In the first of what will become a blizzard of pre-trial motions, Tom DeLay's attorneys have successfully argued to recuse Texas District Court Judge Bob Perkins - originally slated to hear the case - because of his financial contributions to Democratic causes including MoveOn.org - who has used the charges against DeLay and accusations of corruption against him and TRMPAC in financial appeals. From the Houston Chronicle story
A state district judge who had contributed to Democratic organizations was removed today from the conspiracy and money laundering trial of Republican U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay.
Retired state District Judge C.W. Duncan Jr. made no comment when he granted DeLay's motion to remove Judge Bob Perkins from the case...DeLay's attorneys had contended the Democratic judge would be biased against the former House majority leader in the criminal case stemming from the use of corporate campaign donations in 2002 Texas House races...
"This is the wrong case for Judge Perkins to judge because of his perfectly permissible activity as a Democrat and as a partisan and as a supporter of Democratic causes," DeLay's attorney Dick DeGuerin said after the four-hour hearing.
In his motion
, DeLay argued that Judge Perkins' political advocacy in general and his support of MoveOn in particular surpasses the threshold from removal of Judge Perkins:
Judge Perkins' donation to MoveOn.org is particularly troubling in this case. A review of MoveOn.org's website reveals that this organization takes extreme political positions and has directly targeted and attacked Congressman DeLay in both television and print advertisements. [snip] A donation to MoveOn is not a simple donation to a personal friend or a judicial colleague running for political office; Judge Perkins' donation means that an elected member of the State judiciary made a conscious choice to make a donation to an organization whose activities conspicuously include attacking prominent Republican politicians, including one of the defendants now appearing in his court.
The motion has attached to it ads targeting Tom DeLay by name which were run during the time of Perkins' contributions.
After Perkins' recusal, the retired administrative judge tapped regional administrative Judge B.B. Schraub to choose Perkins' successor. Schraub's appointment was met by a recusal motion on behalf of the prosecution, citing Shraub's ties to Texas Republican causes. Shraub quickly recused himself and referred the matter to the Texas Supreme Court's Chief Justice, Wallace Jefferson, who campaigned with and was endorsed by TRMPAC. From the Houston Chronicle story
The administrative judge who was to pick a new trial judge for U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay withdrew today because of a challenge to his impartiality and turned the selection over to Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson — who was endorsed by the DeLay-founded Texans for a Republican Majority in 2002.
Texas Rules of Civil Procedure states:
A judge shall recude himself an any proceeding in which his impartiality might be reasonably questioned;
Questions for debate:Does Judge Perkins' support of MoveOn justify his recusal from this trial?
What threshold of political advocacy would cause impartiality to be reasonably questioned?
Donations to or from organizations that advocate for or against one of the trial participants?
Endorsements by or for organizations that advocate for or against one of the trial participants?
Should Justice Jefferson recuse himself because of his ties to TRMPAC?
What would be the best method to choose a judge?