It appears Collin County commissioners only feel compelled to follow a judge’s orders over spending the taxpayers’ money when it’s convenient.
A report at Breitbart Texas on Sunday revealed a glaring inconsistency in the county commissioners’ claim that they are compelled to spend taxpayers’ money at the order of a district judge.
Collin County Judge Keith Self is telling taxpayers he and the county commissioners have no choice but to follow a Tarrant County district judge’s order putting taxpayers on the hook for payments to special prosecutors from Houston. Self has said he is afraid of being held in contempt of court by the judge unless the county pays the prosecutors chosen to orchestrate a politically-motivated case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Make no mistake, most reputable legal scholars disagree. Celebrated constitutional law attorney Hiram Sasser of First Liberty Institute, a conservative public interest firm based in Plano, has said that the Collin commissioners have every right to appeal a questionable order from a judge.
And, as Breitbart reported, the Collin County commissioners have said the same thing … when it was convenient.
In an amicus curiae brief filed with the Supreme Court of Texas this summer, Self and the other commissioners claimed that letting a district judge dictate spending decisions would allow the judge to “impermissibly overreach into the legislative budgeting functions of the Commissioners Court in instances when the District Court simply disagrees with the financial decision of the Commissioners Court.”
This admission came in a brief filed regarding a situation in which a district court was ordering a commissioners’ court to pay specific salaries to specific employees.
In the Paxton case, a Tarrant County judge ordered Collin County to pay special prosecutors at rates well beyond those outlined in state law and local rules. Rather than exercise their right to appeal the order, Self and two commissioners voted to simply follow the order – despite the representation they made to the Texas Supreme Court:
Unwarranted interference by the judiciary into fiscal decisions made by the Commissioners Court threatens the separation of powers between the judicial and legislative branches of county government. Such interference erodes the powers and statutory duties of the Commissioners Court regarding the control and expenditure of County funds, and if such interference is allowed to stand, could plausibly result in a dramatic shift of power to the judicial branch.
It seems Collin County commissioners have set a conflicting precedent: they tell the Texas Supreme Court that district judges shouldn’t be allowed to reach into county finances… and then let an out-of-county district judge – unaccountable to Collin County voters – do just that.