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Judge Declines to Halt Ethics Ruling on Sullivan

A state district judge on Monday afternoon refused to temporarily halt the Texas Ethics Commission’s ruling that conservative gadfly Michael Quinn Sullivan failed to register as a lobbyist in 2010 and 2011.

Republican activist Michael Quinn Sullivan visits at the State Republican Convention trade show on June 6, 2014.

A state district judge on Monday afternoon refused to temporarily halt the Texas Ethics Commission’s ruling that conservative gadfly Michael Quinn Sullivan failed to register as a lobbyist in 2010 and 2011.

District Judge Scott Jenkins ruled at the conclusion of a two-and-a-half hour hearing that allowing the ruling to stand for now does not harm Sullivan’s ability to get relief through the appeals process.

Sullivan’s attorney Joe Nixon argued that the Ethics Commission had violated state open meetings laws by deliberating its ruling before announcing in late July a unanimous vote against Sullivan, who was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

Eric Nichols, the attorney representing the commission, repeatedly said that commissioners did meet secretly, but he said that open meetings laws exempt the agency’s deliberations.

Jenkins said that he remained troubled by aspects of the state’s argument, wondering what level of disclosure would be required if a commission’s vote wasn’t unanimous. He urged both sides to file dueling motions so that he or another judge could resolve the question.

Meanwhile, Sullivan still has the option of requesting a district court for a de novo review, which basically means the court starts over from scratch and decides the case against Sullivan without taking into consideration what the Ethics Commission ruled.

Nixon told the judge on Monday that he still planned to file for the de novo review.

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