2007-10-10 / Front Page

Judge Lopez files challenge to Court of Appeals that stopped Garza's appointment

ROBERT WILCOX Reporter

District Judge Migdalia Lopez filed a motion for rehearing with the 13th District Court of Appeals on their ruling to disqualify her appointment of Special Prosecutor Gustavo "Gus" Garza to investigate Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel "Johnny" Guerra.

Two justices in last month's Court of Appeals ruling held that Lopez abused her discretion in appointing Garza in one of the six issues that Guerra raised at last April's hearings in Edinburg.

The justices wrote that Garza should have been disqualified because he was a potential witness in a Willacy County election fraud case against Guerra.

However, a fellow justice who wrote a dissenting opinion, argued that the voter fraud incident was a mute point since it can no longer be tried; and that Garza's appointment by Lopez should be upheld.

The motion for rehearing is part of the appeal process, according to Manfred Warner, who is Judge Lopez's attorney.

The filing claims that the (13th Appeals) Court "erred" in granting Guerra mandamus relief, because there was no motion filed to disqualify Garza.

The motion goes on to state that the Court of Appeals found that Garza's appointment was authorized by statute, and that the court's mandamus inquiry should have ended with that finding.

In December of 2006, a grand jury cited nine acts of alleged wrongdoing by Guerra that mostly stemmed from a 1- 1/2 year old dispute with fellow members of the county's bail bond board.

Lopez met with the grand jury in January, and then appointed Garza to investigate Guerra. The D.A. was indicted in March on three felony counts of theft by a public servant and related charges.

In last month's ruling, Lopez won the other five issues that Guerra raised in April, but he has claimed victory in the narrow ruling on the election fraud issue.

In a prior interview, Warner said, "Contrary to Mr. Guerra's statement (in the media), the Court's ruling is not a victory for him," Warner said. "When you lose on five of six issues you have raised, and the issue you win is by a split decision that is not much of a victory."

Justices have yet to rule on Lopez's motion for a rehearing, and Guerra declined to comment. E-mail comments on this story to; robert@raymondvillechroniclenews.com

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