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Democrat Judge Randomly Assigned to Paxton’s Criminal Fraud Case: Your Texas Roundup

Plus: Cornyn focuses on Hillary Clinton’s emails during Jeff Session’s hearing, DPS decides not to cut back hours at driver’s license centers, and American Airlines scraps a plan that would’ve given you less legroom.

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“It poops.”

—Seven-year-old Braelynn Gomez to WFAA, explaining why she could never take home one of the miniature horses she met at the Bachman Lake Branch Library in northwest Dallas on Tuesday.



Alex Wong/Getty

New Face, Same Case
Attorney General Ken Paxton has a new judge assigned to his criminal fraud case: Harris County Judge Robert Johnson, a recently elected Democrat who is best known for beating incumbent Ryan Patrick in January’s 177th State District Court election, according to the Houston Chronicle. And, because Texas ain’t so small after all, Patrick is the son of Paxton’s colleague Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Johnson was chosen at random after Paxton’s legal team successfully convinced a higher court to essentially bounce the previous judge, but it’s hard to imagine Paxton is too happy with this roll of the judicial dice. As the Dallas Morning News notes, Johnson is among the few Harris County judges who hasn’t received campaign donations from Paxton’s lawyers or either of the three special prosecutors assigned to the case. Paxton’s pretty much stuck to his guns throughout his nearly two-year criminal case, claiming he’s been the victim of a politicized witch hunt, so having a Democrat presiding over the case could bolster that argument. But since Johnson’s only been a judge for six months, it’s difficult to predict how the rookie might approach this complicated case. “I will make my ruling based upon the law and remain fair/impartial at all times,” Johnson writes on the “about me” page of his website. According to the Chronicle, Johnson was a criminal defense attorney for thirteen years before he was elected as judge, and he’s a 2001 graduate of Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law. Paxton’s case was originally set to go to trial in September, but that date will likely be pushed back.


But… Her… Emails!
During U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session’s hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian election meddling, Texas U.S. Senator John Cornyn turned back to Hillary Clinton’s emails, according to the Dallas Morning News. In the hearing, Cornyn tried to make the case that former FBI director James Comey was fired for mishandling the Clinton email scandal rather than for his investigation into Russian election meddling. But Cornyn said a memo written in May by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein indicated Comey repeatedly overstepped the Department of Justice’s authority during the Clinton investigation. When questioned about his role in Comey’s firing on Tuesday, Sessions said he and Rosenstein had a “clear view… that we had problems there, and it was my best judgment that a fresh start at the FBI was the appropriate thing to do. And, when asked, I said that to the president.” According to the Washington Post, Cornyn also attempted to make the argument that because Sessions had recused himself from Russian investigations, then Sessions couldn’t have been influenced by Comey’s probe into Russia.

Easy Rider
The Texas Department of Public Safety announced on Tuesday that it had suddenly cut back hours at the most frequently visited driver’s license centers across the state. But DPS was hammered with criticism from lawmakers and citizens, and within 24 hours the agency reversed its decision, reinstating the normally extended hours at eleven of the state’s busiest driver’s license centers, according to the Texas Tribune. The Houston Chronicle first reported that DPS had originally planned to slash hours and lay off more than 100 workers to help reduce with a $21 million funding hole, despite having a massive two-year budget of $2.4 billion. The agency dropped the new rules on Texans without any notice, and pretty much everyone was upset, from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to the average Joe to Governor Greg Abbott himself. Civil rights advocates were concerned that the limited hours would have worsened access issues that led to a federal court ruling against Texas’s Voter ID law, according to the Austin American-Statesman. “The decision to resume extended hours came after discussion with state leaders and state legislators,” DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said in a statement, according to the Tribune. “The Driver License Division will explore other options and efficiencies in order to keep the extended-hour schedule in place.”

Legroom For Days
American Airlines decided to scrap a plan that would have left passengers cramped and uncomfortable on the Fort Worth-based company’s incoming class of new jets, according to the Dallas Morning News. In an internal memo released on Tuesday, the airline wrote that it decided to put an end to its idea to add three rows of seats—with just 29 inches separating them—on its new Boeing 737 Max jets. The public reaction to that revelation in March was, uh, not great. “It is clear that today, airline customers feel increasingly frustrated by their experiences and less valued when they fly,” the memo reversing the decision said. “We can be leaders in helping to turn around that perception, and that includes reviewing decisions that have significant impact on the flying experience.” As the Morning News notes, the seats are still going to be pretty cramped, with thirty inches of “pitch” (the distance between a point on one seat and the equivalent point on the seat behind and in front) throughout coach.


Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.

The shocking story of how the DEA led the Zetas to massacre a Mexican town near the Texas border Pro Publica

Colonias got the short end of the stick in Abbott’s budget vetoes El Paso Times

Republicans in the Senate need to woo Ted Cruz if they want to pass their healthcare overhaul Washington Post

Twenty-four people have been charged in connection to hazing at Tarlton State that hospitalized five Texan News Service

Police in Victoria arrested a 17-year-old and charged him with capital murder in the killing of a 61-year-old woman Victoria Advocate

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  • FrenchBug

    According to the Party in question, the proper adjective when referring to the party affiliation is “Democratic”. Whether it is silly for the members of said party to care either way, or whether it was inappropriate for their opponents to start using “Democrat” as an adjective instead (to play on the distasteful “rat” sound) is not for us – or for journalists – to say. Everyone can have their own opinions on that.
    But as far as neutral observers go, respectful deference should go to how people choose to call themselves. So the headline should be that a “Democratic Judge” has been chosen to handle Ken Paxton’s case.

    • WestTexan70

      Indeed. Frank Luntz’s influence on the language has been poisonous.

      • Jed

        i’d probably be more bothered by this if i could figure out what the “burn” is from the misnomer. i don’t get the joke.

        • FrenchBug

          Well, the immediate explanation for it is that they use Democrat as an adjective to emphasize the RAT part of DemocRAT. You are right that it is childish and not particularly clever.
          But we get to the second – and more fundamental – point which is that, sadly, the conservative movement, despite having a valid ideology that should stand on its own, has largely devolved in some quarters into a nah nah nah reactionary movement whose sole purpose at times seems simply to be annoying Democrats. I could list endless examples – some with more terrifying policy consequences than this simple terminology dispute – but I don’t think anyone can deny that there is a large section of the Republican base these days that will simply be offensive or oppose something just because they think it will anger Democrats – see: President Trump.
          And, as you can imagine, Jeb (see what I did there), it is quite irritating to be called by something else than your real name. And of course, the more you correct it, the more satisfied they feel about their pun and that they “are getting to” their enemy, and by the time Democrats have learned to shrug it off, the wrong terminology has seeped into the mainstream – as evidenced here.
          Part of me wants to let it go but I hate to let pettiness win. Maybe I am part of the problem.

          • Jed

            Huh. Seems best to ignore, certainly if they are trying to provoke then you are giving them satisfaction when you react.

            On the other hand, calling them repubLICKs seems equally witty.