Welcome to another Texas vs. California update!
Posts Tagged ‘Austin’
More Dwight’s bailiwick than mine (and I think he’s covered two of these), but several stories of interest have popped up:
Two Williamson County residents sued District Attorney Jana Duty on Monday, seeking to force her out of office.
The Texas Constitution, according to the lawsuit, provides that county officials may be removed for incompetency and official misconduct.
“Duty’s serial violations of court orders and the laws of the State of Texas, her history and pattern of dishonesty and untrustworthiness, and her dereliction and abandonment of her responsibilities of the office of the District Attorney have compromised the integrity and the effectiveness of the office of the District Attorney and the Williamson County criminal justice system,” the lawsuit said.
The two Williamson County residents in question are Elizabeth Latham Schleder and Thomas Joseph Madden.
The lawsuit itself offers an extensive list of Duty’s legal transgressions. Rather than listing all six pages from the PDF, here’s the Statesman summary:
The lawsuit filed Monday says Duty broke the law when she made untrue statements to defense lawyers that time stamps were not available showing the sequence of events on a video in the Crispin Harmel capital murder case.
“The District Court found the Duty’s representations regarding the video were untrue and that Duty knew they were untrue when she made the representations,” the lawsuit said.
It accuses Duty of official oppression, aggravated perjury and tampering with physical evidence by not telling the truth about the time stamps.
The lawsuit says Duty’s other acts of incompetence and official misconduct include being found guilty of contempt of court on Aug. 10, 2015, and being sentenced to 10 days in jail.
Duty also broke a gag order in the Harmel case by speaking to a television station and a Georgetown newspaper, and then lied on May 29, 2015, saying she had not spoken to them, the lawsuit said.
It said Duty has also abandoned her responsibilities as district attorney since she lost her re- election in November 2015 but continues to collect her $152,000 per year salary, the lawsuit said.
“On information and belief, since November 2015, Duty has been unavailable and inaccessible to law enforcement, judges, court staff, county officials, and District Attorney office staff,” the lawsuit said.
The only thing I don’t understand is the November 2015 date, since Duty lost to Shawn Dick in the Republican primary in March of this year.
As for Duty neglecting her duties, her sister admitted there are days when she doesn’t go into the office. Certainly there are jobs where you can do most or all of your work remotely, but I don’t think that District Attorney is one of them.
Regarding the other charges against Duty, I suspect that this particular case may be the straw that broke the camel’s back for some of those calling for her removal:
On or about May 23, 2016, the State Bar of Texas suspended Mark Brunner – First Assistant to District Attorney Duty – from the practice of law (suspension probated for one year subject to compliance with the terms of probation) for professional misconduct, to-wit: untruthful communications to the District Court in his capacity as First Assistant District Attorney for Williamson County, Texas in conjunction with the prosecution of State of Texas v. Jessee Celedon Gamboa for aggravated robbery of the Schwertner State Bank in October 2013. Specifically, the State Bar found that Brunner lied to Williamson County District Judge Donna King in February 2015 about having contacted the victims in the State of Texas v. Gamboa aggravated robbery prosecution and having secured the victims’ approval of the plea bargain agreement between the District Attorney’s office and Gamboa’s criminal defense attorney when the victims in this case had not, in fact, approved the plea bargain and Brunner had not, in fact, contacted the victims or obtained their approval of the plea bargain.
Yeah, when your DA lies about having obtained your consent to a plea bargain with the thug who robbed your bank, I can see someone taking that personally.
Here’s a piece on the arrest of the Schwertner State Bank robber. And still more here. Though several news stories mention Gamboa as possibly being the “ZZ Top Bandit,” prison records show that he’s only serving time for the Schwertner heist.
Duty supporters have said that all this is a big waste of time and that Duty will be out of office before the case ever comes to trial. However, I’m guessing that Duty is so unpopular around the Williamson County courthouse that they’ll manage to get the case fast-tracked…
Dwight beat me to this story on Williamson County District Attorney Jana Duty being placed on probation for 18 months by the Texas bar, but I have a few additional bits of context for those coming in late on the Jana Duty Saga.
First, let’s remember how widely unpopular Duty was (and is) with fellow Williamson County Republicans. Holly Hansen had this to say back in 2011:
Republican Jana Duty was first elected to the office in 2004 and re-elected in 2008, but has developed increasingly antagonistic interactions with the County Judge, all four members of the Commissioners Court, all of the County Court at Law Judges, the Williamson County District Attorney, and pretty much any other judge handing an down unfavorable ruling.
Since then, if anything she’s managed to become even less popular.
Second, the fact that Duty was sanctioned for “withholding evidence in a murder case” provides a delicious bit of irony for those who have been following her career. For it was charges of “prosecutorial misconduct” in the Michael Morton case that allowed her to defeat incumbent John Bradley in the 2012 Republican primary, even though Bradley was only involved in Morton’s appeal process, not the original prosecution. The Morton case was a real miscarriage of justice, but Duty and several other dubiously-conservative challengers in 2012 seemed to view the case as a “get into office free” card.
Finally, one tiny tidbit missing from the Statesman article Dwight linked to: Shawn Dick beat Duty in this year’s Republican Primary, so that probation is going to extend through the end of her term as DA, and beyond…
Here’s an update on the University of Texas admissions scandal and their continuing attempt to stonewall regent Wallace Hall.
Regents Alex Cranberg and Brenda Pejovich and former chairmen Charles Miller and Gene Powell filed a friend-of-the-court brief last week backing Hall’s lawsuit against UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven. The chancellor contends that Hall is not entitled to see confidential student records of the investigation into favoritism in admissions at UT-Austin.
For those who haven’t been following the case, this Jon Cassidy piece from March lays out the issues.
“As a result of all of the heavy rains, and at the request of the LCRA Emergency Management Team and the City of Austin Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Fire Chief has decided to close Lake Austin, Lady Bird Lake, and the Colorado River downstream of Longhorn Dam. The flooding upstream and the threat of more rain has caused concern and the LCRA has already started releasing water from various dams around the Hill Country. The water will flow downstream of Austin and is not expected to worsen the current flooding situation on the Colorado River downstream of Austin.”
Condolences to any of those who had their Memorial Day lake outing cut short. The lake is projected to be reopened at noon on June 1.
Well, this is interesting: UT and A&M are part of a consortium bidding to help run Sandia nuclear weapons lab:
A consortium that includes the Texas A&M University System and the University of Texas System announced Tuesday that it will compete for the contract to operate one of the nation’s nuclear weapons labs.
The two university systems, along with the University of New Mexico, the Boeing Co. and the Battelle Memorial Institute, will bid to run Sandia National Laboratories, based in Albuquerque, N.M., officials said. Sandia, which is owned by the U.S. Department of Energy, has a $2.9 billion annual budget and is currently operated by a unit of Lockheed Martin Corp.
“This collaboration is a perfect fit, leveraging the research power of stellar universities as well as the expertise of Battelle and Boeing to elevate the already remarkable development coming out of Sandia National Laboratories,” UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven said in a written statement.
The UT System, the A&M System and the University of New Mexico would provide research expertise, workforce training and independent peer review of the work done at Sandia, officials said.
I was previously unaware that UT had missed out on running Los Alamos in 2005…
Time for another Texas vs. California roundup, with the top news being California’s hastening their economic demise with a suicidal minimum wage hike:
California’s drive to hike the minimum wage has little to do with average workers and everything to do with the Golden State’s all-powerful government employee unions.
Nationally, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is known for representing lower skilled workers. But, of the SEIU’s 2.1 million dues-paying members, half work for the government. In California, that translates to clout with much of the $50 million SEIU spent in the U.S. on political activities and lobbying spent in California. In fact, out of the 12 “yes” votes for the minimum wage bill in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations on March 30, the SEIU had contributed almost $100,000 out of the three-quarters of a million contributed by public employee unions—yielding a far higher return on investment than anything Wall Street could produce.
Unions represent about 59 percent of all government workers in California. Many union contracts are tied to the minimum wage — boost the minimum wage and government union workers reap a huge windfall, courtesy of the overworked California taxpayer.
“California’s taxes and regulations are crushing businesses, and there are more opportunities in Texas for people to start new companies, get good jobs, and create better lives for their families,” said Nathan Nascimento, the director of state initiatives at Freedom Partners. “When tax and regulatory climates are bad, people will move to better economic environments—this phenomenon isn’t a mystery, it’s how marketplaces work. Not only should other state governments take note of this, but so should the federal government.”
According to Tom Gray of the Manhattan Institute, people may be leaving California for the employment opportunities, tax breaks, or less crowded living arrangements that other states offer.
“States with low unemployment rates, such as Texas, are drawing people from California, whose rate is above the national average,” Gray wrote. “Taxation also appears to be a factor, especially as it contributes to the business climate and, in turn, jobs.”
“Most of the destination states favored by Californians have lower taxes,” Gray wrote. “States that have gained the most at California’s expense are rated as having better business climates. The data suggest that may cost drivers—taxes, regulations, the high price of housing and commercial real estate, costly electricity, union power, and high labor costs—are prompting businesses to locate outside California, thus helping to drive the exodus.”
(Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)