I wrote previously about the Apache Corp. v. Davis, No. 19-0410 (Tex. 2021), decision here. I mentioned then that Justice Hecht’s largest campaign donor was the law firm, Vinson & Elkins. Vinson & Elkins represented Apache Corporation during its appeal. This controversy started in October, 2020, when the Supreme Court denied Apache’s request for an appeal. In February, 2021, the Texas Supreme Court reversed its prior decision and granted a motion for rehearing. The San Antonio Express News explains that normally, the Texas Supreme Court only grants a petition for rehearing about 2% out of the total number of requests. Three weeks after that initial denial by the Supreme Court in October, 2020, Apache Corporation contributed $250,000 to a new judicial PAC, Judicial Fairness PAC.
That PAC then spent some $750,000 over the next several days on behalf of the four Justice candidates running for re-election. The last time Apache donated to Texas Supreme Court candidates was almost ten years ago when it donated $2,500.
On Nov. 3, 2020, those four Justice candidates won their campaigns. Two weeks later, Apache submitted its petition for rehearing. As mentioned above, despite only a 2% chance of it being granted, Apache’s petition for rehearing was granted in February of this year. As the name suggests, a petition for rehearing essentially asks the judges to please reconsider a decision already made. As one might expect, normally, absent some grievous error, judges do not reconsider. In fact, some judges are often annoyed at being asked to review a decision already made.
Remarkably, the Vinson & Elkins law firm also donated $75,000 to Justice Hecht’s campaign after he won his Nov. 3 election. Justice Hecht cannot run for re-election due to age restrictions. So, we might wonder why Justice Hecht needs more campaign funds, if he will never campaign again. Former Chief Justice Tom Phillips says justices need campaign money to cover office expenses. But, Apache also donated $15,000 to Justice Hecht after he had already won his election – while the petition for rehearing was pending. Necessary for office expenses or not, it just looks bad to accept campaign donations during or soon after a case is pending. See Houston Chronicle report.
And, thus, in the space of just eight months, an appeal denied somehow becomes an appeal win for Apache Corp.