Rick Perry has prepared a constitutional defense to combat the utterly absurd indictment against him

Texas Governor Rick Perry is hoping to get the indictment against him dismissed. His attorneys filed a 60 page brief on Monday to get the case tossed out, mostly on constitutional grounds. Their arguments are interesting to read because of how thorough they are.

The main argument against the abuse of office charge is on the separation of powers in the Texas Constitution and the fact there is no evidence of wrongdoing on Perry’s part.

These are legitimate points to raise. It is within the governor’s power to veto funds. Here’s what the Texas Constitution says:

If any bill presented to the Governor contains several items of appropriation he may object to one or more of such items, and approve the other portion of the bill. In such case he shall append to the bill, at the time of signing it, a statement of the items to which he objects, and no item so objected to shall take effect. If the Legislature be in session, he shall transmit to the House in which the bill originated a copy of such statement and the items objected to shall be separately considered.

Perry decided to veto the funding June 14, 2013. Texans For Public Justice filed the complaint against Perry on June 26, the same day the legislative session ended. Both the group and the grand jury forget an important part of the Texas Constitution:

If, on reconsideration, one or more of such items be approved by two-thirds of the members present of each House, the same shall be part of the law, notwithstanding the objections of the Governor.

This means the Legislature could have reconsidered the money for the Travis County Public Integrity Unit. Houston Representative Sylvester Turner attempted to get the bill overridden but didn’t get it out of the House Appropriations Committee. Which means Republicans didn’t mind Perry’s decision to get rid of the funds.

Perry is also being punished for following the law. He’s required by the Texas Constitution to say why he’s vetoing a bill. Perry mentioned Texans had lost public trust in District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg because of her arrest and conviction on drunk driving charges. He’s right.

While Travis County voters may be okay with Lehmberg, her office looks at ALL 254 counties. There’s video evidence of how Lehmberg acted and she spent time in jail. It should also be pointed out her hometown paper wanted her to step down, along with a county commissioner.

The coercion of a public servant charge is even more hazy. It’s tough to prove because the Public Integrity Unit is a quasi-government agency. It’s funded by the state and mainly investigates state officials. In this case it really appears Perry treated Lehmberg like the head of an agency, not an elected official.

However, there doesn’t appear to be a paper trail. There are rumors of what Perry said to Lehmberg, but no documents have been made public. Perry’s lawyers contend he’s covered by the “Speech or Debate” clause in Article III of the Texas Constitution due to the Tenney vs. Brandhove U.S. Supreme Court case from 1951. They also argue Perry is protected because he was looking at “legitimate legislative activity” involving the budget. The attorneys have a point. Perry was performing his actions as the one who signs off on the budget. If they’re correctly applying Tenney vs. Brandhove, then he’s covered.

The most interesting piece of the governor’s response is the argument part of the Texas Penal Code is unconstitutional because it’s too vague and overbroad.. If that’s the case, then the legislature will have to change it to make it less vague.

It’s obvious Perry played politics by allegedly telling Lehmberg he’d veto the funding if the she didn’t step down, but it doesn’t appear he broke the law. The best way to solve political differences isn’t in court, but through the ballot box. It’s something people on both sides of the aisle need to remember. The courts shouldn’t decide things like this.

Now, if it’s proven Perry did break the law he should go to jail. But right now, it doesn’t appear that way.


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