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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Monday, August 15, 2016 by Jo Clifton
Judge denies motion to recuse in Bastrop case
Judge Carson Campbell – the district judge who has been hearing the case involving the Pine Forest subdivision, the city of Bastrop, Bastrop County and the Bastrop Independent School District – can continue to hear the case. Judge Olen Underwood, the administrative judge for the district that includes Bastrop, denied a motion for the judge’s recusal last week. The motion had been filed just one day before a scheduled hearing on July 27 by Ben Wetmore, the attorney for Robert Leffingwell and his Pine Forest Investments Group LLC. Underwood noted that a motion for recusal must be filed as soon as practicable after the attorney filing the motion knows that there are grounds to ask for a recusal. The law also states that such a motion should not be filed within 10 days of a scheduled hearing. Wetmore had presented an affidavit from Paul Burt, an observer at the trial who stated that he saw Campbell meeting behind a locked glass door with members of a property owners association involved in the lawsuit as well as lawyers for the governmental entities. Several of those named have stated that no such meeting took place, and others have stated that there was no inappropriate conversation. Burt could not hear the conversation but was troubled both by the fact that the judge appeared to be conversing with lawyers for one side and by the demeanor of those he said he saw. The Pine Forest case is perhaps the most expensive of several long-running lawsuits initiated by the three governmental entities in Bastrop. The city’s lawyer in that case, William Charles Bundren of Frisco, has received fees of at least $458,000 since Jan. 1, 2015. Now that the motion for recusal has been decided, Campbell will reset the hearing that was supposed to have occurred in late July. Bastrop has hired attorney David Bragg to oversee legal matters in the wake of the forced resignation of the city’s previous attorney, Jo-Christy Brown. It will be up to Bragg and Marvin Townsend, interim city manager, to see if they can figure out a solution to the ongoing problem of legal fees beyond what a city of 8,000 can afford.
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