Whether Rick Perry was drunk on power, too high and mighty for the state, too big for his britches, or whether his recent actions that landed him with two felony charges are actually justified, is a matter for the state to decide in the Texas governor’s upcoming trial. The allegations of abuse of power come from Perry’s threatening to withhold $7.5 million in state funds from that state’s public integrity unit if he didn’t get his way. The “my way or the high way” didn’t go over so well when Democratic Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to step down after being arrested and convicted for driving while intoxicated, or when Perry himself was served up with the indictment papers for abuse of official powers. The Texas governor was booked (and then released shortly thereafter), only steps from his governor’s mansion, and now he’s slated to stand before a passionate and engaged judge, according to attorneys at an experienced law firm who know Judge Bert Richardson, The Monitor online reports in a piece originally published by the Texas Tribune.
Judge Richardson has experience as a state and federal prosecutor who “has lived in San Antonio since graduating from St. Mary’s University School of Law,” and now works at the law firm of LM Tatum, a law firm in San Antonio, as a corporate lawyer and visiting judge. Richardson has been described as “a nice guy, very conscientious, very affable,” as well as polite and smart. “He cares what the law is and tries to follow it,” which is a vanishing value in today’s justice system.
Perry may be very grateful for such a judicious arbitrator in his case, though based on his past actions, he may have preferred someone he’d be more likely be able to pay off. And whether it’s luck or fate that Richardson was assigned to the case is a matter of perspective, but he wasn’t the first choice of the state courts. State District Judge Julie Kocurek of Austin “recused herself because she is the presiding judge of criminal matters in Travis County,” and that’s when District Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield appointed Richardson to step in.
The experienced judge and former prosecutor has such a great reputation “from Del Rio to Georgetown to Rockport, with both sides of the bar,” that Perry should expect to get good old fashioned justice with Richardson, though whether that’s what he wants is debatable. And unfortunately, it’s debatable whether Richardson will stay on the case. He’s on this November’s ballot for a seat on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and may not want the highest-profile case involving the governor.
So far, though, Richardson hasn’t asked to be recused, and even if he wins, he might not have to be taken off the case. Only a convergence of circumstances would necessitate the change of Perry’s judge. But attorneys from almost any experienced law firm having worked with Richardson say that it would be a loss for the state, and for the name of justice in Texas if Richardson isn’t able to arbitrate on Perry’s case.