Greg Abbott

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Greg Abbott is the Attorney General of Texas and is only the second Republican since Reconstruction to serve in that capacity. Abbott was sworn in on December 2, 2002, following John Cornyn's election to the U.S. Senate. Prior to assuming the office of attorney general, Abbott was a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, a position to which he was initially appointed in 1995 by then-Governor George W. Bush.

Personal history

Abbott was born on November 13, 1957,[1] in Wichita Falls and was reared in Duncanville (Dallas County). He and his wife, Cecilia, a former school teacher and principal, were married in 1982. They have a daughter named Audrey, born in 1996. [2]

After graduating from the University of Texas with a B.B.A. in finance, he received his law degree from the Vanderbilt University Law School in Nashville, Tennessee.

Jogging injury

Shortly after graduation, he was partially paralyzed in a freak accident when, while jogging in Houston, he was struck by a falling tree. He has used a wheelchair since the accident.

The Houston Chronicle reported in April 2002 that Abbott hired a prominent plaintiff’s lawyer, Don Riddle, after the accident. Abbott sued both the homeowner whose tree fell on him, as well as a company that once trimmed the tree.

In October 2002, the Austin American-Statesman reported that Abbott already has received almost $3 million of an award that is expected to exceed $10 million in his lifetime. Abbott’s attorney in the case, Riddle (who made more than $1 million off the case), says that medical costs and other "actual damages" accounted for a fraction of the settlement, which mainly compensates Abbott for non-economic damages, such as mental anguish.

Judicial experience

Abbott’s political career began in Houston, where he served as a state trial judge in the 129th District Court for three years. In 1995, then-Governor George W. Bush appointed Abbott to the Texas Supreme Court. He was twice elected to the state’s highest civil court -- in 1996 (two-year term) and 1998 (six-year term). In 1996, Abbott had no Democratic opponent but was challenged by Libertarian John B. Hawley of Dallas. Abbott obtained 3,201,185 votes (84.1 percent) to Hawley's 604,984 (15.85 percent). In 1998, Abbott defeated Democrat David Van Os of San Antonio, 2,104,828 (60.1 percent) to 1,396,924 (39.89 percent) to win a full term on the Supreme Court. However, he served only four of the six years, leaving to become attorney general late in 2002.

As a judge he received awards including: “Jurist of the Year” from the Texas Review of Law & Politics; “Trial Judge of the Year” from the Texas Association of Civil Trial and Appellate Specialists; and “Appellate Judge of the Year” from the Texas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates.

Election as attorney general, 2002

Abbott resigned from the Supreme Court in 2001 to seek the open attorney general's position in 2002. Attorney General John Cornyn was vacating the post to run for the U.S. Senate. (Cornyn won the Senate race that year to succeed retiring Republican William Philip Gramm of College Station.) Abbott defeated the former mayor of Austin, Democrat Kirk Watson, for the position. He received 2,542,184 votes (56.72 percent) to Watson's 1,841,359 (41.08 percent). Two minor candidates held an additional 2.18 percent of the vote.

Accomplishments as attorney general

After taking office, Abbott established a Cyber Crimes Unit to arrest criminals who use the Internet to prey upon children; a Fugitive Unit to arrest sex offenders who violate their parole; and an expanded Medicaid Fraud Control Unit to crack down on elderly abuse and waste of taxpayer dollars. Since taking office, General Abbott has claimed some $4 billion in child support for Texas children.

In his capacity as the state’s lawyer, Abbott oversees more than 700 lawyers who represent the State of Texas. As a lawyer, Abbott has appeared in courtrooms around the state and has obtained indictments against criminals charged with offenses ranging from attempted aggravated assault of a child to capital murder.

An active participant in his community, Abbott has held leadership positions in numerous organizations, including” the Central Texas Chapter of Goodwill Industries, the Governor's Committee to Promote Adoption, Justice for All, and the Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research Foundation. In 2004, Abbott served as Honorary State Chairman of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Texas.

On November 21, 2005, Abbott sued Sony BMG. Texas is the first state in the nation to bring legal action against Sony BMG for illegal “spyware.” The suit is also the first filed under the state’s spyware law of 2005. It alleges the company surreptitiously installed the spyware on millions of compact music discs (CDs) that consumers inserted into their computers when they play the CDs, which can compromise the systems.[3]. On December 21, 2005 Abbott added new allegations to his lawsuit against Sony-BMG. Abbott says the MediaMax copy protection technology violates the state's spyware and deceptive trade practices laws. He says Sony-BMG offered consumers a licensing agreement when they bought CDs and played them on their computers. But, Abbott alleges in the lawsuit that even if consumers reject that agreement, files -- known as spyware -- are secretly installed on their computers, which pose security risks for music buyers. Abbott said "We keep discovering additional methods Sony used to deceive Texas consumers who thought they were simply buying music," and "Thousands of Texans are now potential victims of this deceptive game Sony played with consumers for its own purposes." In addition to violations of the Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act of 2005, which allows for civil penalties of $100,000 for each violation of the law, the alleged violations added in the updated lawsuit, on December 21, 2005, carry maximum penalties of $20,000 per violation.[4]. See 2005 Sony CD copy protection scandal.

Van Orden v. Perry

On March 2, 2005, Abbott appeared before the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, D.C., where he defended Texas's Ten Commandments monument, a display that stood on the state Capitol grounds for more than forty years. Dozens of similar monuments were donated to cities and towns across the nation as part of a promotion for Cecil B. DeMille's epic movie The Ten Commandments.

The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision, which was written by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, found the Texas display passed had secular motives and therefore passed constitutional muster.

Justice Stephen Breyer, who served as the swing vote in the case, wrote: "The circumstances surrounding the monument's placement on the capitol grounds and its physical setting provide a strong, but not conclusive, indication that the Commandments' text as used on this monument conveys a predominantly secular message … The determinative factor here, however, is that 40 years passed in which the monument's presence, legally speaking, went unchallenged ... Those 40 years suggest more strongly than can any set of formulaic tests that few individuals ... are likely to have understood the monument as amounting ... to a government effort to establish religion."

Therefore, the Texas commandments were constitutional. But in the case of McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky, involving a series of Commandments in the two county courthouses, Breyer found the Court found the commandments unconstitutional.

Hailing the Supreme Court's decision, Abbott said: “This is a great victory not just for Texans, but for all Americans. With this ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has delivered a clear message that the Texas Ten Commandments can be displayed on public grounds in recognition of the historical role they have played in the foundation of this country and its laws.” The Ten Commandments monument still stands just to the northwest of the Capitol in Austin.

Reelection as attorney general

Abbott was unopposed for renomination as attorney general in the March 7, 2006, Republican primary when he polled 580,069 votes. He faced self-styled "people's" Democrat David Van Os, his opponent for the Supreme Court in 1998, and Libertarian candidate Jon Roland in the November 2006 general election.[5]. Van Os, unopposed in his primary as well, received 414,592 votes. Abbott therefore ran more than 165,000 votes ahead of Van Os in the raw vote in the state's open primary and was eventually reelected to the role. Van Os, a graduate of the University of Texas and its law school, also lost another race for Supreme Court in 2004 to initially appointed incumbent Republican Justice Scott Brister.

Notes

References