Supreme Ct. judge faces more legal woes

January 19, 2008 5:55:40 PM PST
Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina paid himself nearly $57,000 from his campaign funds for mileage reimbursement as he commuted between Houston and Austin, possibly violating state law, a newspaper reports. Medina, appointed to the high court by Gov. Rick Perry in November 2004, paid himself between $1,000 and $3,000 most months in 2005, 2006 and the first half of 2007, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Converting political contributions to personal use is against state law, and the Texas Ethics Commission has interpreted the law to ban appellate judges from using campaign donations to pay the costs of commuting between the judge's home city and the city where the court is located.

Medina's latest report, filed Tuesday with the ethics commission, shows that he might have stopped the practice after his Spring home burned in June.

During the last six months of last year, he reported paying himself only $598. That payment was on Dec. 31, the same day he returned $2,000 in mileage payments to his campaign account.

As of Tuesday, he reported a campaign fund balance of $45,854. Medina isn't up for re-election till 2012.

Messages left by The Associated Press at Medina's office and the office of one of his lawyers were not immediately returned Saturday. A home phone number for Medina could not immediately be found.

A spokesman for the Supreme Court said Medina had commuted from Houston to Austin, sometimes several times a week. The spokesman didn't know where Medina had been living since the fire.

This week, a state judge dimissed an arson-related indictment handed up against Medina and his wife relating to the house fire. The Medinas were in serious financial trouble. Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said evidence against the couple wasn't sufficient to support the charges.

Any investigation of the judge for violating state ethics laws would be done by the Travis County District Attorney's Office. Assistant District Attorney Gregg Cox said Friday he didn't know about the situation, but would look at Medina's campaign finance reports and the relevant law.

The reports show Medina paid himself about $13,500 in 2007, about $26,400 in 2006 and about $17,000 in 2005. It wasn't clear whether the higher costs in 2006 were related to his campaign that year against a Libertarian opponent. Medina easily won that race.

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