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To the Editor:

The rule of law and the independence of the judiciary are fundamental, guiding principles of our historic, constitutional system of the separation of powers created through the genius of our founding fathers and so admired throughout the world. A fair and impartial justice system is at the heart of America’s commitment to our rule of law.

Since the judicial branch is prohibited from making comments about pending cases, it is important for lawyers involved in the judicial system to provide their insight when the safety and independence of the judiciary are threatened. The Texas chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (TEX-ABOTA) is a statewide, non-partisan association of experienced trial lawyers and judges that is equally balanced between plaintiff and defense lawyers. Our mission is to preserve and promote the right to trial by jury in civil cases; to protect the fair and impartial administration of justice through support for an independent judiciary; and to champion civility, professionalism, and high ethical standards among attorneys.

Consistent with its mission, TEX-ABOTA opposes the recent personal attacks made against Judge James Lagomarsino of the 13th Judicial District Court in Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas, his family and his staff in connection with a recent decision he made concerning setting a bond for a defendant in a criminal matter. TEX-ABOTA takes no position on the underlying case or Judge Lagomarsino’s decision and supports the First Amendment right to criticize and protest on items of public interest, including the merits of decisions in controversial or publicized cases.

1However, the integrity of our judicial system and independence of the judiciary is undermined when individuals or groups who disagree with a decision level personal threats at a judge, his family, or court personnel. We need judges to decide cases and administer their dockets consistent with the rule of law without fear that they will be subjected to personal attacks and threats of bodily harm.

Respect for the rule of law and civility in our discourse is necessary and appropriate for the preservation of an independent judiciary. The concept of a fair and impartial judiciary is an integral and essential component of our system of justice and the proper functioning of our democracy.

The Texas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates

Grace Weatherly, President Robert C. Alden, President-Elect Eileen O’Neill, Vice-President Jennifer Doan, Secretary Charlie Henke, Treasurer Curtis (Curt) W. Fenley, III, Past-President Ann Hennis, Past-President Guy D. Choate, Past-President David E. Chamberlain, Past-President

ABOUT ABOTA:

Founded in 1958, ABOTA is a membership organization of more than 7,600 civil trial attorneys who have been invited to join because of their trial skills, integrity, and civility in the courtroom. ABOTA members are evenly divided between plaintiff and defense attorneys. ABOTA works to foster improvement in the ethical and technical standards of practice so that individual litigants may receive more effective representation and the public be benefited by more efficient administration of justice.

Contact: Grace Weatherly (940) 565-6565 grace@wtwlawfirm.com