the responsibility of making a command decision as to whether you appeal or not. So all I can say is that flexibility, whether to appeal or settle, has to be jealously guarded in the attorney general. You have to take the political flak, if you will, to go forward or not go forward. If you don’t appeal a case and if you settle a case, you have to persuade the public, if you will, to accept it if it can be accepted. But those are just judgmental calls that are part of the responsibility of protecting the public interest. And I guess the other thing I want to make clear is that you’re elected as attorney general by the people to do what’s right in the public interest. That’s an overall philosophical recognition I have. You also have this attorney-client relationship where you’re the only attorney that represents those state agencies. Sometimes those are in conflict. Hopefully, they would not be .. . I guess one case that conies to mind is the Opal Petty case which was tried in Judge Clark’s, Harley Clark’s court here, in which the state was ruled to have wrongfully have confined a woman in a state institution for -the mentally retarded for most of her life. The jury decided in the case. Now it goes on to appeal. Now, without getting you to comment on that particular case, would you consider some sort of mechanism or task force that would decide which cases would be settled or appealed and which wouldn’t? Or do you see that as something the attorney general himself is responsible for? Well, if what you’re referring to is I saw for the first time this morning in the Houston Post that one of the Republican candidates, Buster Brown, proposed some kind of a formal panel be set up to decide what’s appealed and what’s not appealed. Just reading the editorial in the Post of what Buster Brown proposed . . . my instincts are to not do anything like that. That you have the inherent responsibility to be a lawyer for the state, elected by all the people, to bite the bullet and make those decisions, and not have some kind of a reviewing panel. That doesn’t take the politics out of it, it just moves the politics to some other panel. Some panel is proposed, the governor, the lieutenant governor, the speaker and chief justice, or something .. . You have to take the responsibility that it’s the attorney general’s role to decide whether or not, and how far, to appeal those decisions. And that’s just what you’re elected to do .. . Another case that conies to mind is Judge Bunton’ s ruling on single-member districts for district judges. What is your position, not on the case itself, but simply on smaller districts for district judges? Well my personal political philosophy is that I think there should be more minorities on benches. I know of no better plan proposed than to have it by single-member districts. I know from being chair of the Demo cratic Party in Harris County, and practicing law in Harris County the difficulty to run county-wide in Harris County for anybody, be they Anglo, African American, MexicanAmerican. So I guess what I’m saying, first of all, I believe in increased minority participation. Number two, I believe in election of judges as opposed to merit appointment of judges. Number three, I support election of judges by party as opposed to non-partisan. And, consequently, the single-member district, nothing better has been suggested to increase minority participation at the voting box, as well as minorities on the bench. Now, again, that’s personal philosophy. It’s also incumbent upon the attorney general to defend the statutes, whether you agree or disagree with them. And that’s where I’m coming from. “My philoso phy is that there should be more minorities on benches. I know of no bet ter plan than single-member districts.” And then there’s Judge Vela’s ruling, Filemon Vela in Brownsville, on appellate court judges. Do the same principles that you just discussed apply to appellate court judges that they should be elected from smaller districts? Yes. If you have, as you do in South Texas, a recognizable constituency that is not dispersed. And that district down there lends itself to where you have a concentration of Mexican-American voters in the Rio Grande Valley, as opposed to going up towards Victoria. So yes, it’s a different lawsuit. But the same basic concepts would apply there. And ultimately, I suppose, there will be a similar lawsuit filed concerning the Supreme Court. Should the Supreme Court be elected statewide? Or should it be elected by district? Well, I think there has been a lawsuit. I’m not positive, but I think it’s been filed against the Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court. And what has to be shown in essence, and this is not the legalese, is an inherent inability to be elected. And it goes to the concentration of where the voters are. I think it’s a little bit different at the statewide level where we have nine justices on both of those courts. The dispersement they are representatives under the Voting Rights Act. But it might be a little more difficult for plaintiffs to prove the necessity of singlemember districts on the Supreme Court. I just haven’t studied it enough. How about situations where local law enforcement officers violate a citizen’s civil rights? This has become a common occurrence in the past 10 years and even more common recently in Houston, Dallas, and several small towns. Is there a role for the attorney general’s office in these cases? Yes, I think there is an appropriate role for the attorney general’s office because you have a unique situation where there have been allegations made about violations of civil rights by local law-enforcement officials. I think that, probably, local officials would welcome the opportunity politically to have an outside agency in the nature of the attorney general’s office to investigate and assist in prosecution of a case. To not have to take the heat on a local matter . . . I mean you have to take the heat on it at the attorney general level. But it would give more, I don’t want to say confidence, but I guess that’s as good as anything else, that you’re not subjected to local, political, personal aspects of a community. So yes, that is an area I’m interested in. Current law still requires that the indictment [against an officer accused of violating someone’s civil rights] be obtained locally. Would you consider empaneling, at intervals, a statewide grand jury to handle such cases? I haven’t looked at it that much in terms of a state grand jury. I have reservations about that because I also have the philosophy generally to support all local law enforcement and the local grand-jury system. I’m just not prepared to say ‘ Yes, I support a statewide grand jury.’ You think that it would represent an intrusion into local affairs? Well, not so much an intrusion. It’s a new concept, the idea of having people at a statewide level of citizens to review a case at a local level. That’s something I just have to give a whole lot more thought to, because I believe in local government. On the other hand, I’d like to go back to what I said earlier. I have the greatest respect for local lawenforcement agencies, and local prosecutors, sheriffs, the local governmental system. And I think that that should always be strengthened. I don’t want to leave the impression that I think that there’s some lacking in competence there. What I’m saying is that in a unique situation, where there has been an alleged violation by a public official, sheriff, or police, or a jail situation, or a THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9
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