The Texas response to Operation Jade Helm 15, a collective Rightwing hallucination concerning the belief that the U.S. federal government is about to invade the state (no, seriously) has probably made enough news for one lifetime.
What hasn't made enough news is that former Gov. Rick "Oops" Perry, another presumptive 2016 GOP Presidential contender, is still boots-deep in legal trouble.
Specifically, he's still facing two felony indictments on charges of abuse of office and coercion of a public official after threatening the head of the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County (Austin) district attorney's office with denial of funding. The DA in question, Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested for DUI in 2013 and refused to resign in its wake.
The latest developments in Perry's case wouldn't get picked up for a House of Cards storyline because they're so outlandish. But take it from a native Texan: it's just government business as usual around these parts...
According to Patrick Svitek at the Texas Tribune...
That's because Justice Bob Pemberton has worked for the former governor, representing him in court as his deputy general counsel. After that job, Perry appointed him to the Third Court of Appeals, which is now considering a request from Perry's lawyers to dismiss the abuse-of-power charges against him.
Pemberton also clerked for Tom Phillips, the retired chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court who is now on Perry's defense team. Pemberton's website features a photo of him being sworn in by Phillips --- "his friend, supporter, and former boss."
In addition to once working for Perry, being appointed by Perry and having clerked for one of Perry's current lawyers, Pemberton has been a political supporter of the former governor. Pemberton chipped in $1,000 for Perry's 2002 re-election campaign, according to state records.
Judges are bound to have some connection to Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, but Pemberton's relation is beyond the pale, according to some good-government experts.
"That court has always acted in a partisan manner, but in this case, Justice Pemberton should definitely recuse himself," said Craig McDonald, head of Texans for Public Justice, a liberal-leaning watchdog group responsible for the complaint that led to Perry's indictment. "There should definitely be a recusal."
According to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, a judge must recuse himself or herself in any proceeding in which "the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned."
Pemberton did not respond to return a call and email [last month], and a court representative said he could not comment on the situation. In an email, Perry attorney Tony Buzbee rejected the need for Pemberton recuse himself.
"Is it a conflict that our trial judge used to be supervised by the special prosecutor and that the trial judge then appointed the special prosecutor? I do not think it is a conflict or a story," Buzbee said.
Perry's attorney Buzbee --- whom the former governor had appointed to the Texas A&M board of regents in 2013 and was once rumored to be a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor --- has gone past his ethical expiration date also.
On Wednesday, the parties in the case were notified that three judges had been tapped to hear the appeal: Justices Scott Field, David Puryear and Pemberton.
Where have we heard Justice Puryear's name mentioned previously? Deep down the memory hole, we find that Puryear and Pemberton sat on the three-judge panel that dismissed Tom Delay's money-laundering conviction in 2011, determining, during that 2009 trial, that the definition of "campaign funds" does not include checks.
Back to Svitek...
Perry's lawyers have also filed a separate request to Richardson to quash the indictment, which was amended by prosecutors.
The fix appears to be in once again, folks. With Texas having the nation's lowest turnout in the 2014 elections, and also the most restrictive voter photo ID legislation in the country, it's going to continue to be a challenge to turn things around at the ballot box in the Lone Star State.