Judge gets a blast of sunshine

The SE Texas Record Dec. 3, 2010, 2:54pm

Judge Susan Criss of Galveston is not afraid of the dark. Neither was Count Dracula.

Criss seems to revel in darkness just as mushrooms do. Daylight is bad. She likes the curtains drawn and blinds down. A sun worshipper, she's not.

Nevertheless, Criss got a major dose of sunshine last week when the Texas attorney general's office ruled she could not order the Texas Windstorm Association (TWIA) to withhold information about a $189 million, Ike-related lawsuit settlement which includes the presumably lavish attorneys' fees associated with it.

The ruling affirmed a 2009 determination by the Office of the Attorney General that TWIA is a governmental body subject to the Public Information Act.

At the request of Houston attorney Steve Mostyn, who represented many of the plaintiffs, Criss had issued a restraining order in September to conceal the full terms of the settlement and the size of the fees. She gave no explanation of what the extenuating circumstances were that warranted this cover-up.

Mostyn's motivation was transparent. He prefers privacy when the public has a right to know how his often astronomical fees compare to the often piddling amounts awarded to the plaintiffs or victims. The citizenry might grouse and grumble if the breadth of his legal bonanza were known. That could make Mostyn uncomfortable.

We need to know what was Judge Criss's motivation and why she acceded to Mostyn's request. As we noted in our October 9th editorial, Criss often has shown favor to the trial bar, whose members donated generously to her 2008 campaign for the state supreme court.

In the end, however, Criss got crossed, her SPF 50 Restraining Order has been overruled, and she and Mostyn will have to don their shades, open their parasols, and get used to the glare of public scrutiny as daylight-loving Texans sing, "Let the sunshine in!"

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