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The Brief: In Scalia's Death, Watching the Armchair Detectives

Some Texas officials are pushing back against criticism of the way the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in remote West Texas was handled.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia speaks in the Texas House chamber on Nov. 11, 2013.   Scalia passed away Feb. 13, 2016 in west Texas of natural causes.

The Big Conversation

Some Texas officials are pushing back against criticism of the way the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in remote West Texas was handled.

An autopsy wasn’t ordered, which has rankled some. The head of the Texas Association of Counties and other officials, however, told the Tribune’s Terri Langford that “autopsies are only requested when foul play is suspected, and the public's expectation of an autopsy for everyone is unrealistic, costly and unnecessary.”

"I think everybody did what they were supposed to do," the TAC’s Gene Terry told Langford.

In the case of Scalia, the two justices of the peace for Presidio County weren’t immediately available so it fell to the county judge, Cinderela Guevara, to determine by phone that the justice had died of natural causes.

An attorney who trains JPs told Langford that many outsiders don’t take into consideration the sheer size of Texas in questioning the lack of an autopsy.

Of Texas, Langford writes, “It's a state so large that El Paso is closer to San Diego, Calif., than Houston. Three-fourths of the state's counties have populations at or under 50,000 people. 

“’I think that's something folks outside of Texas don't really get,’ Thea Whalen told Langford. ‘It's such a large geographical area.’"

Trib Must Reads

VanDeaver, Lavender Face Off Again in NE Texas House Race, by Madlin Mekelburg — Two years after Rep. Gary VanDeaver defeated George Lavender in a race to represent part of Northeast Texas in the state House, the two will face each other once more on the Republican primary ballot March 1.

Some Communities Arming Officers With Credit Card Machines, by Johnathan Silver — In a handful of Texas communities, law enforcement officers have begun using a California company's technology to not only identify and pull over drivers with outstanding court fines, but then process their credit card payments.

Analysis: In Supreme Court Primary Race, a Question of Judgment, by Ross Ramsey — The Supreme Court race that looks like a name game — it's Green v. Green on the ballot — actually is about fundamental ideas of what judges ought to be doing. And the two candidates' views on a recent case make their differences clear. 

Border Catholics Ready to Welcome Pope Francis, by Julián Aguilar — After weeks of planning and speculation about what Pope Francis might say during his visit to the El Paso/Ciudad Juárez area on Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of Catholics are finally ready for the all-day affair.

Scrambled Race to Replace U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, by Abby Livingston — An open-seat U.S. House race is sure to draw a packed field, and nine candidates — six Democrats and three Republicans — are aiming to succeed 10-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa in the 15th district. 

Analysis: Hegar Could Change the Odds with Horse Racing Vote, by Ross Ramsey — The Texas Racing Commission's latest vote on a new form of gambling was a 4-4 tie. Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar could break that deadlock this week, but he isn't saying how he might vote — or whether he will vote at all. 

Baylor Opts Out of Campus Carry, by Matthew Watkins — Baylor University has opted out of Texas' campus carry law, joining the long list of Texas private universities that have decided to continue banning handguns on their campuses. 

Texas A&M Apologizes After Black High Schoolers Harassed on Campus, by Jamie Lovegrove — Members of Texas A&M University's leadership visited Dallas on Tuesday to personally apologize to the high school students who were harassed and subjected to racial slurs during their visit to campus last week.

As Ciudad Juárez Prepares for Pope's Visit, So Do Activists, by Julián Aguilar — From city officials working to rebrand Ciudad Juárez as a safe and organized metropolis to the mother and daughter who met along opposite sides of a border fence, Pope Francis' visit here is fraught with symbolism.

Ted Cruz Proposes "More Tooth, Less Tail" in Military, by Patrick Svitek — Seeking an advantage in military-heavy South Carolina, Ted Cruz made an aggressive plea Tuesday for rebuilding the U.S. armed forces, promising it could be done without growing the government or involving the country in unnecessary conflicts around the globe.

The Day Ahead

•    The Senate State Affairs Committee meets at 9 a.m. in the Senate Chamber at the Capitol to examine ways to affirm First Amendment religious liberty protections in Texas. Prior to the meeting, representatives from civil liberties groups join state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, to present a different take on what constitutes a threat to religious liberty.


Campaigns secretly prep for brokered GOP convention, Politico

List of Texas Women for Trump includes women who aren’t for Trump, The Dallas Morning News

Crystal City mayor arrested, city manager suspended, San Antonio Express-News

As Zika looms, Dallas County’s health director has déjà vu, The Dallas Morning News

Dallas ISD to ask city for help integrating high-poverty schools, The Dallas Morning News 

Ted Cruz wants robust defense budget — after voting against it 3 times, Fort Worth Star-Telegram 

Report: Texas Superstores Should Go Big on Solar, Texas Observer

For Ted Cruz, 2013 Shutdown Was a Defining Moment, The Washington Post 

First-day early primary voters smash GOP turnout records in Tarrant County, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Ciudad Juarez awaits Pope Francis, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Quote to Note

“If they want to monkey around with this process and try to fix it, they’re asking for all hell to break loose.”

— Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, warning that if GOP insiders try to push their preferred candidate toward the presidential nomination, it could be devastating to the party.

Today in TribTalk

What Pope Francis' visit means for Texas, by Sister Bernadine Reyes — Pope Francis, who will visit Ciudad Juárez on Wednesday, has decreed 2016 the Jubilee Year of Mercy. With all the unpleasant politics and xenophobia rampant in Texas today, our state leaders could stand to be more merciful.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation with Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and Rep. Jose Manuel Lozano on Feb. 25 at Texas A&M University-Kingsville

•    Live Post-Primary TribCast on March 2 at the Austin Club

•    Protecting Houston Before the Next Big Storm on March 3 at San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center in La Porte.

•    A Conversation with Sid Miller, Texas Agriculture Commissioner on March 10 at the Austin Club

•    A Conversation with Sen. Carlos Uresti and Rep. Poncho Nevárez on April 13 at Sul Ross State University in Alpine

•    A Symposium on the Texas Economy on April 29 at the University of Houston

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