A district judge in Texas agreed to recuse himself from a gas-drilling case after an article in Bloomberg News revealed a potential conflict of interest related to his recent campaign materials.
Texas District Judge Trey Loftin has been accused of showing favoritism in a gas-drilling case involving Range Resource Corportaion (RCC). Plaintiff Steven Lipsky says RCC polluted his water supply with the chemicals methane and benzene.
The plaintiff argued that Loftin, who recently lost a GOP primary in his bid to serve another term, displayed bias in his campaign materials. According to Business Week, Judge Loftin mailed fliers to voters about his success in getting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to back out of the case.
RCC filed a countersuit against Lipsky, stating that he wished to defame their image by bringing the EPA into the case. According to Business Week, Judge Loftin’s mailings also referred to remarks that Rush Limbaugh made about the case.
Loftin wrote to his administrative judge, Jeff Walker:
“While I know that I have been a fair and impartial jurist, I am concerned that appearances in this case have become its own story. I agree that I should be recused and this case transferred for the appearance alone.”
Lipsky’s attorney’s, in a filing, argued that the campaign materials “reveal a personal bias or prejudice against the Lipskys.” Business Week reported that the judge may have broken a Texas judicial ethics code. That code prohibits judges from remarking on cases “in a manner which suggests to a reasonable person the judge’s probable decision.”