Houston appeals court judge Michael Massengale said Tuesday he will challenge Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann in next year’s Republican primary.
Massengale is currently a judge on the state’s 1st Court of Appeals in Houston and a former partner at the Houston-based Baker Botts law firm. Like Lehrmann, he was first appointed to his job by former Gov. Rick Perry.
Lehrmann said in an interview that she will definitely seek re-election in 2016. “I love what I do,” she said. “It’s important work. It’s work that I love and it’s very, very meaningful. I’m doing what I think most people would say is a very good job of it.”
Massengale has a tough row to hoe. His announcement comes a day after Gov. Greg Abbott — himself a former justice on the state’s highest civil court — hosted an Austin fundraiser in support of Lehrmann’s re-election bid.
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“Please join us in our steadfast support of Justice Debra Lehrmann’s re-election to the Supreme Court of Texas,” they wrote. “For 27 years, first as a trial judge, then as a justice on the Supreme Court, Justice Lehrmann has served our state with honor and distinction. She believes strongly in her duty to strictly apply the law and never legislate from the bench. Anchoring her conservative judicial philosophy is a fierce intellect and a tireless commitment to applying the law accurately and impartially.”
Massengale, without pointing to specific cases, suggested in his announcement that Lehrmann has strayed. “Texans deserve the option to elect a Supreme Court justice who is truly committed to the conservative legal philosophy of carefully and fairly applying laws as they are written and not legislating from the bench,” he said in a news release. “When a court interprets a constitution or a statute, people should expect judges to articulate what the law is and not impose their personal opinions about what the law should be.”
He claims significant support of his own, including that of the Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, an outsize player in judicial races; former Supreme Court Justice Scott Brister; Texas Eagle Forum President Cathie Adams; and others.
Lehrmann, who was a judge in Fort Worth before joining the high court, is one of three justices whose terms end with the 2016 election cycle. The others are Eva Guzman, who came to the court from Houston, and Paul Green, who came to Austin from San Antonio.
Lehrmann said she had been expecting Massengale’s announcement after he called her recently. “He said he thinks I’m doing a wonderful job but that he wants to be on the court,” she said. “I haven’t talked to him, but he left me a message.”