Texas SC justice fined $29,000 over ethics violation

Chris Rizo Dec. 5, 2008, 10:48am

Nathan Hecht (R)

AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline) - Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht has been ordered to pay a $29,000 fine for accepting an illegal campaign contribution and failing to report the gift.

The Texas Ethics Commission on Thursday considered the matter in which the justice was accused by a judicial watchdog group of accepting a $167,200 discount for legal services that was tantamount to an illegal campaign contribution.

Hecht, who was elected to the Supreme Court in 1988 and is the state high court's current longest-serving justice, denied any wrongdoing.

Austin-based Texas Watch filed the complaint, claiming the Republican justice failed to report the lowered legal fees he received from a law firm as an in-kind political contribution.

The commission found the discount on legal fees amounted to a contribution to his campaign, and that it exceeded limits on what judges can accept from a donor. Texas elections law bars judges from accepting more than $5,000 from any individual or $30,000 from any one law firm.

Texas law allows fines in such cases to be triple the amount raised in violation of campaign rules.

The complaint stems from Hecht's representation by the Jackson Walker law firm in a dispute with the Commission on Judicial Conduct in 2006, which admonished him for promoting President George W. Bush's short-lived nomination of former White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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