In his Chronicle opinion piece, former Lt. Gov. William P. Hobby Jr. recalled that nearly a century ago Gov. James E. "Pa" Ferguson got himself impeached, in large part because he vetoed the entire University of Texas appropriation. The governor was incensed because university regents refused to fire the president who refused to fire professors simply because Ferguson wanted to run them out of Austin.
As Hobby told the story, Ferguson summoned Regent George Washington Littlefield and told him he would hold off on his veto if UT President Robert E. Vinson resigned.
Vinson asked the regent how he should respond. Littlefield said, "I would tell him to go to hell!"
Vinson took Littlefield's advice, Ferguson vetoed the appropriation and then, in Hobby's words, "a remarkable thing happened, probably unique in the history of public education." Littlefield and another longtime regent, George Washington Brackenridge, pledged their fortunes by personally guaranteeing the university's budget of $1,627,404.
The House then impeached the governor, and the Senate removed him from office. Ferguson's successor, William P. Hobby Sr., signed a bill reappropriating the university's money.
These days a regent seems dedicated, not to saving the university, but to bending it to his - and the governor's - will. Whether Wallace Hall Jr. of Dallas deserves to be removed from office is not for us to say at this point; hearings before the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations will resume this month. Recent testimony would suggest, however, that the governor is unhappy with UT president Bill Powers for resisting his higher-education notions and may be using Hall as his spear carrier, with the intention of driving Powers out of office.
"That would be frowned on by the Legislature," said state Rep. Lyle Larson, a San Antonio Republican and committee member whose further comments suggested that he, unlike the governor, knows his Texas history: "And it would violate the law. One governor has been impeached for that reason."
Whether prodding Powers out of his UT Tower office is his "clear intent," to quote a former general counsel for the UT System, Hall has been a particularly bothersome and ham-handed university overseer. He has filed such voluminous records requests that the UT-Austin campus has had to hire five new full-time employees simply to process them.
His unrelenting requests and his demand that the requests be met in a few days' time has made it difficult for the university to protect private information.
Jim Pitts, the Waxahachie Republican who sponsored a resolution in June calling for articles of impeachment against Hall, has said the actions of the Dallas regent and some of his cohorts on the board amount to a "witch hunt" against Powers.
Hall insists he's merely doing his job as regent. We would suggest that he take a break from poring over the thousands of pages he's requested from UT-Austin and track down an account - bound to be more gripping - of a former governor's feud with the university.
In his Chronicle article, Bill Hobby offered a CliffsNotes version of the lesson Hall might learn: "In power struggles between the governor and the Legislature, the Legislature wins."
The Sentinel of Nacogdoches. Oct. 29, 2013.
Before using force, there must be reasonable belief that force is necessary
Last month, a Texas jury found Fred Yazdi guilty of murder in the shooting of 23-year-old Enrique Recio. According to local news reports, Yazdi shot Recio three times in February 2012 and told officers on the scene he thought Recio was a burglar and felt his home and family were in danger.
Yazdi, as his defense, argued that his rights under the Texas Castle Doctrine allowed him to protect home and family through the use of deadly force if needed.
The prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that the shooter was not defending his property. ?
In order to return a guilty verdict, the jury had to unanimously find elements of the offense of murder and unanimously find the defendant did not act in self-defense, defense of others, or in defense of property.
A person cannot be faulted when protecting his family or home even when deadly force is required, but it is also important for each of us to understand exactly what the Castle Doctrine says.
The Texas Castle Doctrine states a person is justified in using force — including lethal force — against an intruder when and to the degree he or she reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect themselves against another's use or attempted use of unlawful force. It goes on to explain that such force can be used against someone attempting to enter your home, vehicle, place of business or employment.
Such force can be used against an aggressor who is committing or attempting to commit aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery or aggravated robbery.
A key element of the doctrine is within the phrase "reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary."
Prosecutors in the Yazdi murder case argued self-defense did not apply because Recio was running away from Yazdi's house, and there was no evidence of damage or attempted entry to the home.
According to local news reports, investigators in the case stated, "Yazdi shot Recio three times while he stood about 100 feet from Yazdi's home. Reports also stated that during the trial, one officer also told jurors it seemed Recio was trying to get away when Yazdi shot him. "I got the impression that he was leaving and he was telling him to stop," said Officer Abraham Deschman.
The last juror to take the stand was Austin Police Department Homicide Detective Richard Jennings. Yazdi told officers Recio was banging on his door, trying to break into the house. ?But Jennings said there was no evidence Recio was trying to get in the Yazdi's home, cars, or the back yard. He pointed out there weren't even footprints in the flowerbed. ?
Prosecutors said Recio was intoxicated and was trying to hide from police after wrecking his car. They insisted he did nothing to threaten Yazdi.
Although it is our right to protect our home and family the cautionary tale from the Fred Yazdi trial is understanding the difference between protecting your family and property and understanding just what the phrase "reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary" means.
The death of Recio is a tragedy for all parties involved. In the movie "Unforgiven," Clint Eastwood's character states, "It's a hell of a thing killin' a man. You take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have."
It also changes all who live to pick up the pieces.
The Dallas Morning News. Oct. 31, 2013.
No small-ball immigration reform
Conservative activists took to the halls of Congress last week with a clear message: Capitol Hill should broadly overhaul America's immigration laws. Evangelical leaders. Business executives. Law enforcement officials. Even tea party farmers. Six hundred of them were united in one voice: Washington can't do small ball.
Their approach sharply contrasts with the tactics that House Republicans are considering. Some GOP representatives are talking about breaking apart immigration issues into separate bills instead of addressing them in one comprehensive bill like the Senate did earlier this year. The House would send to the Senate a stream of single bills on issues like border security, enforcement of hiring rules and allowing in more temporary workers.
Other Republicans, such as Rep. Steve King of Iowa, don't want to send over any bills, period. They fear the Senate would take a small bill that addresses, say, hiring practices and build it into a larger, comprehensive package.
Both the silo and do-nothing approaches are bad.
Let's start with the do-nothing strategy's obvious pitfalls. Under this scenario, nothing gets done and communities from Texas to Maine would futilely keep trying to deal with this problem on their own. We have seen how that has gone in places like Farmers Branch, and the result is not good.