Supreme Court's appeal decision raises quid pro quo charges

Legal News Line Mar. 28, 2007, 10:54am

Texas Supreme Court

AUSTIN -- The Texas Supreme Court is in the midst of a campaign-contributions controversy after it chose to hear an appeal brought by one of its most generous benefactors. Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, one of the country's best-known donors to Republican causes, recently appealed an arbitration decision against his company, Perry Homes, to the Texas Supreme Court. The court began hearing the appeal last week. According to Texans for Public Justice (TPJ), a non-partisan watchdog group, Perry was also one of the justices' most generous donors last cycle. Altogether he gave the nine Texas Supreme Court (TSC) justices $94,750 for their election campaigns as an individual donor. The justices received another $248,000 through two Political Action Committees (PACs) Perry supports, says TPJ. Perry himself provided more than $80,000 of those funds, bringing his total individual TSC campaign contributions bill to more than $175,000. Perry has also been fighting since 2000 legal action brought by an elderly couple, Bob and Jane Culls, over defects in their home, which was built by Perry Homes. The couple won an arbitration decision of $800,000 against Perry Homes in 2002. However, Perry has refused to pay and instead appealed the verdict to both the district court and appeals court. Both those appeals were turned down. Perry's campaign-funding generosity towards the Supreme Court justices has led to widespread speculation about whether those donations came with strings attached. Some have suggested that the contributions may have influenced the TSC's decision to hear Perry's appeal. The couple's attorney, Thomas Michel, told the court Perry was making a spurious appeal to the Supreme Court hoping to break a string of unfavorable verdicts in lower courts, the Dallas Morning News reported. Perry Homes now owes the couple over $1 million with interest. Much interest has centered on the mystery donors to Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht's recent successful bid to raise over $340,000 for legal fees. A recent editorial in the University of Texas's Daily Texan speculated that one may well have been Perry. But Michel said he did not expect campaign contributions to affect the outcome of the appeal. "I have every faith to believe that this court has the judge cases on the merits and not with regard to any political contributions," he told reporters.

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