A Texas man who sued Range Resources Corp. for contaminating his water filed a motion seeking to remove the judge who cited decisions in the case during his failed election campaign.
Judge Trey Loftin sent fliers to voters saying he forced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to back down, citing news stories and comments by radio host Rush Limbaugh about his rulings that went against Steven Lipsky, who says gas drilling by Range polluted his well with methane and benzene.
The campaign mailers “reveal a personal bias or prejudice against the Lipskys,” according to a filing today with the court. “Judge Loftin’s campaign advertisements have touted the judge’s rulings against the Lipskys as an important reason why he should be re-elected.”
Loftin may also have violated the Texas code of judicial ethics, Lipsky’s lawyers said in the filing.
The Texas code of judicial conduct prohibits judges from commenting on pending or possible cases “in a manner which suggests to a reasonable person the judge’s probable decision.”
Loftin lost the Republican primary for the 43rd District Court in Parker County to keep his state judgeship this week after news organizations, including Bloomberg, reported on his campaign materials.
While one decision in the case is under appeal, parts of the case continue to be argued in Loftin’s courtroom.
Loftin ruled for Range three times in the dispute with Lipsky and Alisa Rich, a consultant he hired. Lipsky accused Range of contaminating his well water. Range, in a countersuit, said Rich and Lipsky conspired to defame the company by getting the Environmental Protection Agency to issue an order against the company, which prompted media coverage.
“The EPA, using falsified evidence provided by a liberal activist environmental consultant, accused and fined a local gas driller of contaminating wells,” according to a campaign flier for Loftin’s campaign. President Barack “Obama’s EPA backed down only after Judge Trey Loftin ruled that the evidence was ‘deceptive.’ ”
Range, Rich and Lipsky aren’t named in either of the two fliers provided to Bloomberg. The news stories and Limbaugh commentaries they cite are about their case.
Loftin didn’t immediately return a telephone message left with his office.
The case in Texas state court is Lipsky v. Durant, 11-cv-0798, 43rd District Court of Texas, Parker County (Weatherford, Texas).