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Texas Supreme Court justice implies Democrats will cheat in 2024 election

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Texas Supreme Court Justice John Devine is facing new questions about his impartiality after a clip went viral this week in which he implied that Democrats plan to cheat against presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in the 2024 election.

"Do you really think the Democrats are going to roll over and let Trump be president again?" Devine asked in a keynote speech at the Texas Tea Party Republican Women's 2023 Christmas event. "You think they're just going to go away, all of a sudden find Jesus and [there will] be an honest election? I don't think so."

Devine is a former anti-abortion activist who claims that church-state separation is a myth and, as a state district judge in Harris County in the 1990s, fought to have a copy of the Ten Commandments posted in his courtroom. In his successful 2012 campaign for the Texas Supreme Court, he claimed to have been arrested 37 times at anti-abortion protests in the 1980s, and has since been a reliable ally of conservative, Christian voters in the state. Devine narrowly survived a GOP primary challenge last month that centered around his ethics, and now faces state district court Judge Christine Vinh Weems, a Democrat, in the November general election.

Devine acknowledged in his speech that the court could hear more election cases — including those involving Harris County, which Devine accused of trying to "bastardize" election laws when it expanded voting access during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the county's protocols were later shot down by the Texas Supreme Court.

"I think those kinds of cases are going to be back to us in this cycle," he said.

Devine then praised Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, who championed numerous laws that were aimed at Harris County in the wake of the 2020 elections. Last year, the Texas Supreme Court declined to block a law, authored by Bettencourt, that removed Harris County's elections administrator position.

Bettencourt, who attended Devine's speech, returned the praise: "You're one of the reasons why we do win fights at the Supreme Court," he told Devine.

But election disputes weren't the only hot-button issues on which Devine opined that night. Throughout his 40-minute speech, he blasted legal challenges to Texas' abortion laws as a "mockery of God," and invoked apocalyptic language when discussing Democrats — saying his judgeship gave him a "front-row seat to the end of the world."

"Our culture is dying before our very eyes," he said. "The church seems to be weakened and not know what to do. We have a corrupted government. On a federal level, we're run by a criminal enterprise. … None of you are going to escape this. And so I would implore you to get closer to the Lord. I would implore you to prepare. I would implore you to bring other people on board."

Devine did not respond to a request for comment Friday about the comments or the online criticism of them. The backlash comes barely a month after the Tribune reported on another speech he gave last year, in which he again claimed that Democrats had tried to steal elections. In that speech, Devine also blasted his colleagues on the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court as "brainwashed" by "Big Law."

"At times I feel like they would sacrifice the Republic for the sake of the process," Devine said in that speech. "My concern is that they all bow down to the altar of process rather than to fidelity to the Constitution. And when I say that, it's not meant to be malice towards my colleagues. I think it's how they were trained — how they were brainwashed."

Devine has recently faced other questions about his ethics. Earlier this year, Bloomberg News reported that he had missed more than half of oral arguments before the court this term as he campaigned for reelection.

And in February, the Tribune reported that Devine did not recuse himself in 2022, when the court considered a high-profile sex abuse lawsuit against Southern Baptist leader Paul Pressler and his longtime law partner, Jared Woodfill. Devine, the Tribune found, had worked for Pressler and Woodfill's law firm for years — and at the same time that the plaintiff in the lawsuit alleged he was molested by Pressler while also working at the firm.

We can't wait to welcome you to downtown Austin Sept. 5-7 for the 2024 Texas Tribune Festival! Join us at Texas' breakout politics and policy event as we dig into the 2024 elections, state and national politics, the state of democracy, and so much more. When tickets go on sale this spring, Tribune members will save big. Donate to join or renew today.

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