Getting Out the Vote

His embarrassing survey results have not yet translated into regular election problems. In the HBA polling before last year's Republican primary, Wallace opponent Don Lambright soundly beat Wallace in the results. Wallace had four times as many lawyers finding the judge "not qualified," and Lambright had three times as many lawyers rating Lambright as "well qualified." But Wallace had the vote that counted: The Christian conservative group of GOP kingmaker Steve Hotze endorsed Wallace, and he prevailed in that race.

However, the prospects of Hotze's Harris County backing do not loom as influential in Wallace's statewide run for the GOP appeals court nomination. But Wallace shows every sign of trying to capture the Christian right. Civil District Judge John Devine, who has since dropped out of the race, had gained notoriety for hanging the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. So Wallace also displayed those commandments in his court.

"Everything Wallace does -- the Ten Commandments, and now this HBA requirement -- is all about getting a Republican primary victory," says attorney Jones. "There's no other way to explain these changes in his conduct."

With the wide latitude given to judges for courtroom operations, Wallace is free to set whatever rules he wants for court-appointed attorneys.

Jones, a Democrat, says the situation is bad enough to make Jones hope the state switches from election of judges, even if that means appointment by governor.

"Politics, to a greater or lesser extent, has a presence in the courtroom," Jones says. "But the worse they are as judges, the more politics they play. They can't stand on their merits or their qualifications. That's really too bad."

E-mail George Flynn at george_flynn@houstonpress.com.

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