New judges Two state district judges from San Antonio who were nominated by President Carter in December for federal judgeships in the Western District of Texas are generally well-regarded by progressive members of the San Antonio bar. Judge H. F. Garcia would be the first Mexican-American to serve on the federal bench in the district, which stretches from San Antonio to El Paso and whose population is 35 percent Mexican-American. Judge Fred Shannon, a long-time supporter of Dolph Briscoe, is a “first-rate good guy,” according to local attorney Maury Maverick Jr. Maverick praises Shannon for “helping conscientious objectors when almost no one else would.” And Jerry Goldstein, another noted progressive lawyer in San Antonio, says that Shannon has been an “extremely fair judge, who can be expected to be sympathetic to minority issues.” Though Senate confirmation of both nominees will probably go smoothly, Shannon may face questioning in the Senate judiciary committee on two touchy subjects. He has been a member of five private clubs in San Antonio whose membership rules may run afoul of judiciary committee strictures against discrimination based on race and religion; to avoid trouble Shannon has announced he is resigning from the, clubs, but the question still may come up. Shannon’s nomination is also being challenged by the former director of the El Paso chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, John Karr. Karr has called on the judiciary committee to investigate Shannon’s role as a visiting judge in the 1978 trial of then-El Paso County Sheriff Mike Sullivan on two felony counts of official misconduct. Shannon, who went to El Paso to hear the case after judges there disqualified themselves, allowed Sullivan to plead guilty to reduced charges after a plea bargain was struck between local prosecutors and Sullivan’s lawyers. As part of the plea bargain, Shannon ruled that any decision to oust the sheriff from office due to the criminal conviction should be left to the voters. But, as El Paso Times reporter Joe Quintana discovered a few months after Shannon’s ruling, there is a TexaS statute stating that the conviction of a county officeholder on charges of official misconduct “shall work an immediate re moval from office.” In a second proceeding with a different judge, the El Paso district attorney did secure Sullivan’s removal, though the sheriff’s lawyers argued that Shannon had intended for Sullivan to remain in office and that Shannon’s intention should dispose of the question. It seems pretty clear that Shannon landed in a political briar patch when he took on the Sullivan case and is much embarrassed. Of his failure to note the relevant statute on removal for official misconduct Shannon admits, “I made a mistake.” “No one brought this to my attention and my own research of the law did not disclose it,” he says. If he’d been called to testify in the removal proceeding. he says, “I would have said that I’d failed to take the law into account.” John Karr wants the judiciary committee to find out why Shannon and the local DA accepted a plea bargain in the case, because as a rule there is no plea bargaining in El Paso state district courts. But Shannon defends himself on this score, pointing out that the prosecutor’s chief witness in the Sullivan case, who was not granted immunity from prosecution, had refused to testify. Paul Sweeney Invading the Panhandle Three Texas Rural Legal Aid at torneys have the Panhandle in an uproar just over a year after arriving in Hereford to represent 100,000 mostly Mexican-American migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the area. The three have been called “no-good Harvard idiots” by the president of the Texas Corn Growers Association and a “bunch of carpetbaggers” by Deaf Smith County Sheriff Tom McPherson. The Dallas Times Herald reports that Panhandle Congressman Kent Hance has said of them, “Most of these legal aid lawyers, bless their hearts, don’t know anything about the practice of law. Their number one priority is to establish a name for themselves. They don’t really care about poor people.” All this vitriol has spewed forth in re sponse to a series of lawsuits filed by the legal aid lawyers against employers and public officials long accustomed to doing what they damn well please to the area’s Mexican-Americans and farmworkers. Some examples of the lawyers’ work: A suit for $1 million against Plains Memorial Hospital of Dimmitt and hospital administrator Jack Newsom on behalf of a farmworker couple whose infant son died after Newsom allegedly turned the family away, for lack of a cash deposit, in violation of state and federal law \(Obs., A suit forcing the Hereford Independent School District to change the way its school board members are elected, giving Hereford’s 55 percent. MexicanAmerican population a chance to be represented \(under the new system, one Mexican-American has already been A suit to halt the use of public hous ing, by area growers who control the Castro County Agricultural Housing Authority, as a means to coerce migrant workers, who allegedly were subject to eviction if they offended employers and could not even be housed there unless they were working for specific growers; A suit against Castro County alleging that county commissioners’ precinct boundaries are drawn to dilute Mexican-American voting strength; A suit against Deaf Smith County Sheriff McPherson, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and federal immigration authorities alleging that two farmworkers were falsely imprisoned as suspected illegal aliens; Suits under the federal Farm Labor Contractor Registration Act against employers who have allegedly deceived migrant workers concerning the availability of work, wage rates, and working conditions \(Obs., Undiplomatic Former ambassador to Mexico Patrick Lucey took a lot of flack from the Mexico City press for being a blunt-spoken, ornery cuss during his tenure there, and he bolstered that reputation in a recent interview with the Wash ington correspondent of Mexico’s Excelsior newspaperbut this time at the expense of the Carter administration. Lucey, who reportedly felt ill-used by the White House in its scramble to find a Mexican-affairs job for Bob Krueger and is now deputy director of Ted Kennedy’s presidential campaign, told Excelsior the Carter administration’s gripes against Mexico bespeak a “form of paranoia toward Mexico.” The newspaper gave front-page play to Lucey’s charge that he resigned the ambassadorship in part because of “the Carter administration’s distress that Mexico is not a puppet, that it has its own independent international policy, and that it doesn’t follow the dictates of the United States.” 10 JANUARY 18, 1980
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