Brown v. Martin Austin David H. Brown, the judge of the state district court for Collin and Grayson Counties, has made good on his earlier promise to make allegations of misconduct in office on the part of his opponent in the Democratic primary, Atty. Gen. Crawford Martin. Brown has said he’ll resign his judgeship if he fails to prove his allegations. He this week made the first in what he says will be a series of public accusations against Martin. The assertions revolve around 15 land condemnation cases in Martin’s home of Hill County, cases incidental to the construction of Interstate Highway 35 through the county. Brown alleges that Martin represented Hill County landowners when the condemnation cases brought by the state Highway Department were being tried during a period, 1963-1966, when Martin was either the secretary of state or the attorney general-elect. Franklin Spears, now a judge in San Antonio, and who in 1966 was Martin’s liberal opponent for attorney general, made substantially the same allegations against Martin when the two men were in the last few days of a runoff in June of that year. Spears mentioned five of the 15 cases that Brown now brings up. Spears in 1966 said that Martin, “at a time he was being paid $16,500 per year [as secretary of state] , participated in private practice against the state and on the public’s time.” Both Spears and Brown allege that, in addition to Martin’s being involved in a conflict of interest in the cases, he won payments from the state considerably more than the Highway Department had offered for the tracts of land, and considerably more than such awards generally amount to when taken to court. Spears in 1966 said Martin had helped win judgments totalling $274,423 for the owners of five Hill County land tracts in cases where the state had offered $79,185. Brown this week said a truer picture would be $514,615.36 in awards for 15 tracts for which the state had offered $169,685. Brown told reporters at his Capitol press conference that when a land condemnation case goes to court the grant finally made is than the state originally offered not the more than twice that amount he alleges is the case in the 15 tracts mentioned. Martin, then, allegedly won $344,930.36 over and above the appraised value of the land, Brown said, going on to add that the usual fee in such cases is one-half of the amount recovered above the state appraised value. Martin therefore, one of several attorneys in the case, would have shared substantially in some $172,500 of fees, if he did in fact accept fees for the cases. But even if Martin did not take fees, Brown asserted, the then-secretary of state was clearly in violation of bar association codes of ethics and was conducting himself against the best interests of the state. A few days after losing the 1966 runoff to Martin, Spears said Martin had violated the spirit but not the letter of the state conflict of interest law \(Obs., June 10, generally, saying there is no violation of law at issue here, simply questions of judgment and propriety. In 1966 Martin declined for a few hours to comment after Spears made his charges. Then he said that there was no conflict of interest, that the suits were a matter of public record, and that the publication of the court records in the campaign’s last days amounted to “character assassination.” MARTIN, contacted by reporters after Brown’s press conference, contented himself with a two-paragraph press statement issued by his office while he was in Lubbock attending groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Texas Tech law school: “These are the same charges made by my opponent in the 1966 race for attorney general. Many newspapers went into the matter then and found no evidence of wrong-doing. I was elected and re-elected without opposition in 1968 long after these charges had been given a full public airing. Mr. Brown is flogging the same dead horse, except that he uses more slanderous language against me, the courts, and other individuals,” Martin said. “If anyone should be disqualified frorri public office, it should be this man who irresponsibly distorts the facts, libels innocent people, and uses the press to spread untruths to further his own political ambitions. I am amazed that a district judge would result to such tactics and hope he will consult with his conscience before continuing on this course,” said Martin. Brown dwelled most on one case, which first was tried in September, 1965, “Secretary of State Martin was present and acted as counsel for the landowner on each of the seven days of the trial,” Brown said. He added that the case was being “hotly contested” by then-Atty. Gen. Waggoner Carr, “for by then his land condemnation division had received four doses of Hill County justice at the hands of Mr. Martin and his cronies.” The state appraisal on nearly 22 acres owned by the landowner, whom Brown named, was $14,900. The jury in Hill County voted an award of $76,750. The state appealed. By the time the case came before State Supreme Court, Martin had been sworn in, two days before, as the Texas attorney general, in Jaunary, 1967. Then the Supreme Court was notified by an associate of the Martin law firm that a settlement had been reached and no review of the Supreme Court would be necessary. “In fact, the settlement had only been reached between the ears of the new attorney general,” Brown charges. ‘On Jan. 26, 1967, the new chief of the condemnation division of the attorney general’s department sent to the Texas Highway Department a long, strongly worded recommendation of settlement. The Highway Department capitulated on February 2, 1967. It had no other choice as a practical matter,” Brown said. MARTIN cleared up the last ten of the cases in question in late 1966, after he had won the Democratic nomination for attorney general and faced only token Republican opposition, Robb Stewart of Richardson. Martin at this point evidently began working with three of the lawyers in the land division of the AG office, probably having told them he would retain them after Carr left, which he did, placing them in charge of the land condemnation division, Brown said. “Those ten cases cost the taxpayers $182,650.36 more than the appraised value, Brown said. Reading between the lines of the Brown press release, it seems clear that at least some of the information Brown is releasing was made available by Carr. Asked by a reporter if Carr had helped him, Brown answered, “I have no comment.” Asked then if he had talked to Carr about this, Btown again said he had no comment. G.O. March 6, 1970 9 MEETINGS THE THURSDAY CLUB of Dallas meets each Downtown YMCA, 605 No. Ervay St., Dallas. Good discussion. You’re welcome. Informal, no dues. CENTRAL TEXAS ACLU luncheon meeting. Spanish Village. 2nd Friday every month. From noon. All welcome. ITEMS for this feature cost, for the first entry, 7c a word, and for each subsequent entry, 5c a word. We must receive them two weeks before the date of the issue in which they are to he published.
You May Also Like
Texas Professor Leonard N. Moore’s “Teaching Black History to White People” is a memoir, history lesson, and instructional manual.