Back in law school I was an extern at the Ninth Court of Appeals. This gave me insight from the inside as to how important it is to have appellate Judges who follow the law and not legislate from the bench are to the smooth functioning of our legal system. It’s more than simply a philosophical view; attorneys need to know what the law is in order to properly advocate for our clients. An appellate court that is instrumentalist – conservative or liberal – undermines the effectiveness of the legal system as it undermines the stability of law. James Lombardino’s campaign reached out to me for a possible endorsement. After reviewing their campaign – and more importantly the contributors to the Adams campaign – it is clear that Lombardino is the better choice for the Court of Appeals.
The Courts of Appeal are a necessary firewall against activist judges at the local level. It is the prerogative of the legislature, not the judicial bench, to change the laws. When a judge follows the law they need not fear reversal from the Court of Appeals. When local judges are activist it is the Court of Appeals that rights the wrong and ensures the stability of law. With all the chaos that’s arisen from the blue waves the past two cycles it’s more important than ever that the Court of Appeals firewall remain intact to keep activist judges in check. This throws a wrinkle into the normal judicial race assessment. Now it’s not enough to simply look and see if candidate A or candidate B or both is likely to interpret rather than legislate. Now we have to look both at impartiality as well as electability. Lombardino is the better choice on both accounts.
Both candidates have enough of an appellate body of work to believe they wouldn’t have to learn on the job. This takes away a low hanging fruit that otherwise would be available for the Democratic nominee to allege. So we look to other areas to assess electability. With Trump on the top of the ticket, turnout is going to decide the election, and Lombardino’s political roots are far deeper than Adams which will have some impact on the ability to get voters to vote in this down ballot race. However, it’s Adams’ liabilities with Kingwood that are going to have a far greater impact. Looking at Transparency Texas information on the candidates it shows that Michael Brisch contributed to the Adams campaign. The Texas Ethics Commission candidate filing also shows the donation. Why is this important? Mr. Brisch’s Linked In profile notes he is the “Chief Legal and Administrative Officer at Perry Homes” which is not going to be a popular donation in Kingwood. If Kingwood doesn’t vote in large numbers for the Republican candidate it will be difficult to win the race. If I can find the information then the Democratic machine can find the information. That is a glaring weakness the Democratic candidate can expose in the general election to try and suppress the Kingwood vote in this race in November. This alone leaves Lombardino as an easy choice as far as who is more electable.
As noted above it is prerogative of the legislature, not the judiciary, to enact the law. While it’s not possible to completely disassociate one’s personal views from their official capacity that’s the measure by which we should measure our judges. We can’t know how a person is going to rule once they are elected since good candidates will not comment on issues likely to come before them. The next best thing we can do is look at who is donating to them in order to get an idea of what they think is important. One donation that stands out is the donation from Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC in the amount of $4,500. Now if this were a legislative race no issues with a PAC advocating changes to the law. However, this is an Appellate Court race. Accepting such a large donation from TLRPAC creates a reasonable inference against impartiality on the part of the candidate. If we are to err, we should err on the side against a potential impartiality given the importance of the Court of Appeals, especially in the aftermath of the two blue waves.
Lombardino doesn’t have any of these glaring issues with his campaign. In a time where electibility is just as important as impartiality and motivating voters to vote down ballot is going to determine who wins the race going with the candidate that doesn’t have significant weaknesses is the wiser course of action, and why Lombardino is the better option for the First Court of Appeals