Skip to main content

A Twitter Follow Leads to a Recusal

In the brave new world of social media, does a follow preclude impartiality?

Michael Quinn Sullivan, president and CEO of Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, at a 2012 Texas Tribune ...

Did Twitter bias the judge?

That’s the question being raised after a new judge was assigned to the legal fight between conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan and the Texas Ethics Commission.

A Denton County district judge, Steve Burgess, sided last month with Sullivan in his request to dismiss an Ethics Commission ruling from over the summer that he failed to register as a lobbyist in 2010 and 2011.

The Ethics Commission afterward cried foul, saying that Burgess wasn’t impartial because he followed Sullivan on Twitter.

On Tuesday, a visiting judge ordered the removal of Burgess and returned the case to the administrative judicial region to be assigned to a different judge.

According to Sullivan attorney Joe Nixon, the case has been dismissed and all that remains to be done is to issue a final written order and to award attorneys fees.

Burgess, though, had not yet signed the order, and it is a point of disagreement between the two sides as to how much of Burgess’ work must be accepted by the new judge.

The Ethics Commission’s attorney, Eric Nichols, said the agency “looks forward to the day when the issue of Mr. Sullivan’s failure to register as a lobbyist can be adjudicated on the merits.”

*****

There’s been no shortage of great tributes to the life and career of Bob Armstrong, who impressed as much with his character as his accomplishments.

This appreciation by Joe Holley in the Texas Observer is well worth checking out.

We spoke with Harold Cook on Monday, the day after Armstrong passed away, and he shared this memory of his friend:

One of Armstrong’s legacies is Big Bend Ranch State Park, the designation of which he pursued through his legislative career and one he was able to fulfill as a parks and wildlife appointee of Gov. Mark White.

Last year, the park’s visitor center was named for Armstrong. And he was able to attend its dedication.

We’ll let Harold take it from there:

“I’ve never ever seen a man happier than Bob was that day. And I remember thinking, you know, this is a pretty good deal.

“Usually for people who are in the public eye all their lives, they only really say the nice stuff about you after you’re gone. And yet here he was sitting in the front row at this ceremony.

“People of all stripes and political leanings were there, all making a big deal out of Bob. Essentially, they were saying the great things about him while he was still there to hear them.

“And I just thought that’s the best deal I’ve ever seen anybody get.”

The Texas Tribune Member Drive Fall 2020 banner

This public-service journalism is made possible by readers like you.

Donate now