Constitutional Law

Top Texas court nixes abuse-of-power prosecution of former Gov. Rick Perry over veto of DA funding

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Christopher Halloran /

The highest criminal court in Texas dismissed a felony case against a former state governor on Wednesday, saying that the laws under which he was charged were unconstitutional, at least as applied.

Former Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, had earlier faced a bigger case concerning his 2013 efforts to force a district attorney to resign by cutting her budget. However, an appellate court ruled in July that the coercion count with which he was charged in the Travis County case violated his free speech rights.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the dismissal of that charge in a 6-2 ruling, but reversed an appellate determination that the government could continue to prosecute an abuse of power count against Perry. It agreed with the former governor that the case violated the separation of powers mandate of the state constitution by seeking to curtail his veto authority. The Austin American-Statesman has a story and provides a copy of the opinion.

“The constitution does not purport to impose any restriction on the veto power based on the reason for the veto, and it does not purport to allow any other substantive limitations to be placed on the use of a veto,” said the majority in an opinion authored by Presiding Judge Sharon Keller.

“The governor’s power to exercise a veto may not be circumscribed by the Legislature, by the courts, or by district attorneys,” the opinion continues. “When the only act that is being prosecuted is a veto, then the prosecution itself violates separation of powers.”

The Associated Press and the Dallas Morning News also have stories.

Hat tip: Reuters

Related coverage: “Judge nixes habeas petition by Rick Perry, who is facing power-abuse case over demand that DA quit” “Appeals court will review allegations that Texas Gov. Rick Perry tried to coerce Travis County DA”

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