As the May 24 Republican Primary Runoff Election grows near, I wanted to share my thoughts on the race, since I feel that I may have unique standing to opine on what has transpired.
Once upon a time, I caught the fever to run for office, and I made an admirable attempt for an open seat on the first rung of the state’s judicial ladder, making it to a runoff for JP.
To make a long story short, I know how exhausting it feels to campaign into late May in a process that started many months back in the previous year, and I applaud the candidates who stepped up to give Ector County voters multiple options to choose from in selecting the next judge the 244th District Court.
When you sign your name on the line to run for a judicial office, you immediately assume the responsibility to always act in a manner that protects the integrity of the judiciary, and to that end, judicial candidates are subject to the canons of judicial ethics the same as judges themselves.
With the partisan election process in Texas, judicial candidates are expected to abstain from the platform positions of their political party when it comes to issues that impact the neutrality of the court, and for good reason.
Judges are not meant to be policymakers, and everyone who enters a courtroom deserves to know they will be getting an impartial trial.
This brings me to the present runoff for the district court.
In my first story covering the race from April 4, I wrote how the race was getting heated after candidate Cindy Weir-Nutter sent messages and made posts threatening to sue GOP officials for defamation because some of them had made references to the past grand jury investigation into how Nutter allocated paid time off against county policy when she was Ector County Attorney – and how her repeated endorsement of the GOP platform and mischaracterization of her opponent’s political positions may run afoul of judicial ethics.
The result of having published this story was a slew of rebuttals from Nutter challenging everything that was reported, such as taking issue with having characterized her threats of filing defamation lawsuits against people as “legal threats” and instead insisted they were “fair notice” messages.
Other challenges Nutter made included that my reporting on the grand jury report was one-sided, that the race wasn’t “heated” as I had reported, and that her attacks on her opponent, Lori Ruiz-Crutcher’s qualifications and positions on the GOP platform were not “attacks.” Additionally, I was unfriended on Facebook.
To provide some background, I’ve known Nutter for many years, and I only met Crutcher when she filed to run.
A judge should apply the law and behave appropriately just the same as a journalist should pursue the truth and capture what is newsworthy as accurately as possible, regardless of how well you know or like someone.
Cumulatively, Nutter’s behavior on social media has been reprehensible for a judicial candidate.
In addition to her legal threats, repeated flaunting of ethical neutrality, and immature quarreling with the local GOP, two things have not previously been discussed but are important to highlight. The first is how Nutter vigorously monitors her opponent’s social media, and it has come to my attention that numerous individuals who so much as “like” a post involving her opponent will promptly receive a message from Nutter that includes a screenshot of their infraction with an accompanying note either guilt tripping or shaming them.
The other item is Nutter’s private list that she has very publicly broadcasted she is keeping of court personnel who “endorse” her. Court staff, like the judges themselves, are required to remain neutral in political races.
This list is very problematic, in that Nutter’s attempt to circumvent the judicial canons of ethics requiring public neutrality of court personnel by creating a private list is very intimidating to any employee who worries about what she will do as a state district judge to any court employees who are not on her list of allied supporters.
Lastly, I will add that Nutter’s opponent has traded a few blows going after Nutter’s past sanctions by the state bar and some other elements of Nutter’s record, but nothing she has included in her campaign material appears to misrepresent the facts. Overall, she has focused on herself and her vision for the office if elected, which is an admirable way to run.
Less controversy is good for the judiciary.
On Tuesday, May 24, one of these two candidates will gain the Republican nomination to this extremely important court and will assume office in 2023.
Whoever wins will have big shoes to fill, as outgoing Judge James Rush has set a remarkable standard in his service to our county’s judiciary, and I would encourage the victor to rise above the politics and aim for the standard of integrity that has been set in this court.