Davis: Abbott sided against sex assault victims

Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott
Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott. (AP Photos)

AUSTIN (AP) — Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is again facing criticism from Democrat Wendy Davis over his rulings in sexual assault cases while serving on the Texas Supreme Court.

Abbott sided four times against victims who sued their attacker or a company for negligence during his former tenure as a justice on the state’s highest civil court, The Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday.

The former cases surfaced a week after Davis released her first statewide TV ad, which attacked Abbott for not siding with a woman raped by a vacuum-cleaner salesman whose lawsuit reached the high court in 1998. Abbott condemned the ad as a “desperate attack.”

“The role of a judge is not to create laws, but rather to rule based on existing law, which is exactly what Greg Abbott did in every case that came before him,” Abbott spokeswoman Amelia Chasse said.

The ad, released as the race has just entered its final 90-day stretch, signals Davis’ efforts to energize moderate female voters, key to her election strategy in the GOP-heavy state. Her campaign says the decisions show a disturbing mindset, “a consistent pattern of ruling against Texans who need him and for his old insider network.”

Among the sexual assault cases that came to the court while Abbott was on the bench included one from 1999 that fractured the court and made it more difficult for a rape victim to sue property owners, according to the newspaper.

In that case, an on-duty Houston police officer abducted a woman at 3 a.m., taking her to an unattended parking garage and repeatedly assaulting her. She sued the parking garage owner, saying it took no precautions against criminal activity.

Evidence showed the garage had become a hangout for vagrants, and employees had complained about the lack of security and crimes on the property. In the two years before the rape, 190 violent crimes had been reported near the garage.

Abbott wrote in the opinion that owners could have foreseen the potential of a rape on their property. But he also found the victim could not sue because property owners don’t have a universal duty to protect uninvited people.

Critics said Abbott, to get around legal precedent, had created a new doctrine to protect the property owners from a lawsuit. Supporters applauded Abbott’s argument that said secluded property owners could otherwise have become liable for criminals who use their property.

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Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com

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