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Hecht’s brief moment as a major public figure thus illustrated one of the larger themes of recent American political history: the centrality of the United States Supreme Court to the conservative movement. But the story of the following eight years in Hecht’s judicial career suggests something nearly as important: the transformation of state supreme courts into engines of conservative change.
For much of American history, state courts were relatively sleepy outposts for lions of the local bar. But starting in the nineteen-eighties, state supreme courts (particularly in states where judges are elected rather than appointed) became political battlegrounds. This was especially true in Texas, where a young political consultant named Karl Rove ran the campaigns that turned the Texas Supreme Court from all-Democrat to all-Republican. When Hecht first won election to the Court, in 1988, Rove ran his campaign. Led by Hecht and other Rove clients, the Texas Court became a firm ally of local business interests, especially the insurance industry.