Nathan Hecht

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Nathan Lincoln Hecht
Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice, Place 1
Incumbent
Assumed office
October 1, 2013
Appointed by Rick Perry
Preceded by Wallace B. Jefferson
Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court
In office
January 1, 1989 – October 1, 2013
Preceded by William W. Kilgarin
Succeeded by Jeff Brown
Judge of the 95th Judicial District in Dallas County
In office
1981–1986
Judge of the Texas Court of Appeals for the 5th District
In office
1987–1988
Personal details
Born (1949-08-15) August 15, 1949 (age 64)
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Single
Residence Dallas, Texas
Alma mater Yale University

Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law

Occupation Attorney; Judge
Religion Non-denominational Christian
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
Rank Lieutenant

Nathan Lincoln Hecht (born August 15, 1949) is the Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court. A Republican from Dallas, Hecht was first elected to the Supreme Court in 1988 and was reelected to six-year terms in 1994, 2000, and 2006. He secured his fifth six-year term on November 6, 2012. He was appointed chief justice by Governor Rick Perry on September 10, 2013 and was sworn in by retiring Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson on October 1, 2013.[1] Hecht will fill the unexpired term of Chief Justice Jefferson, which ends on December 31, 2014.


Background[edit]

Chief Justice Hecht earned his Bachelor of Arts from Yale University with honors in Philosophy and graduated thereafter cum laude from the Southern Methodist University School of Law. He was a law clerk to Judge Roger Robb of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He practiced law in the area of general litigation with the Dallas firm of Locke Purnell Boren Laney & Neely, and was a shareholder in that firm prior to his appointment to the bench.

While on the District Court, Chief Justice Hecht was the local administrative judge, presiding over all county and district judges in Dallas County and representing them before other branches of government.

He began his judicial service on the 95th District Court of Dallas County, to which he was appointed by Governor Bill Clements, on September 1, 1981, elected in 1982, and re-elected in 1984. In 1986, he was elected to the Texas Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas at Dallas, where he served until his election to the Supreme Court. Throughout his tenure on the Supreme Court, Hecht has been designated to oversee all changes in state court rules.

Harriet Miers nomination[edit]

In the days after the October 3, 2005, nomination of Harriet Miers to be an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Hecht became nationally known as a strong supporter of White House Counsel Miers based upon his long friendship with her. According to Hecht, he and Miers dated in the past and were members of the same church. Hecht gave 120 interviews in support of the eventually-unsuccessful nomination.[2]

The New York Times has reported that, on the day of Miers' nomination, Hecht participated in a conference call with the Arlington Group, a coalition of Christian Conservatives, assuring them of her pro-life views.

In May 2006, Hecht was admonished by the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct for "an improper use of his office and position to promote Miers's private interest" during the nomination; a three-judge panel exonerated Hecht of the charge after he appealed the decision.[3]

In March 2007, Hecht said that he had asked then Texas State Representative Tony Goolsby to propose a bill that would make the state reimburse his $340,000 legal fees acquired from the case before the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct. His lawyers had discounted his fees by $167,500.[4] Goolsby withdrew the bill after learning that Hecht had already been reimbursed for the bill through "donations." Hecht defended his position by saying, “Here is the problem: If judges are sanctioned like this and it’s unjust and it’s wrong and they want to prove it, they can represent themselves or hire a lawyer that you can’t pay for on a judge’s salary.” He is paid $152,500.[5]

In December 2008, he was fined $29,000 by the Texas Ethics Commission in connection with the discount, which the Commission ruled was an improper political contribution.[6] Heckt has filed an appeal of the decision in Travis County District Court, which wiped the fine clean.[6] The appeal was filed in January 2009 and it began the whole process over again.[6] The case is still pending.[6]

Memberships, awards and community service[edit]

Hecht is a member of the American Law Institute, a member of the Texas Philosophical Society, and a fellow of the Texas and American Bar Foundations. He is on the advisory board of the S.M.U. Law Review and was named Outstanding Young Lawyer in 1984 by the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers. Musically talented, Hecht has played the organ for his non-denominational Christian church.

Election of 2012[edit]

In the November 6 general election, Hecht polled 4,116,102 votes (53.7 percent), compared to 3,208,479 (41.9) percent for the Democrat Michele Petty. Two minor candidates held the remaining 4.4 percent of the ballots. Hecht lost his own county of Dallas, in which he polled 273,105 votes (40.2 percent), compared to Petty's 382,140 (56.2 percent). However, he won neighboring Tarrant County, which includes Fort Worth.[7]


Election of 2014[edit]

Hecht, backed by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, easily won re-nomination as chief justice in the Republican primary election held on March 4, 2014. He polled 707,692 (60.5 percent); his challenger, former State Representative Robert Talton of Pasadena in Harris County, received 462,273 votes (39.5 percent).[8][9]

In the November 4 general election, Justice Hecht faces the Democrat William Moody, who ran unopposed in his party primary and polled 426,898 votes, some 281,000 below Hecht's primary total.[8]

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Wallace B. Jefferson
Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice,
Place 1

2013–present
Incumbent
Preceded by
William W. Kilgarin
Texas Supreme Court Justice,
Place 6

1989–2013
Succeeded by
Jeff Brown


References[edit]

  1. ^ http://trailblazersblog.dallasnews.com/2013/09/longtime-justice-nathan-hecht-tapped-to-head-texas-supreme-court.html/
  2. ^ Weiss, Eric M. (2006-06-06). "Boom of the Judicial Canon". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-08-09. 
  3. ^ "In re Honorable Nathan Hecht, No. 2006-1". 2006-10-20. Retrieved 2007-08-09. 
  4. ^ KWTX - HomePage
  5. ^ http://www.courts.state.tx.us/pubs/AR2006/jud_branch/7-judge-salaries-fy07.pdf
  6. ^ a b c d Rauf, David Saleh. Texas chief justice's ethics case dragging into 5th year, Houston Chronicle, December 3, 2013.
  7. ^ "Texas general election returns, November 6, 2012". Texas Secretary of State. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b "Republican primary election returns, March 4, 2014". enr.sos.state.tx.us. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Former legislator Robert Talton seeks to unseat Texas Supreme Court justice, December 10, 2013". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved February 8, 2014.