Top-Level Feud Mars Texas School-Finance Suit
A Democrat on the Texas Supreme Court is demanding an apology and an inquiry by a judicial-ethics panel following the Republican governor's accusation that the judge has already decided how he will rule on a key school-finance case working its way to the high court.
But a spokesman for Gov. William P. Clements Jr. said the chief executive had no intention of apologizing to Justice Oscar Mauzy. The Governor stands by his accusation, the spokesman added.
The partisan brawl at the top level of state government began with a speech Mr. Clements gave to the Texas Association of Taxpayers last month.
During his remarks, the Governor claimed that Justice Mauzy, who served as chairman of the Senate education committee for 10 years before his election to the bench, has made up his mind to back a trial court's decision declaring the state's school-aid system unconstitutional. The case is now before the Texas Court of Appeals.
"I would bet you money here this morning that that opinion is already written in anticipation of it getting to the supreme court," Governor Clements was quoted as saying. "And Oscar Mauzy already has an opinion written."
"And I know what that opinion will be," Mr. Clements continued. "It'll uphold [the lower court]. And it will destroy, literally destroy, the public-school system in the state of Texas as we know it today."
In an interview last week, Justice Mauzy said the Governor's allegation was "untrue--it's outrageous and it's irresponsible."
"I welcome the opportunity for him to file a sworn complaint" with the state commission on judicial conduct, the justice said, noting that prejudging a case before it is heard is a violation of judicial ethics. "I'll go under oath and he can go under oath, and we'll let the commission decide who's lying and who's telling the truth."
"If he's unwilling to put up or shut up, he should apologize under oath," Justice Mauzy continued. "We Texans have learned Bill Clements doesn't tell the truth unless he has his hand on the Bible."
The justice was referring to Mr. Clements's acknowledgment two years ago that he had lied to National Collegiate Athletic Association investigators while serving as chairman of Southern Methodist University's board of trustees. The Governor told reporters that he did not have his hand on the Bible when he said he had no knowledge of improper payments to the university's football players.
When asked why he thought the Governor had made the accusation against him, Justice Mauzy said, "He's trying to force another resignation [from the court] so he can appoint another pipsqueak of his choice."
Mike Toomey, a spokesman for Mr. Clements, said the Governor "is not going to apologize to Justice Mauzy."
"If you sum up what he was saying, he does not feel Justice Mauzy is impartial," he said.
Mr. Toomey also said that no complaint "has been filed yet" with the judicial-ethics panel, adding that he did not know whether one would be lodged.