We too often think out-of-control courts running roughshod over the constitutional separation of powers is a problem somewhere else. We think it’s a problem of the federal courts, a problem from which Texans are immune.
Recent events prove otherwise.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is the latest conservative to be indicted for doing nothing wrong. The crony establishment has gone after Tom Delay, Rick Perry and others, using Texas’ notoriously flawed criminal court system to criminalize their political opposition.
A disgraced district judge, Chris Oldner, improperly harangued a grand jury into indicting Paxton on the word of State Rep. Byron Cook, a wealthy ally of House Speaker Joe Straus and the Democratic caucus. (Cook has long pushed to create state documents for illegal aliens, protect labor unions, and oppose pro-life activists.)
Think people are innocent until proven guilty? Not in our flawed criminal justice system. Once someone is indicted in Texas, even improperly, even illegally, they must fight to prove themselves innocent. And doubly so when the liberal media perpetuates lies about their case.
In the latest turn of events, the disgraced Collin County criminal judge arranged to have two liberal trial lawyers from Houston appointed to prosecute Paxton. Despite Oldner himself now being under investigation for judicial misconduct, a new judge is forcing Collin County taxpayers to not only pay for these ”special prosecutors”… but to pay more than state law or court rules appear to allow.
Texas law limits how much special prosecutors can be paid to the amount normally afforded for indigent defense, but visiting Judge George Gallagher of Fort Worth has ordered Collin County to exceed those limits and pay the special prosecutors hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Given how conservative Collin County is, one would expect the county’s chief administrator, Keith Self, and his fellow commissioners to stand up against judicial tyranny.
Moreover, it is judicial tyranny coming from a visiting Fort Worth judge for whom Collin County taxpayers have never voted, and will never have a chance to hold accountable.
Self and the commissioner’s court are not standing up for taxpayers. While two commissioners initially voted against Gallagher’s order-to-pay, Self and the other two commissioners buckled. In public statements, Self has said he hates the order, but is afraid to be found in contempt of court.
But the court is itself in contempt of our constitutional separation of powers. Neither Judge Gallagher, nor any judge, has the power to reach into the treasury. Court rulings can only be enforced by willing parties. And in this case Self and the commissioners court are willing to go along with orders that appear to violate the law. (Only commissioner Susan Fletcher has consistently opposed the illegal orders of Judge Gallagher.)
Neither our state nor federal constitutions confer absolute power to the courts. The branches of government – legislative, executive, judicial – are co-equal, each checking the other.
Sadly, just when boldness has been required to uphold the separation of powers, Collin County has set a dangerous precedent for all governing bodies in Texas.
District judges are seeing that even in Texas’ most conservative county they are free to exceed legislative limits, and reach deeply into the executive’s purse, to fund illegal orders in untenable politically-motivated cases.
That is unbalanced, unjust, and unconstitutional.