Courts

Texas Supreme Court

TribBlog: O'Neill Signs Off

Texas Supreme Court Justice Harriet O'Neill, who isn't seeking reelection to the court, also isn't finishing her term. She told Gov. Rick Perry and the other members of the court today that she will step down from the bench on June 20.

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Comptroller's Office

On the Records: Combs' Open Data Center

Susan Combs' new texastransparency.org includes an Open Data Center, where anyone can download dozens of raw data sets, much like the federal government's data.gov.

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David Oshinsky: The TT Interview

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author and University of Texas professor, whose latest book is a modern history of capital punishment in America, says he doesn't oppose the death penalty — but he believes it's scandalously implemented in Texas.

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Graphic by Jacob Villanueva, Matt Stiles

The Case of the Missing Prosecutors

Texas has more unfilled U.S. attorney positions than any other state — and that isn’t going to change soon. Currently, none of the four Texas districts have "presidentially confirmed" federal prosecutors, who are responsible for enforcing federal laws. Last week, John B. Stevens, a state district judge in Beaumont who was Barack Obama's only nominee in Texas, withdrew his name from consideration, citing the protracted confirmation process. And that means we risk being left out of the administration’s inner circle on criminal and civil justice issues.

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Data App: 5,800+ Schools Ranked

We've built a searchable database of public school rankings based on data collected by the Houston-based nonprofit Children At Risk. In contrast to the Texas Education Agency's "ratings," which rely almost entirely on the percentage of students passing the TAKS test, the rankings blend 12 different measures for elementary schools, 10 for middle schools and 14 for high schools — including TAKS results, ACT and SAT scores, AP exams, attendance rates, graduation rates and the percentage of economically disadvantaged students on every campus. How does your school stack up?

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Jacob Villanueva

The Big Stall

Since his appointment, the alternately amiable and peevish, typically cowboy-boot-shod chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission has comported himself as a virtuoso of the bureaucratic dawdle. With the commission's investigation of the now-notorious Cameron Todd Willingham case "still in its infancy," John Bradley has this to say about when it might conclude its review: "However long it takes, that’s however long it takes.”

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Spies Like Us

Sign up for state agency e-mail alerts from, say, the Comptroller or TCEQ and they'll let you know when meetings are being held and when proposed rules are ready for review. But click a link in those e-mails and they have the ability to see who looked at which rule and which web page and who didn't look at all.

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Graphic by Jacob Villanueva, Matt Stiles

A Watershed Case

On the surface, it’s about an oat-and-peanut farm and two South Texas men who wanted enough water to operate it. But underneath lies a century-old tug-of-war over who really owns the water beneath the land.

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TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

Grissom on the fall of Norma Chávez; M. Smith and Ramsey on the runoffs, the results, and the aftermath; Hu on the Tea Party's birthday party; Thevenot and Stiles on the path between schools and prisons; Ramshaw on prosecutors' reaction to helping hands from Austin; Hamilton on self-appointed lawyers; Galbraith on property rights and power lines; Aguilar and Grissom sit down with the mayor of Juárez to talk about his crime-ridden city; Kraft on telling the stories of Texans and other Americans who died in Vietnam; Ramsey on slots and horses and casinos; and Hamilton goes on a field trip with Jim Hightower to hear the history of populism. The best of our best from April 5 to 9, 2010.

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Morgan Smith

2010: Hey, Wait a Minute

Late last night, Rick Green took to his Facebook page to dispute comments attributed to Debra Lehrmann claiming he had pledged to have his supporters back her in the general election campaign.

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Thanks, But No Thanks

Depending on whom you ask, Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins’ repeated refusal to allow Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott into a local corruption investigation is either bold or stupid. Either way, it’s unusual. Abbott has offered prosecution assistance to local district attorneys 226 times since 2007, when lawmakers first gave him permission to do it. In all but 16 cases, he’s been invited in. And Watkins didn't decline politely.

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Night of the Insurgents

Voters routed state Reps. Delwin Jones and Norma Chavez on Tuesday, turned back former Rep. Rick Green's bid for a spot on the Texas Supreme Court and handed victories to at least three candidates who appeared to benefit from the Tea Party insurgency in Texas.

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Reeve Hamilton

Going It Alone

Attorneys, judges, legal aid experts and law librarians gathered last week to strategize about how to create a system that can accommodate an increasing number of self-represented litigants — a problem that some say is going to shut down the court system.

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