Friday, February 19, 2016

Why we must keep Paul Green on state's high court

In a few minutes I’m going to tell you why Republicans should vote to keep San Antonian Paul Green on the Texas Supreme Court.

But first, I have a serious bone to pick with him.

Nearly 15 years ago I came back from lunch to my office at the Express-News and was greeted by a voicemail from a respected Republican judge.

He gave me the case number of a lawsuit and said it was under seal.

“You have to break the seal,” he said.

I nosed around and learned that the case involved two married lawyers and a tale of infidelity and extortion.

I tried to break the seal.

My excellent media lawyer, Mark Cannan, and I won a day-long hearing before highly-respected Judge Phyllis Speedlin.

Cannan pointed out several ways in which the judge who sealed the file had not followed the law and Speedlin ruled in our favor. 

But she allowed the other side to appeal before releasing the file.

Paul Green then sat on the San Antonio Court of Appeals, where he heard the appeal together with Chief Justice Phil Hardberger and Justice Alma Lopez.

The appeal sat for more than a year, during which time Hardberger retired.

Green wrote an opinion in which he and Lopez overturned Speedlin’s decision.

By the time the Texas Supreme Court announced that it would not hear the case, I had moved to Houston.

But the day of that announcement, someone leaked key papers from the suit to Express-News reporter Maro Robbins.

They told a steamy story.

Lawyer Mary Roberts had posted on a match-making website that she wasn’t getting enough sex from her marriage.

She promptly had affairs with at least five men - interestingly, all of them quite prosperous.

When her attorney husband Ted Roberts found out, he saw an opportunity.

He sent the five letters demanding “compensation” or else he would take legal actions that would expose their infidelities to their wives and business associates.

Mary typed some of the letters and helped pressure some of her paramours.

The two raked in $155,000.

The Express-News stories led to indictments.

In 2007, juries found both guilty of the equivalent in Texas law of felony extortion.

There’s more.

Three years earlier Justice Green became a rare Republican appeals judge to reinstate a plaintiff’s lawsuit that had been dismissed by a lower court.

The plaintiff’s attorney had sued the wrong company and hadn’t discovered his error until the statute of limitations had run.

As it turned out, the two companies employed the same lawyer.

Green cited a Texas Supreme Court decision as saying two “unrelated entities” that use a similar name are not affected by the statute of limitations “if the correct entity had notice of the suit and was not misled or disadvantaged by the mistake.” 

He wrote that since their shared lawyer made both firms aware of the lawsuit, there was no harm.

But in writing this passage, Green - inadvertently, he says - made a change to the Supreme Court section.

That section actually referred to two “related entities,” such as subsidiaries of the same parent corporation.

Green converted “related” into “unrelated.”

And who was the plaintiff’s lawyer who benefited from Green’s word play?

Why, the felonious Ted Roberts.

Green insists he is not a friend of Roberts, but it is passing strange that he would write one opinion that, if it weren’t for a leak, would have kept Roberts out of prison.

Then two years later he misquoted the Supreme Court in a way that restored a lawsuit for Roberts.

So why do I think Republicans should keep Green on the Supreme Court?

First, he has been a respected justice.

Second, his opponent is an absolutely wretched candidate for the job.

Rick Green has never been a judge, and apparently hasn’t even practiced much law.

During a stint in the Legislature he used his Capitol office to film infomercials for two sleazy companies.

He also successfully lobbied to get a convicted swindler out of prison after serving three years of a 16-year sentence.

Green had earlier received a $400,000 loan from the convict.

On another occasion, without warning, he cold-cocked the Democrat who had taken his legislative seat away from him, earning a sentence of six months’ probation.

For several years he has worked with Wallbuilders, a Christian organization devoted to removing the separation of church and state.

Rick Green earlier ran and lost against Justice Debra Lehrmann.

This time he hopes to confuse voters by running against another Green.

Yet Paul Green may have a biblical advantage.

As he tells audiences, there is a Saint Paul but not a Saint Rick.

No argument here.

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