I just got a telephone call at the office from someone asking me for a campaign contribution for the judge of a Harris County district (felony) court, before whom I occasionally practice and before whom I have a case right now.
This has never happened to me before. I don’t know if it’s happening now because the Republican incumbent judges are running scared in Harris County (they should be), or because I’ve never appeared on this particular mailing list before (I contributed to the campaign of another incumbent, who actually deserves to keep her bench).
I’ve never had any problems with this judge, though I’ve heard horror stories from other defense lawyers. But his Democratic opponent is a defense lawyer who is highly qualified for the position. So the only reason I would contribute to this incumbent’s campaign would be if I thought he would give me a little quid for my quo.
It never occurred to me that my clients would benefit from my contributing to this judge’s campaign, so I never even considered contributing. But this direct solicitation call raises the spectre of my clients in this particular court suffering because I did not pay up when asked.
Corruption takes many forms, and the Texas Canons of Judicial Ethics require judges to avoid the appearance of impropriety and to “act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.” Directly soliciting lawyers who appear before you for contributions creates the appearance of impropriety. It damages public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
Even if there will be no retaliation (and I hope there will be none, since there’s no way in Hell I’m going to contribute), it’s grossly inappropriate.