Supreme Court candidates visit county GOP meeting

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It’s almost time for elections, and with that season fast upon the community, politicos flocked to Austin County to garner the support of their Republican constituents during a meeting of the Austin county Republican Party.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman — the first Latina elected to a statewide office — visited the meeting at Tony’s Family Restaurant Thursday, Dec. 3, along with Texas Supreme Court hopeful Justice Michael Massengale of the First Court of Appeals.

Both justices were appointed by former Texas Gov. Rick Perry in 2009.

Judicial careers derived from humble beginnings were huge talking points for Guzman and Massengale.

This marked the second time Guzman has visited Austin County prior to election season. She first came before her 2009 appointment to her Place 9 seat, said Dan Leedy, judge for Austin County Court at Law.

Guzman has frequented the county for years as she used to be justice of the 14th Court of Appeals, which presides over 10 counties including Austin County.

“Each time I walk away feeling I’m loved and supported,” Guzman said of her visits to Austin County.

“Nothing shapes your life more than the commitments you choose to make,” she quoted from the book “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren.

Guzman centers her life on three commitments: faith, family and the U.S. Constitution.

Her faith was instilled because of her poor upbringing in Houston and her journey to the Supreme Court with an office overlooking the state capitol. Her journey was founded upon hard work, a great education, the miracle of America and the Lord, all of which built her success story.

Guzman said a consummate belief in family and her husband, retired Houston police officer Tony Guzman, aids her in devotion.

Guzman’s final commitment is an unflappable belief in the Constitution.

“I believe that judges should not legislate from the bench. …We should be the least dangerous branch of government, not the most dangerous,” she said, citing Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Papers.

Guzman was recently rated as one of the top judges by lawyers, and that says more than she could about herself.

Massengale said he wants citizens first and foremost to remember his name during this election season. The second most important thing to know is he is running for Place 3 of the Texas Supreme Court, not against Guzman.

Massengale is an admitted lifelong Conservative Republican and devoted Catholic.

He is the former president of the Federalist Society, one of the preeminent conservative lawyers’ groups in the country, as he describes it.

A major talking point for that group is “fidelity to law as written by our legislature,” Massengale said. “A focus by judges on understanding their role in the system and not substituting their own views of what the law ought to be.”

This foundation is a reaction to liberal, judicial activism in the courts, he said. The Federalist Society finds its responsibility to be the education of a new generation of lawyers and judges, Massengale said.

Through that society, Massengale said he met Ted Crúz prior to his appointment as the solicitor general of the state. Crúz invited Massengale to work with him, but he turned him down.

At the time, Massengale was working for a law firm in Houston handling complex business cases, which he says gave him an exorbitant amount of experience in business.

“Our business community depends on the Supreme Court to decide fairly and predictably and correctly,” he said.

Understanding the original Constitution and sticking to statutes differentiates him from his opponent. Massengale said current Justice Debra Lehrmann for Place 3 is the most frequent dissenter among a conservative based panel, primarily dealing with tort law, which he said is the foundation for the state’s economic success compared to the rest of the nation.

Masssengale used an example of doctors at one point supposedly fleeing the state because of the high liability in medical malpractice lawsuits. Tort reform turned instances like this around, he said.

Judges have to be faithful to statutes as written by legislature, Massengale said.

If our judges think it’s up to them to decide what the law ought to be…then we’re ruled by judges and not by ‘We, the People,’” he said.

Kevin Jewell, a Republican up for election for the 14th Court of Appeals and some of the Austin County officials were also present at the meeting.

Among the county officials were: Sheriff Jack Brandes; Marcus Peña, county tax assessor/collector, Constable Ronnie Griffin, Precinct 3; Constable James Clark, Precinct 4; Buddy Koenig running for Austin County Republican chair.

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