Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Zena Collins Stephens appealed both the court of appeals’ denial of a pretrial writ of habeas corpus and its reversal of the district court’s decision to quash Count I of the indictment. Stephens was elected to the position of sheriff of Jefferson County, Texas in 2016. While investigating someone else, the FBI uncovered information regarding potential campaign-finance violations concerning Stephens. The FBI then turned this information over to the Texas Rangers. The Rangers’ investigation concluded Stephens received individual cash campaign contributions in excess of $100. A grand jury indicted Stephens on three counts: Count I: tampering with a government record in violation of Texas Penal Code section 37.10 “by reporting a $5,000.00 individual cash contribution in the political contributions of $50.00 or less section of said Report;” iIn Counts II and III, unlawfully making or accepting a contribution in violation of Texas Election Code section 253.033(a) by accepting cash contributions in excess of $100 from two different individuals. On appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Stephens asked: could the Texas Legislature delegate to the Attorney General, a member of the executive department, the prosecution of election-law violations in district and inferior courts? To this, the Court answered "no:" because Texas Election Code section 273.021 delegated to the Attorney General a power more properly assigned to the judicial department, the statute was unconstitutional. Therefore, the Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals and remanded the case to the trial court to dismiss the indictment. View "Texas v. Stephens" on Justia Law