Justice of the Peace Jacquelyn Wright can’t seem to find any. She’s handled small-claims cases in her Precinct 4 courtroom for many years and is seeking re-election in 2014. She submitted a petition with more than the number of signatures required for her to be placed on the primary ballot. But Tarrant County Republican Party chairwoman Jennifer Hall rejected the petition and declared Wright ineligible to run.
Last week, Wright sued Hall in a Tarrant County civil district court and asked that judge for an injunction to allow her to remain on the ballot. The primary is March 4. With no Democrat having filed to run, that’s pretty much the general election.
Neither Wright nor Hall returned calls requesting comment for this article. In her lawsuit, Wright said she provided 351 valid signatures. Texas election law doesn’t require Hall to verify their validity, Wright alleged in the suit, because the petitions were circulated by workers who were under oath. Wright was only required to submit 250 signatures.
A Republican Party insider who asked for anonymity said Hall rejected the signatures because Wright’s petition didn’t make clear that she’s running in the Republican primary. Petitions must include a party affiliation, because anyone who signs such a petition is ineligible to vote in another party’s primary. Hall consulted with the secretary of state before making the decision, the source said.
Wright’s job, with its $105,000 salary, hangs in the balance, and she apparently needs the money. A local couple sued Wright last year after a dispute over a house that Wright leased to them with an option to buy. Richard and Ginger Moore later accused Wright of not having clear title to the house. A bank foreclosed on the property, and the Moores moved out, sued Wright, and asked that their down payment and other money be returned. Wright filed for bankruptcy. Later, she asked Fort Worth Weekly not to write about the case because she feared it might hurt her chance at re-election and said she needed another term to qualify for a pension. The Weekly wrote the story anyway.
Needless to say, the Moores aren’t crying over Wright’s difficulties in getting her name on the ballot. They’ve been telling people for the past year that Wright needs to be removed from the bench. “If she can’t handle her own personal affairs, how can she handle anyone else’s?” Ginger Moore said. “It’s our civic duty to come out and say, ‘Hello, constituents, did you know this is what your justice of the peace in Precinct 4 has done?’ I hope to God her name stays off that ballot.”
Wright’s only Republican challenger, Vickie L. Phillips, wouldn’t comment on the petition but said Wright has proven herself to be inaccessible and “rough with everybody, whether it’s attorneys, plaintiffs, or defendants.”