation lawsuit against a Longview doctor and two political action committees supporting his GOP primary opponent, Al Scoggins.
Reyna filed a petition today asking the state district court in McLennan County to order the deposition of Dr. John Coppedge, the Texas BiPartisan Justice Committee (of which Coppedge serves as treasurer), the Brazos County Physicians for Judge Scoggins, and any other involved parties. Legally that means if the court grants Reyna’s request — which is essentially a way to gather evidence in anticipation of a legal claim in certain situations — those named in the petition will face questioning under oath. Politically, of course, it gives the Reyna camp fresh fodder for the spin machine as voters head to the polls on Tuesday.
The document cites statements on the BiPartisan Justice Committee’s Web site concerning Reyna’s judicial record as the source of Reyna’s possible defamation claim. Darrell Keith, Reyna’s lawyer, called them “dirty politics” and said the judge was “not going to stand for it.” Coppedge would not comment on the petition, except to say that he had yet to see any official court document.
Scoggins is the darling of tort reform groups, many of which supported Reyna in his initial bid for the 10th court in 2004. Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Civil Justice League have all broken the friendly incumbent rule and given the nod to Scoggins. The Ellis County district court judge, who also declined to comment, has also raised almost $25,000 in the past three weeks.
Republicans in Ellis County, which the 10th court encompasses, have turned out for Scoggins, too — a press release cites 15 of them. He has also secured endorsments from former Texas Supreme Court justices and tort reform advocates Craig Enoch, Tom Phillips, Eugene Cook, and Scott Brister and state Reps. Jim Pitts, Sid Miller and Byron Cook, who all have constituents in the 10th court’s district.