Best Judges Houston 2000 - 14th Court of Appeals Chief Justice Paul Murphy and Justice John Anderson
Justices Paul Murphy and John Anderson brought the wrath of GOP social conservatives down on their heads by ruling that the state's antediluvian homosexual conduct law discriminates against gays by banning sexual behavior that is legal for straights. Murphy and Anderson made up the majority on a three-judge panel that considered the constitutional challenge to the statute by Houstonians John Lawrence and Tyrone Garner, who were caught in the act in 1998 when deputies entered a house searching for a nonexistent intruder. The judges' ruling had repercussions at the state GOP convention in June, where opponents wrote a denunciation into the party platform calling on the jurists to change their opinion or resign. It also provoked an aborted letter-writing campaign led by Harris County GOP Chairman Gary Polland to pressure Anderson. The letter was withdrawn after cooler heads concluded that it might violate state law prohibiting private communications to pressure judges on cases pending before them. Unfortunately, Murphy and Anderson's well-reasoned ruling will likely be reviewed and possibly overturned by their all-Republican colleagues on the nine-judge 14th Court of Appeals. Just goes to show that when hot-button social issues come before the judiciary these days, Murphy and Anderson's nonpartisan common sense isn't all that common.