Tarrant County Justice of the Peace Russell Casey hopes a fellow judge will kick his Republican challengers off the ballot.
Casey, who presides over JP Precinct 3, filed a lawsuit this week against Tarrant County Republican Party Chair Tim O’Hare, claiming his challengers shouldn’t be allowed to stay on the March 6 primary ballot.
His lawsuit says O’Hare failed to declare ineligible Republicans William “Bill” Brandt and Leonard “Lenny” Lopez “due to an inadequate number of valid signatures on their petitions that accompanied their application on the ballot.”
“What you see here is a last ditch effort from a desperate office holder who has absolutely zero support from anyone associated with the Republican Party in Tarrant County,” O’Hare said Wednesday. “It will fail and Tarrant County voters in Precinct 3 will elect Bill Brandt or Lenny Lopez as the Republican nominee in March.”
No Democrat is seeking this Precinct 3 post, which covers much of Northeast Tarrant County, including Southlake, Colleyville and North Richland Hills. That means the winner of the GOP primary election would essentially win the post, barring any third-party challenges in November.
At stake is a four-year term that pays $125,911.76 annually.
Casey, who was reprimanded last year by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct for having an “improper sexual relationship” with a former clerk, is serving a term that expires in January 2019.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, has already prompted at least one judge — 67th District Judge Donald J. Cosby — to remove himself from the case.
In the lawsuit, Casey notes that Texas Election Code requires JP candidates in areas with a population of more than 1.5 million to have at least 250 signatures on a petition. And he notes that Texas Election Code requires officials with whom applications are filed to review them for any errors.
“Both candidates Brandt and Lopez’s petitions were invalid on their face due to an insufficient number of valid signatures,” Casey’s lawsuit states. “Tim O’Hare in his capacity as chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party accepted the applications for a place on the ballot when he was required by law to declare them ineligible.”
O’Hare said he isn’t surprised Casey filed the lawsuit.
“This guy will do anything to keep this job,” O’Hare said. “Nobody in the Republican Party wants him to be our nominee or on the ballot. ... He’s going to go down in flames.”
Casey states that, in an email, O’Hare said he was denying the challenge and cited several sources that included a legal opinion from Republican Party of Texas Assistant General Counsel Wade Emmert.
“It was improper for Mr. O’Hare to base his review of the challenges on the opinion of Mr. Emmert. It is also insufficient as the opinion does not address the validity of the signatures based upon the absence of the date of notarization.”
“Based upon the actions of Mr. O’Hare in his official capacity as chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party, petitioner is left with no other choice than to seek relief of the court to declare both candidates Brandt and Lopez as ineligible per Texas law ...” the lawsuit stated.
O’Hare said Casey’s arguments don’t hold water.
“In his petition, apparently Mr. Casey claims that, as chair, I don’t have the ability to make decisions based on the advice of counsel,” O’Hare said. “That should terrify anyone who appears in front of his courtroom that he has such a lack of understanding of the legal process.”
O’Hare said he encourages every voter in Tarrant County, particularly those who live in Precinct 3, to read the judicial report that last year sanctioned Casey for sexual conduct with his chief clerk and court manager from 2009 to 2014.
At the time, Casey called the court’s decision “balderdash.”
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct stated last year that its review found that Casey “willfully violated” part of the Code of Judicial Conduct and Texas Constitution. “For those violations, we affirm the determination by the commission that Judge Casey be sanctioned and issue the following sanction: Public Reprimand.”
The court’s written decision showed the woman, who has not been identified by the Star-Telegram because of the nature of the case, had worked for the previous JP and worked for Casey as well when he was elected in 2007.
In August 2014, Casey began the termination process against the woman, and then she reported him to human resources, filed a federal lawsuit against him alleging sexual harassment and reported to the district attorney’s office that Casey had sexually assaulted her.
A Tarrant County grand jury later declined to indict Casey. He and the woman settled the federal lawsuit late last year, according to court records. Casey and the woman both testified in the federal lawsuit.
Casey said he and the woman had a consensual relationship and had sex twice and oral sex about 10 times. The woman’s testimony indicated that the sex was less consensual than Casey claimed and that he tried to fire her days after she said “no more” to his sexual advances, documents show.
This article includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.