San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

August 24th, 2009
Letter to the Editor: The politics of judging

To the editor:

Living in a small town has its bright sides. Often, however, there are darker sides, such as small town politics. As important as they are, the majority of voters pay little attention to the ugliness or the results. A recent meeting of the Hays County Commissioners Court displayed the obvious and flagrant political scam of “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” In this case, Liz Sumter worked very hard to anoint her friend, Anna Boling, to the vacant Hays County Court judicial seat.

The vacancy was created by the recent death of the late Howard Warner, whose impact upon the legal community and community at large cannot be reduced to words. Judge Warner carried himself with honesty, integrity, compassion, and an even temperament, which made him a fine Judge and an even finer person. By statute, the vacancy in the Hays County Court at Law is to be filled by appointment by the Hays County Commissioner’s Court. Judge Warner made his replacement desires known before his death.

Against those wishes, Sumter placed the item on the agenda as “review and possible action” to mask her true intentions, “to appoint my friend to a pay increase.” As the agenda item jumped up she made it known that Anna Boling is her choice for the position, despite her record as an attorney. Sumter and Boling tried to sneak this item to a vote, knowing that many potential candidates, with actual qualifications, had not even submitted applications.

These other candidates did not want to appear opportunistic, and instead chose to mourn and reflect with the rest of us. It was the duty of the Commissioner’s Court to establish the criteria and time frame to fill the vacancy. Thus, out of deference to a friend and recently deceased Judge and without the go ahead by the Commissioners Court, many people had yet to submit a resume for consideration.

Being a great attorney is not a prerequisite for being a great judge, although experience may be essential. Has Anna Boling seen the inside of a courtroom in recent memory? Does handling uncontested divorce cases give the appropriate experience necessary to become a competent judge? We hope for judges of honesty, integrity and honor. But when a person says one thing and does the opposite, it creates conflicting conclusion.  Such is the situation Boling has created by saying she would not pursue the appointment but, at the same time, lobbying commissioners and encouraging others to misrepresent her experience as diverse and qualified.

Boling’s misleading tactics have her supporters attempting to influence the Commissioners by saying she is the only Democrat interested in the appointment.  The reality is that she wants to run as an incumbent in the next election, only possible through this appointment.

Sumter’s bias and agenda has become quite obvious with her contradictory stories. She has said to have interviewed two applicants and is ready to appoint her friend. Other Commissioners said all applicants should be given the opportunity to submit applications for review. Sumter was quick to rebut, saying she did not think it appropriate to interview judicial candidates. So, which is it? You can’t have it both ways. That tactic is very transparent and, in my opinion, very unethical.

As the push to rush this appointment through before qualified applicants could had an opportunity there is another twist. Sumter was also pressing to reward her friend with a huge pay increase before Boling’s recent bankruptcy filing became public. Note, In her bankruptcy petition filed June 25, Boling listed among her myriad of debts, tax delinquencies to the IRS of over $35,000 for the tax years of 2007 and 2008.

There is a bright side. The other Commissioners saw through the agenda and wanted no part. They fought Sumter to establish guidelines and an application process for those not involved with the fix. The other commissioner recognized the importance of making this process public in order to seek out qualified individuals, instead of rewarding Boling for her desperate attempts.

The actions of Sumter and Boling are both unprofessional and offensive. Both have fallen short of the performance we expect from our elected officials.  Boling should get her professional and personal life in order and earn the reputation and proficiency needed for the position she is seeking. Voters should not be the ones to clean up a mess created by opportunistic motivations. But if that’s what it takes, this should be an interesting election year.

Robert “Bump” Vance
San Marcos

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0 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor: The politics of judging

  1. Anna Boling is a wonderful choice for to fill Judge Warner’s seat. The experience she has is broad and well-rounded. She was an Assistant District Attorney in El Paso, prosecuting criminal cases and working with a multi-jurisdictional drug task force. In private practice she has transitioned from a criminal defense attorney to practicing in family and civil law.

    As she saw the impact contested divorces had on families with children she decided to get some 70 hours of training in mediation so that she could make a difference wherever possible to mediate the divorce. I have no doubt whatsoever that her approach has meant that conflicts in families have been lessened and that in many cases the parents have been able to work together for the best interests of the child, without the same level of anger and bitterness that contested divorces result in.

    She has taught business law as an adjunct professor at Texas State University and is well-respected by her peers, serving terms as secretary, vice president and president of the Hays County Bar Association.

    I urge the Commissioner’s Court to publish all the resumes. Those are matters of public record, aren’t they? Then we will all be able to tell the level of background and experience each applicant has and then be able to judge their qualifications for ourselves and these baseless innuendos can be shown to be inaccurate. I am confident that Anna’s experience is outstanding.

    She has given a great deal back to the community of San Marcos and to the county. She served on the board of directors of the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Shelter for 5-6 years, has headed up landscape projects to beautify the grounds there and elsewhere, and was in charge of their fundraiser last year, a huge undertaking. She has also been a tireless advocate for victims’ rights. Because she has been so actively involved in the community over many years and is a warm, friendly person, she has a wide circle of friends and fans. I am both.

    As for the bankruptcy, what Mr. Vance failed to tell readers is that her husband’s business failed and since Texas is a community property state the debts are community property as well. Despite the uncertain economy last fall and winter, Anna’s law practice continues to be profitable. In fact, Mr. Vance does not know Anna’s income (why should he?) and doesn’t know if the appointment would be a raise for her or not. Oh, and as for the allegation she hasn’t seen a courtroom lately, she was in court just this last Friday on behalf of a client so the.

    Mr. Vance’s letter has badly misjudged her, and misrepresented Judge Sumter’s actions, attitude toward all applicants, and statements too, I feel sure. Anna is one of the fairest, most scrupulously ethical people I know. She is not at all the kind to be a party to collusion or insider stuff like that.

    If we are fortunate enough to have Anna as the person appointed to fill Judge Warner’s seat, her fairness, her honesty, and her compassion will be a great blessing to us all.

  2. First of all, Judge Sumter is a smart person- she would not be supporting anyone who wasn’t well-qualifed for this job.
    Anna Martinez Boling is indeed very qualified to fill this position. Her work in the El Paso District Attorney’s office as Assistant DA covered varied areas, she has worked in family law, with both contested and uncontested divorces. Because she believes in mediation, perhaps some that would have been contested were resolved in a nicer way.
    I do not believe that she was trying “hide” her bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is something that a lot of people face, and while it is not desired, there are times that it is the only choice. Bankruptcy is also not a crime, but a legal process. It was her husband’s business that went under, but, community state that we are, both of their names are on the bankruptcy.
    That she and her husband opted to work only part time the first few years of their daughter’s life in order to spend more time to bond with her with her is to be commended. It is a financial sacrifice to do so, and one that stretched them maybe further than they planned, but it was an admirable thing to do.
    Previous to Judge Warner’s death, Anna was heavily promoting another candidate. Once the commissioners made it known that they preferred not to appoint any of the announced candidates, Anna began considering the office. However, to expect someone to leave their practice for almost a year and then go back “cold” is asking someone to commit financial suicide, which is what an appointment to this office with a guarantee of not running would be.
    I will admit that I’ve tried to balance what I knew before Judge Warner’s death about a certain candidate whom Anna brought to our meetings and promoted, and what has happened since then. I’m disappointed that this has turned nasty from some individuals, and hope that we can move above the fray to speak in actual facts.
    The fact is that Ms. Boling is highly qualified. When she ran for another judicial office in 2006, she lost by less than 1%, so it is clear a great many people also believe she is highly qualified.
    There is a need to fill this job soon- our other judge there will work herself to death, trying to keep up, and that isn’t fair to anyone.
    Those who want to be considered need to put on their big girl or boy undies and get their resumes out. We saw this kind of pressure when Sheriff Bridges died, and we don’t need to see it again. We need for the most qualified individual to be appointed. I know that one of the candidates was very close to Judge Warner, and I applaud her for her great friendship to the Judge, but democracy shouldn’t “pass down” offices. Whoever is appointed should be a highly qualified person who can hit the ground running, and then the election will come, and we’ll have primaries and a general. Many things can change between now and the primary election.
    In the meantime, my association with Ms. Boling when she was a candidate and later as Democratic County chair have given me nothing but admiration for her. She put our party on absolute “to the letter” proper standings in every way, and that is what you need from a judge.

  3. anyone who calls sumpter smart has obviously not been following what is happening at the Commissioners Court. The lack of ethics and the transparent pushing of agendas that are all about personal wishes has been appalling. This appointment needs to be of someone who is not totally wrapped up in local politics. The local chair of the democrat party does not fit that bill

  4. Sent to Commissioner Barton,
    (cc’d to Judge Sumter, Commissioner(s) Ingalsbe, Conley, Ford,and CCL # 2 Judge Rodriguez)

    For the past 22 years I have served as the Court Reporter for the Hays County Court at Law, Nos. 1 & 2. For twelve of those years, I have been a constituent in your precinct, Commissioner Barton. I write to you on the eve of your decision to name a replacement for Judge Warner’s position with a heavy heart both for his absence and for the manner in which the debate over this appointment has been conducted.

    Unfortunately, the dialog concerning the two leading contenders for the office, James “Jim” Pape and Anna Martinez-Boling, has concentrated more on mud-slinging campaign tactics than on establishing their credentials
    to sit on the bench. You are well aware of the breadth of cases tried in our two courts and that the majority of those proceedings are criminal in nature.

    Mr. Pape, an attorney licensed with the State Bar of Texas since 1968, is a true statesman respected by many in our county and the surrounding region. He has been a solo practitioner in criminal law here in San Marcos since 1979.

    Mrs. Boling was licensed in 1994 and her experience in criminal law cited on her resume indicates only a two-year stint at the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office from 1996 to 1998. Since that time, her solo practice, and continuing legal education courses with the Texas State Bar, have primarily focused on family law.

    Mr. Pape has appeared in CCL #1 and #2 innumerable times in the last two decades, whereas Mrs. Boling has hardly been seen. The vast gulf in the experience of these two candidates has compelled me to appeal to you
    before the unenviable decision you must reach tomorrow.

    My hope is that you will, in your own wisdom and judgment, look beyond the unfortunate allegations and slurs that have characterized this contest and focus solely on the matter of qualifications where Mr. Pape is clearly the best choice to fill this important position.

    Thank you for your time and consideration in allowing me to express my views in this matter.

    Sincerely,

    Sandra D. Jackson

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