A Texas state judge is promoting his recent decisions favoring a gas driller in its dispute with a local landowner as part of his election campaign, a move some legal scholars say may violate state judicial ethics rules.
With aspects of the case still pending in his courtroom, Judge Trey Loftin sent fliers to voters saying he forced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to back down.
Loftin, who is campaigning to keep his state judgeship in a county west of Dallas, also sent out materials with the image of talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who credited the judge’s ruling in favor of driller Range Resources Corp. (RRC) (RRC), based in Fort Worth, Texas, for getting the EPA to reverse course.
The clear implication of his campaign fliers, of course, is that a vote for Judge Loftin is a vote for the very same kind of industry-friendly, Limbaugh-approved decisions he’s handed down in the past. Rather than, say, future decisions that side with big business only when the law favors big business and with local landowners when the law is on their side.
Worse, by making a case that is still pending in his courtroom a centerpiece of his campaign, Loftin might as well advertise that voters (and industry donors) can influence the outcome of that very case simply by supporting his campaign. This kind of campaign would be inappropriate even if Loftin were simply suggesting that he would rule against a frivolous lawsuit claiming that every Texan has a fundamental right to an unlimited supply of purple plastic plates, but it is all the more troubling when he implies that a wealthy and powerful industry group could keep a friendly judge on the bench by throwing their support behind him.