In the comments, Charles Kuffner rightly noted the irony: "And of course, it was a lack of formal, written policies and procedures regarding last minute death penalty appeals that got Keller into official trouble in the first place. Funny how these things work, isn't it?" Indeed! If we're going to be giving CCA judges credit for grantmaking under their watch, they should also be held accountable for its more problematic aspects.
As Grits pointed out when the auditor's report was first published, an even bigger point of concern is how CCA grantees use money that's supposedly for judicial education to fund large portions of their groups' administrative costs, most prominently the prosecutors' association and the criminal defense bar. Here's a list of the grants given by the Court of Criminal Appeals in 2008 and the percentage of the grants each group spent on administrative costs (from a table on pp. 8-9 of the pdf):
- Center for American and International Law $ 299,696, 36.5%
- Texas Association of Counties $489,220, 50.6%
- Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association $1,098,670, 75.1%
- Texas Center for the Judiciary $1,738,265, 41.7%
- Texas District and County Attorneys Association $1,798,289, 47.8%
- Texas Justice Court Training Center $1,931,037, 50.6%
- Texas Municipal Courts Education Center $2,127,274, 44.7%
The idea that the CCA grants $1.1 million to the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, ostensibly for judicial education, and $825,101 of it is going to "administration" means the CCA is basically paying for a big chunk of the group's primary day to day activities. The prosecutors' association gets an even larger sum for grant administration - $859,582 - but they get more money overall, so their administrative proportion is lower. On its face, it appears as though the administrative proportions are not attributable to a particular pot of costs but were simply allotted in such a way to give the prosecution and defense bar roughly equal amounts.
Little attention has been paid to this bizarre pork-barrel arrangement. By contrast, when the Governor's Criminal Justice Division gives out grants, there are more accountability mechanisms to ensure most of the money is actually spent on the tasks the grant is given for. But the purpose of these "judicial education" grants appears to be as much patronage as pedagogy.