SALEM'S STORY


Salem Abraham is an investment manager from Canadian, Texas, and President of Abraham Trading. He also owns Red Deer Resources LLC which, in 2012, sued BP over an oil and gas lease that Salem believed took advantage of three widows and their families. Salem won at the District Court level and the Appeals Court level, but unanimously lost at the Texas Supreme Court. (TSC Case #15-0569 BP American Production Company v. Red Deer Resources, LLC)

Although Salem was surprised by the turn of events, the in-house attorney for BP was not. In fact, the first day of the trial in District Court, that attorney admitted that Salem would probably win on the District and Appeals Court levels. However, the attorney said the case would eventually end up in front of the Texas Supreme Court, and he said that's where BP would finally win.

Salem believed he had a strong case, and he knew that only 10% of cases actually go before the Texas Supreme Court. As a result, he questioned the BP attorney's strong level of confidence that the case would end up before the Justices. As predicted by the BP attorney, in 2017, all nine justices ruled in favor of BP, reversing the case.

Being a numbers guy, this intrigued Salem. He wanted to understand what the in-house BP attorney knew that he didn't, so Salem and his research team at Abraham Trading Company started looking into the issue. The team found news stories describing how Texas Supreme Court decisions possibly were being affected by donations, so they downloaded 11 years of donation data from the Texas Ethics Commission’s website to find large donors to the Texas Supreme Court.

Not only did the research uncover that Justices overwhelmingly favor their campaign contributors, but nine law firms were identified as major contributors to the Justices, including the two firms that represented BP in the case against Salem. Those two firms donated $302,725 to Supreme Court Justices during Salem's case.

Extensive research revealed that billion-dollar clients using one of those nine big donor law firms were found to win 5.4 times more often at the Texas Supreme Court than regular Texans. It also revealed that many of the Texas Supreme Court Justices worked at one of the nine identified law firms before being elected to the bench, and some Justices go back to one of the firms after they leave the bench.

In Salem's case, an ex-Texas Supreme Court Justice actually attended oral arguments on behalf of BP. A second ex-Texas Supreme Court Justice wrote an amicus brief supporting BP on behalf of TXOGA, which has a BP employee on the Board of Directors. Driving home the issue at hand, during Salem's case at the Texas Supreme Court, Justice Jeff Brown's campaign sent Salem a request for a campaign donation. Click here to view the document.

Texans For Cash Free Courts is now leading the charge to change the way our Justices are chosen. We want our Supreme Court Justices appointed on merit rather than elected by money, which would take an amendment to the Texas State Constitution.

We encourage you to read through this website and sift through our research. A documentary spotlighting the efforts of Texans For Cash Free Courts will be released later this year, which shows the impact of this issue on two Texas families who had the scales of justice tipped in favor of big donors.




OTHER SUPPORTERS


Interestingly, Supreme Court judges have been some of the most vocal supporters of getting money out of our justice system for over 40 years. All four chief justices over this period of time, John Hill (D), Tom Phillips (R), Wallace Jefferson (R), and the current chief justice, Nathan Hecht (R), have all strongly supported reforming this system. Here is a link to a transcript of Chief Justice Nathan Hecht’s testimony in 2019 before the Texas House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee. Governor Greg Abbott, who served on the Texas Supreme Court, is the first governor in Texas history to strongly support reforming judicial selection in Texas. Here are some tweets by Governor Abbott. Governor Abbott signed a bill by Representative Steve Allison, HB 3040, establishing the Texas Commission on Judicial Selection. This Commission will study this issue during 2020 and will offer solutions to the Texas Legislature when it reconvenes in January of 2021. Representative Brooks Landgraf filed a bill in the 2019 Legislative Session to change judicial selection in Texas, but the bill did not get out of the House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee. The Texas House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee, chaired by Rep. Jeff Leach, has shown support for this issue by passing Rep. Steve Allison’s bill out of their committee. The Texas Senate State Affairs Committee, Chaired by Senator Bryan Hughes, passed HB 3040 and sent it on to the Texas Senate. Texas Civil Justice League (TCJL) has supported improving judicial selection in Texas for decades. They continue to push for improvements. Citizens for Judicial Excellence in Texas (CJET) is a nonpartisan group supporting improvements the judicial selection process in Texas. The president of this group is Robert Duncan, who served from the 28th District in the Texas Senate from 1997 to 2014. He has been a long-time supporter of changing the judicial selection process in Texas. Many other Texas Senators, Representatives, and judges have pushed to improve the Texas judicial selection system for decades. However, until enough Texas citizens get involved, it will be difficult to win against big donor law firms who have given money to the Texas Supreme Court for decades. Texans must demand better in order to have better. We ask all Texans to join in this effort.




AGAINST CASH FREE COURTS


SOME MEMBERS OF THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE

With both the Executive Branch of Texas and the Judicial Branch of Texas in favor of Cash Free Courts, the problem is with the Legislative Branch of Texas. Unfortunately, this is the branch of Texas Government who has defended cash in the courts for four decades. There are many members of the Texas Legislature who defend cash in the courts. We will work to show you who they are and the political donations they receive that seem to persuade them that cash in our courts is a good thing. As we like to say, “Follow the money and the game all makes sense.”

TEXAS TRIAL LAWYERS ASSOCIATION

Will Adams, the president of Texas Trial Lawyers Association at the time, testified on April 15, 2019 against HB 4504 and HJR 148, and in favor of keeping the system the same. Texans for Cash Free Courts believes the Texas Trial Lawyers Association seems more interested in keeping the system the same so that lawyers can continue to benefit from cash in the courts.




REPUBLICAN PARTY AND DEMOCRATIC PARTY


In the past, some of the largest supporters of Cash in Courts have been the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. These groups are largely run by big donors to the Texas Supreme Court. Ordinary Texans, like us, need to exert our influence at the 2020 State Conventions.

Click here for information about the Republican Party of Texas State Convention.

Click here for information about the Democratic Party of Texas State Convention.

We invite the Republican Party and Democratic Party in Texas to take a stand on this issue. We hope the leaders of both parties will join us and other proud Texans in this fight for justice. At Texans For Cash Free Courts, we are embarrassed to be one of six states that still allows cash to influence our justice system. We can only change that by changing our Texas Constitution. This is an opportunity for Texans to stand up for themselves and their justice system. A change will only happy if we stand up together.

Watch this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLbWnJGlyMU

Look at the numbers on this website and ask yourself if this is what we want for Texas. We are a great state, but why is our justice system not? We should not be the poster child for broken justice. Let’s have a justice system and a Texas Supreme Court where justice rules, not money.

Both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party can show their support for Cash Free Courts by including it as a plank in their platforms. Texans need to know what their party stands for.




CAMPAIGN LETTER SENT TO SALEM


On June 5, 2017, during Salem’s BP case, Red Deer Resources filed a motion to the Texas Supreme Court for a rehearing of the case. On August 21, 2017, Justice Jeff Brown sent Salem the attached letter, which can be viewed HERE, asking for a political donation. Salem gave nothing. He thought it would be unethical and inappropriate. (Salem has never given any political donations to any justice on the Texas Supreme Court.)

On September 22, 2017, Red Deer Resource’s motion for rehearing was denied by Jeff Brown and the rest of the Texas Supreme Court. However, the BP lawyers knew the game better. During the lawsuit, the law firms representing BP and lawyers of those law firms made donations to Texas Supreme Court Justices totaling $302,725.




HISTORY OF JUSTICE FOR SALE IN TEXAS


60 Minutes Is Justice For Sale in Texas? - 1987 VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ob3_-Ilf6Vw Campaign Contributions in Texas Supreme Court Races - 1992 ARTICLE: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00144030 60 Minutes Is Justice Still For Sale in Texas? - 1998 VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL4UI9glkqQSuMTeU5P_102bLic6F3rTFL Bill Moyers Justice for Sale - 1999 VIDEO: https://billmoyers.com/content/justice-for-sale-2/ Big money in Texas Judicial Elections: The Sickness and Its Remedies by Paul Carrington - 2000 https://scholar.smu.edu/smulr/vol53/iss1/11/ Texans for Public Justice: Pay to Play. How Big Money Buys Access to the Texas Supreme Court - 2001 ARTICLE: http://info.tpj.org/docs/pdf/paytoplay.pdf Texans for Public Justice: Courtroom Contributions Stain Supreme Court Campaigns - 2008 ARTICLE: http://info.tpj.org/reports/courtroomcontributions/courtroomcontributions.pdf Bill Moyers Justice for Sale - 2010 VIDEO: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/02192010/profile2.html Texas Tribune: Odor in the Court - 2010 ARTICLE: https://www.texastribune.org/2010/02/02/lawyers-biggest-donors-to-judicial-elections/ Texas Tribune: High Court Bucks - 2010 ARTICLE: https://www.texastribune.org/2010/08/16/report-finds-surge-in-judicial-contributions/ Texas Tribune: You Be The Judge - 2010 ARTICLE: https://www.texastribune.org/2010/08/27/will-scotus-opinions-affect-tx-judicial-elections/ Center for American Progress: Partisan Judicial Elections and the Distorting Influence of Campaign Cash - 2012 https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/courts/reports/2012/10/25/42895/partisan-judicial-elections-and-the-distorting-influence-of-campaign-cash/ Do Campaign Donations in Judicial Races Influence Court Decisions? - 2013 https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2013/06/11/do-campaign-donations-in-judicial-races-influence-court-decisions Texas Tribune: Judicial Donations Raise Questions of Partiality: Bidness as Usual - 2013 https://www.texastribune.org/2013/03/26/donations-judicial-campaigns-spur-ethics-worries/ Texans for Lawsuit Reform: Evaluating Judicial Selection in Texas: A Comparative Study of State Judicial Selection Methods - 2019 http://www.tlrfoundation.com/foundation_papers/evaluating-judicial-selection-in-texas-a-comparative-study-of-state-judicial-selection-methods/





Salem Abraham

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