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News 8 - "Flying Justice"

News Article

Location: Austin, TX

News 8 asked for the 2007 office calendars of all nine justices in an effort to determine how much time they spent in the office last year. Five justices keep their calendars personally, so the information is not public record. Four justices produced the calendars that their staff kept for them. Of those four, Justice Wainwright's calendar stood out for the amount of time he was away from the court.

After meeting with News 8, Justice Wainwright agreed that he had been gone from Austin 29 workdays during 2007. Among his destinations included a three-day Gulf Cruise with the Houston Young Lawyers, a three-day Texas Association of Defense Counsel meeting in Lake Tahoe and an American Bar Association meeting in Tucson.

That did not include seven trips the justice made during the court's "hiatus," which is a six-week period of reduced activity when many justices take vacations. The majority of the trips were paid for with campaign donations, which is legal, but a point of concern for court critics.

Wainwright said he has to travel a lot because he "essentially" oversees the State Bar of Texas as part of his Supreme Court position, which takes him out of town. He said it doesn't keep him from casework.

"I'm always carrying work with me," he said. "I work in transit. I work at the location where I'm staying."

Wainwright said he puts in 50 to 60 hour weeks.

"In the five years that I've worked on the court, I can count on one hand the number of weekends that I've not worked for the court," the said. "The only holiday I do not work is Christmas."

Wainwright disagreed that he issued four opinions last year. He said the number is 12, which included four authored cases, three concurring or dissenting opinions and five per curiam cases, which are unsigned opinions that at least six justices agree on.

Campaign records showed that Justice Nathan Hecht also used campaign funds to buy more than two dozen tickets for air travel last year, the next highest number besides Justice Wainwright. Since his personal calendar was not available, he was not interviewed.

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