Lawyers from both sides made campaign contributions to judge in Prop B case

HOUSTON – The newly elected Judge who ruled Prop B unconstitutional received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from the law firms representing the Houston Police Officers' Union and the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, Channel 2 Investigates discovered. 

Judge Tanya Garrison received $7,500 in total.

The practice is legal in the state of Texas and standard practice for big law firms and many judges.

"Remember the movie 'Caddyshack,' where Rodney Dangerfield is giving money, saying, 'Keep it fair,' so each side wants to give to the judge to at least keep it as even as possible,?" said Mark Jones, a fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute.

One day before Baker Botts LLP entered into an agreement to represent HPFFA, the firm's political action committee made a $5,000 contribution to Garrison.

The donation was made Dec. 5, 2018. Garrison had been elected to the bench at that point but had not yet been sworn into the 157th District Court. The court was notified of Baker Botts representation of HPFFA on Dec. 6.

"I had no conversations with that firm prior to us retaining them," said Patrick "Marty" Lancton, president of HPFFA.

"I think that's a really good talking point but one way or another, the judge got a check from both our attorneys and the fire attorneys' was double of what our attorneys gave," said Joe Gamaldi, president of the Houston Police Officers' Union.

HPOU retained Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP to represent them. Their PAC donated $2,500 to judge Garrison's campaign fund Feb. 13. Two days later, HPOU's attorney's asked the judge for summary judgment to declare "Prop B" unconstitutional.

"It sets up an ethical dilemma where they're ruling on cases with people who have given them large sums of money," Jones said regarding the practice of law firms donating money to judges.

We called the judge for comment. An employee read the following statement from the judge:

"Pursuant to Canon 3A(8) of the code of judicial conduct, a judge must abstain from public comment about a pending proceeding."