David Yates Oct. 20, 2014, 10:47am

AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline) – A legal watchdog group has responded to a motion to compel Texas’ attorney general to pursue a six-year old case involving a $29,000 ethics fine against Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht.

Texans for Public Justice filed the motion Wednesday in a Travis County court, seeking to compel Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is also the Republican gubernatorial candidate, to enforce the unpaid fine.

The Texas Ethics Commission imposed the fine after Hecht failed to report discounted legal fees that amounted to an in-kind contribution worth $100,000.

Court records show the motion further asks the district court to remove Abbott from the case if he refuses to collect the fine.

“Abbott has a duty to prosecute this cold case and collect from Justice Hecht,” said Craig McDonald, director for TPJ. “Instead, he has sat on his hands for six years to protect a friend and political crony. Texas law recognizes no crony exception. It’s time for Abbott to act—or to find someone who will.”

The day after the motion was filed, Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC responded, asserting TPJ has been masquerading as a public interest group for more than 20 years while attacking conservative candidates and supporters of tort reform. 

“Texans for Public Justice has always been a political attack machine for Democrats and they have been particularly active in this election cycle, going after Republican candidates while pretending to be a ‘watchdog’ or a non-partisan public interest group,” said Sherry Sylvester, spokesperson for TLR PAC. 

“Nothing could be further from the truth. Although the Houston Chronicle called on them to reveal their funding a few years ago, they have refused, demanding instead that the public simply take them at their word regarding their funding and expenditures.”

Sylvester contends TPJ’s recent intervention in the TEC matter is for the “obvious purpose” of trying to discredit Abbott in the closing days of the gubernatorial campaign.

TPJ’s motion also requests sanctions against Abbott for not pursuing the fine.

In 2013, Abbott’s office argued Hecht alone is responsible for advancing the case.

Reach David Yates at elections@legalnewsline.com

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