There is yet another allegation of undue influence by a campaign contributors on the Texas Supreme Court. A closely divided court gave home builder Bob Perry a major victory in reversing an $800,000 arbitration award to Jane and Robert Cull. Perry happens to be the largest contributor to judicial campaigns in Texas as curious interest of a home builder in the make up of the state bench.
The 5-4 decision in Austin turns on the fact that the Culls initially opted for litigation and discovery and then later switched over to arbitration. The majority held that they received an unfair advantage through discovery. Yet, as dissenting Justice Phil Johnson noted, the same information could have been secured in the arbitration process and both sides benefited equally from discovery.
The Culls purchased their home in 1996 for $233,730 from Perry Homes — only to find serious foundation and structural problems. The value of the home plummeted to just $41,000 by 2001.
There may be good-faith rationales on both sides. However, the perception of undue influence taints the entire process and undermines the legitimacy of the courts. According to the Associated Press, each of the nine members of the Court received more than $260,000 from members of Perry’s family. Click here. That is a sizable amount of money that goes beyond what most citizens view as supporting good government. The question is why a home builder would contribute so much and what he expects in return. Of course, at least four such recipients of the Perry largess did not vote for him, but there remain a very dark cloud over our legal system from such contributions to judges. This is only the latest allegation of influence on our state court system by major contributors, click here and here.
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