Tit for tat: Republican judge withdraws from DeLay case at prosecutor’s request | VailDaily.com
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Tit for tat: Republican judge withdraws from DeLay case at prosecutor’s request

AUSTIN, Texas – A new judge was selected to preside over Rep. Tom DeLay’s conspiracy and money laundering trial Thursday, after another judge became the second to step away from involvement in the case because of political contributions he has made.Administrative Judge B.B. Schraub, a Republican who was to have selected the judge for the case, withdrew after Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle filed a request to have him removed. Two days earlier, District Judge Bob Perkins was removed from the case at DeLay’s request because of his contributions to Democrats.Schraub asked Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson to name a judge to preside over DeLay’s trial, and Jefferson selected semi-retired Senior Judge Pat Priest of San Antonio. Jefferson’s involvement, however, could invite yet another challenge.State documents examined by The Associated Press show that Jefferson’s 2002 campaign treasurer, Bill Ceverha, also was the treasurer of DeLay’s Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee. Ceverha was a defendant this spring in a civil trial brought by Democrats who lost state legislative races to Republicans in 2002.Lawyers on both sides in DeLay’s case have argued that political contributions by judges have harmed at least the appearance of impartiality. But in a state where judges are elected and free to contribute to candidates and political parties, it could be a challenge to find a judge who meets both sides’ definition of impartial.Prosecutors believe Schraub to be “completely fair and impartial, with a sterling reputation of honesty and integrity,” Earle wrote. “However, as the recusal of Judge Perkins reflected, such is unfortunately no longer the standard in our state for the judiciary.”DeLay is charged with illegally funneling corporate campaign contributions to Republican candidates for the 2002 legislative races. The Texas Republican was forced to step down as House majority leader after being indicted.Earle, the district attorney, argued that Schraub was objectionable because he has given money to GOP candidates including Gov. Rick Perry, an ally in DeLay’s successful effort to redraw congressional districts to benefit Republicans.DeLay’s contributions to Texas Republicans helped the GOP win control of the Texas House in 2002. Then, in a series of special sessions called by Perry, the GOP pushed through a redistricting plan crafted by DeLay that helped get more Republicans elected to Congress in 2004.In his request for Schraub’s removal, Earle said Schraub’s financial support of Perry reveals that the judge “agrees in principle with Perry’s agenda regarding Tom DeLay’s redistricting map.”Prosecutors also suggested that Schraub appears politically indebted to Perry, who appointed him as administrative judge and can reappoint him in January.Schraub, 76, has also contributed to George W. Bush’s campaigns for governor and president.DeLay objected to Perkins, a Democrat, because he has contributed to Democratic candidates such as John Kerry and the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org.The judicial wrangling is “a great shame,” said Charles Silver, a legal ethics professor at the University of Texas Law School.”It says that the judges who we elect can’t be trusted to apply the law neutrally in cases that in some way, shape or form bear on their political beliefs,” Silver said. “If that’s true, we really need to revamp the whole system.”Vail, Colorado


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