Courts

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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TribBlog: Case Against DeLay Aides Will Proceed

Today the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld criminal charges against John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, meaning the case against them related to their work for former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay’s political action committee will proceed at the trial court level.

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2010: Did Lehrmann Violate Ethics Rules?

Debra Lehrmann may have violated campaign finance laws during her bid to become the Republican Supreme Court nominee, according to a complaint filed today with the Texas Ethics Commission.

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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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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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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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TribBlog: Access Denied

"Sad and tawdry" affair between judge and prosecutor or not, the U.S. Supreme Court will not hear Charles Dean Hood's case.

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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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Caleb Bryant Miller

Runoff Day: A Spectator's Guide

Today’s elections in 18 Texas primary races, all but two involving Republicans, probably won't change the overall temperature of the statehouse or our delegation to Congress. The partisan makeup of those places isn't at stake until November. But for three House incumbents and challengers in two other races — for the State Board of Education and the Texas Supreme Court — how the vote turns out is a big deal.

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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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Morgan Smith

Tipping the Scales

If Rick Green wins his runoff against Debra Lehrmann on Tuesday, Democrats will be licking their chops — but do they really have a shot of occupying their first Texas Supreme Court seat in more than 10 years?

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Linda Rux

TribBlog: Back on the Short List

Supporters may tout her as a Chicago justice for a Chicago president, but Diane Wood — said to be in serious consideration as a replacement for the retiring John Paul Stevens — got her start in Texas: as an undergrad and a law student at UT-Austin.

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