Tom DeLay antagonist to rule in his case

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Liberal Doghouse,Joel Gehrke

Former Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, is appealing his conviction for money laundering,  but a Democratic judge slated to decide his fate has already indicated which way she might rule.

Justice Diane Henson, D-Texas, hinted that she would rule against DeLay if given the chance when she was campaigning for her current job in 2006.

"My name is Diane Henson. I’m running for Place 3 on the Third Court of Appeals . . the Court of Appeals that would hear the appeal of Tom DeLay, if by chance he was convicted," she said at a Democratic rally in 2006, as she campaigned for the opportunity to rule in his case.

The Democratic audience, at the prospect of one of their partisans presiding over the high-profile Republican, applauded Henson's comment.

"When the Republicans decided to take over the Great State of Texas . . . they began in our Supreme Court," Henson also argued. "Let’s take a page from their [the Republicans'] playbook," she proposed. "We’ve got to have the courts back,"

Six justices serve on the Third Court of Appeals. Henson is slated to preside over DeLay's appeal because three of the judges assigned to the case ahead of her recused themselves.

Brian Wice, DeLay's attorney, called for Henson to do the same. "Justice Henson's public comments on the videotape would clearly cause a reasonable person to conclude that her impartiality could reasonably be questioned," he wrote in a motion for recusal filed Friday.

Wice noted that Henson herself has written that "wise observers have long understood that the appearance of justice is as important as its reality."

If Henson does recuse herself -- or the rest of her colleagues require her to do so -- Wice believes that the Texas Supreme Court would have to appoint a judge from another appellate court to replace her on the panel.

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