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Jurisdiction

Top Texas Court Vacates Libel Appeal and Appellate Opinion Due to $8K Bribe Paid to Trial Judge

Posted Jun 22, 2012 2:52 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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The Texas Supreme Court has vacated a lower appellate court's opinion concerning an interlocutory appeal and voided the appeal itself, explaining that there is no jurisdiction to hear the matter because the trial judge accepted an $8,000 bribe to rule against a summary judgment motion.

Hence, in a Friday opinion (PDF), the supreme court remanded the matter to the trial court, apparently for a redo ruling on the summary judgment motion made by two defendant newspapers in the underlying libel case. It concerns claims in an election ad that a district attorney had failed to prosecute named individuals in child-abuse cases.

Since the trial judge admittedly took the bribe to rule against a summary judgment motion by two defendant newspapers, the judge (Abel Limas, who has since been convicted in a racketeering case) was disqualified and his summary judgment ruling is void, the per curiam opinion explains. "Because the order on which [a defendant newspaper] bases its appeal is void, we cannot address the merits of the appeal and the court of appeals did not have authority to do so either—even though it had no way of knowing so."

Limas admitted the bribe in a plea agreement submitted in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas after the appellate court ruled, the opinion notes. Although the plea agreement was not part of the appellate record, the Texas Supreme Court took judicial notice of it, indicating that judicial notice of another court's relevant records is mandatory.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "DA Gave Me Money, Too, Ex-Judge Testifies at Another Lawyer’s Federal Racketeering Trial"

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