Marilyn Tennissen Nov. 13, 2012, 12:04pm

AUSTIN -- Two incumbents and one new Republican justice have been elected to the Texas Supreme Court, retaining the GOP hold on the state's highest court.


Don Willett held on to his Place 2 seat with 4,758,725 votes, or 79 percent of total votes cast.

He beat out Libertarian candidate Roberto Koelsch of Lago Vista, who earned 1,280,900 votes, or 21 percent.

Willett, 46, has been called one of the Supreme Court's most conservative justices. He has been on the court since 2005, when he was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to fill the vacancy created when Justice Priscilla Owen joined the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He was elected to a full, six-year term of his own in November 2006.

Prior to that he served as the Deputy Attorney General of Texas and Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice. He had been a staff lawyer for Gov. George W. Bush, and then served as a Special Assistant to the President when Bush became the 43rd president.

Willett graduated from Baylor University in 1988 and earned his law degree from Duke University in 1992.

His endorsements included Gov. Rick Perry, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, James Dobson Ph.D. of the Family Research Council,  Kelly Shackelford of the Liberty Institute, Michael Sullivan of Empower Texans and Texans for FIscal Responsibility, Richard Weekley of Texans for Lawsuit Reform and Cathie Adams of the Texas Eagle Forum. He was also supported by the Tea Party, Texas Alliance for Life PAC, Americans for Prosperity, Young Conservatives of Texas, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rep. Ron Paul.

"Justice Willett's strict-constructionist record on the Court is sterling; he has never legislated from the bench, and he never will," said Perry in his statement endorsing Willett.

As of the Oct. 29-Eight Days Before Election finance report, Willett raised $168,751 for his campaign, with a little over $12,000 in expenses.


The seat at Place 6 on the Supreme Court will continue to be occupied by Nathan Hecht. He received 4,116,102 votes, or 54 percent of the total votes cast.

Hecht bested opponents Democrat Michele Petty, who earned 42 percent of votes; Libertarian Mark Ash, who earned 3 percent of votes;  and Green Party Candidate Jim Chisolm, who earned 1.3 percent of votes.

Hecht, 63, is the senior member of the Texas Supreme Court, first elected in 1988. He was reelected in 1994, 2000 and 2006.  A former Dallas judge, he is a conservative that denies the court has been too "pro-business," arguing that the justices consistently follow the law.

Hecht is also considered an expert in Texas school financing litigation, and wrote the 2005 decision in the last school finance case which held that the state's funding system was no longer constitutional.

He graduated from Yale University and earned his law degree at Southern Methodist University School of Law. Hecht first served as judge of the Dallas County 95th District Court and then the Fifth District Court of Appeals before becoming a member of the Supreme Court.

Supporters praised his actions to assure funding for legal services to the poor.

He was endorsed by the Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star Telegram, Lubbock Avalanche Journal and Amarillo Globe News. He also had support from the Texas Alliance for Life, Texas Civil Justice League PAC, Texas Medical Association PAC, Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Leadership Coalition Institute for Public Advocacy PAC and "C" Club PAC of Houston.

Hecht's Oct. 29 finance report shows total political contributions of $157,224 and $3,226 in expenditures.

Hecht is not without controversy, however. In December 2008, he was fined $29,000 by the Texas Ethics Commission for accepting an illegal political donation from a major law firm and failed to report it. Hecht allegedly abused his position in 2005 when he supported the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of his longtime friend Harriet Miers. He was then given a $168,000 discount on legal fees from the Jackson Walker law firm.

Hecht argues that the discount was legal, but the ethics panel determined the discount in fees was actually a campaign contribution that violated the $5,000 maximum donation from law firms in Texas judicial campaigns. He also failed to report the donation on his campaign finance reports.


The newcomer to the court is John Devine, who received 4,586,697 votes or 75 percent of total votes cast, to win the Place 4 seat.

He had opposition from Libertarian Tom Oxford, who earned 17 percent of votes, and Green Party Candidate Charles Waterbury, who earned 8 percent of votes.

Devine says he is a strict constitutional constructionist, and is a former judge known for refusing to remove a painting of the Ten Commandments from his courtroom and defeating a related lawsuit filed against him.

Devine had a stunning win in the Republican primary when he beat out sitting justice David Medina.

He began his career in Houston at Shell Oil and Brown & Root while going to law school. In 1992 Devine started a grass roots campaign to oust Harris County Judge Eileen O'Neill, and defeated her in 1994 and was reelected in 1998.

Early in the campaign, Devine caught flack for a comment he made about Medina, allegedly telling two Houston attorneys that he knew he was opposing Medina because "he had a Mexican name," and people with Mexican names tent to lose in GOP primaries.

Devine, a father of six, is staunchly pro-life and has the support of Texans in the tea party.District Judge (190th District Court), Special Judge (Harris Co. J. P. Courts), Harris County Juvenile Board, Harris County Juvenile Justice School Board, Board of Civil District Judges Mass Torts Comm., Board of Civil District Judges, Texas Association of State Judges, and American Judges Association.

Devine's Eight Days Before Election financial report shows that he raised $35,102 and spent $24,686.

Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson and Justices Paul Green, Phil Johnson, Eva Guzman and Debra Lehrmann are all Republicans. The Place 7 seat remains vacant after Justice Dale Wainwright, also a Republican, stepped down in October.

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