Criss' campaign cash

by The SE Texas Record |
Jan. 26, 2008, 4:39am

Maybe they like the way Galveston District Judge Susan Criss has ruled on their lawsuits? Or they hope they will benefit from her decisions, sometime in the near future?

We only can speculate why a horde of plaintiff's lawyers with cases currently pending before Criss, who is running for Texas' Supreme Court, felt compelled to stuff tens of thousands of dollars into her campaign.

But thanks to the wonders of electronic campaign finance disclosure and the Internet, we now know that it is so. Voters can draw their own conclusions.

At issue is what Criss does when she isn't on the campaign trail. In her day job seated on the District Court in Galveston, currently she is presiding over hundreds of potentially lucrative personal injury lawsuits against oil giant BP stemming from the 2005 explosion at its Texas City refinery.

Of the more than $260,000 Criss reported raised for the campaign in the last six months of 2007, almost all came from South Texas plaintiff's lawyers. Many of them are the same ones who have been aggressively courting and cultivating those BP cases assigned to her Galveston court.

Among Judge Criss' most loyal supporters are BP-focused plaintiff's outfits including Williams Kherker ($25,000), Burwell Burwell & Nebout ($10,750), the Krist Law Firm ($10,000), Bailey Perrin Bailey ($7,500), and the Alexander Law Firm ($5,000).

All of the above have filed more than a few cases against the company. If we believe their marketing rhetoric, they remain on the hunt for Texas City plaintiffs.

Here's the rub: more than any other member of the Texas bench, Judge Criss' management of her BP cases promises to have a serious impact on the eventual "value" of all BP explosion lawsuits against the company.

Whether the cases go to trial or settle--and for how much--could be determined by how she rules.

Will she be fair and objective to both sides? Will she lean towards BP? Or will Judge Criss rule with a populist edge, deferring to the plaintiffs and demonizing the company?

Thus far, her actions on the bench strongly suggests the latter approach. A review of her campaign donors isn't inconsistent -- the South Texas plaintiff's bar likes Susan Criss' way of judging.

Will you?

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