Texpatriate has learned that the horrendously misleading attacks and outright lies about Judge Steven Kirkland have reared their ugly head once again in his current campaign. Kirkland, who served as a Civil District Judge from 2009 to 2013, was infamously defeated for re-election in the 2012 Democratic primary after his opponent, financed by a disgruntled lawyer, promulgated both the aforementioned libels as well as homophobic tactics. Admittedly, this new round of attacks have not crossed the threshold of bigotry against the openly gay Kirkland. This year, Kirkland is once again running for a Civil District Bench, against yet another candidate bankrolled by the same disgruntled attorney.
Just a few days ago, a robocall made its rounds throughout the City. Today, a new mailer was delivered to homes around Houston as well. On the front side of this mailer, a broad image is simply presented of a man’s wrists shackled with handcuffs. “When it comes to drunk driving, you be the judge,” the mailer reads. “And say no to Steve Kirkland in the Democratic primary.”
The back side opens up with an ominous phrase designed to mislead meek readers down a rabbit hole. “Judicial candidate Steve Kirkland has been jailed and arrested twice for drunk driving,” the headline reads. While this is not per se untrue, it is highly misleading, as it occurred over thirty years ago. After the DWIs, Kirkland received treatment for alcoholism, turned his life around and has not had a drink in over 30 years.
The backside then contains excerpts of Kirkland’s criminal history, mainly just legalistic and mundane details that inconspicuously do not include the date of the incident. Also prominently featured are a recent news article about recent DWI fatalies and a series of broad “facts” on drunk driving, such as statistics and recent casualties. All of which is extraneous as to the controversy at hand.
Perhaps the most troubling tidbit on the mailer, and the one I personal think could be grounds for a libel suit, is the label in the top right corner that says “May 2012.” Granted, it is above a picture of Kirkland that I believe was taken during that time, but it is the only date referenced throughout the mailer. I’m obviously not an attorney, but I think that untruth –combined with the obvious malicious and defamatory tone– could lay the groundwork for a libel suit, or at least a defamation charge.
The pain of politics, of course, is that the damage would long be done before any court will hear complaints over this. The side effect of a robust and powerful 1st amendment is that, unlike Canada, the United States does not have nay prior restraint of protected speech, even malicious, defamatory or untrue speech. When these attacks hit in 2012, Kirkland was ultimately defeated by the lies.
Accordingly, it is important to note the blatant falsehoods and highly misleading attacks so prevalent in these mailers, and fight back against them. “I’m fighting back because justice in Harris County should not be for sale,” Kirkland recently told me. “The current radio ads and robo calls are a lie – the same lie that was denounced in the press in 2012. I haven’t had a drink in 29 years.”
In documents obtained by Texpatriate, a picture has been painted that connects the dots between these anonymous organizations that are defaming Kirkland. The recent mailer was paid for by the “Moving Texas Forward PAC,” which is the same interest group that sent out mailers and robocalls in the contentious 2012 election. Bethel Nathan, a local political consultant active in the African-American community, and George Fleming’s law firm (Fleming, Nolen Jez LLP) largely underwrote the organization during that election.
This year, the PAC received a $10,000.00 donation from the “Texans for Good Leaders PAC.” The Good Leaders PAC is yet another frontage group set up by Fleming with a long history of shady attacks against Kirkland. It has also donated generously to both Elaine Palmer and Lori Gray’s campaigns.
Vote for Kirkland, it’s the only responsible thing to do.