Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Annual Statistical Report

As any readers probably know, OCA collects and publishes statistics on judicial activity in Texas. Probably the best web page to refer you to is:

Please be advised that the published version of the Annual Statistical Report for the Texas Judiciary will be released later than the usual (statutory) date of December 2. I have asked staff to make a variety of changes this year, including consolidating reports and incorporating content from other reports also produced by OCA. These changes will take a little extra time to implement. In addition the Texas Judicial Council meets on December 11 and I would like to have them adopt the consolidated report. We anticipate publishing the report in January and hope that you will find it even more informative and useful. In the meantime if you have any questions please contact me at 463-1626 or carl.reynolds@courts.state.tx.us, or our manager of judicial information, Angela Garcia, at 936-1358 or angela.garcia@courts.state.tx.us.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ethics Advisory Opinion 484

An issue that has my attention this week is an opinion that came out of the Texas Ethics Commission in August, EAO-484, which casts doubt on the legitimacy of reimbursing elected officials (judges, for my purposes) for their expenses to attend or speak at educational conferences. To quote the opinion, "the provision of transportation, meals, and lodging to an officeholder to facilitate the officeholder’s attendance at the event would constitute an officeholder contribution if the expenses are not reimbursable with public money."
[Emphasis added]

So the key is whether the expenses in question are reimbursable with public money. The hardest part of that regimen is reimbursing food expenses. As the Comptroller's "Purchase Policies & Procedures Guide" states: "The attorney general has said that the Texas constitution prohibits a state agency from purchasing food, coffee, cream, sugar and similar items that employees of or visitors to the agency would consume."

I will advise if I hear more on this issue, which has sent a shiver through the purveyors of judicial branch education.