Texas Chief Justice Jefferson misses a bet

In the 2011 edition of his annual state of the judiciary address, Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson calls for an overhaul of the Texas system for selecting judges:

A justice system built on some notion of Democratic judging or Republican judging is a system that cannot be trusted. I urge the Legislature to send the people a constitutional amendment that would allow judges to be selected on their merit.

If that constitutional amendment is too much to ask for, Jefferson

would eliminate straight-ticket voting that allows judges to be swept from the bench … not for poor work ethic, not for bad temperament, not even for their controversial but courageous decisions – but because of party affiliation.

He also advocates extending judges’ terms, to “avoid some of the overhaul that occurs each election cycle,” but he seems more concerned about fairness toward judges than about fairness towards the citizens who seek justice in their courts.

Short of selecting judges on their merit, the best measure to increase citizens’ confidence in our courts would be to free judges from dependence for campaign funding on the parties appearing in their courts. Coffee Party Austin advocates alternative sources of campaign funding, to enable judicial candidates to spend their time communicating with voters instead of currying favor with deep-pocketed attorneys and corporations.



About Hamilton Richards

I retired in 2006 as a Senior Lecturer in Computer Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. These days I volunteer technical support for Citizens' Climate Lobby (Austin chapter), Common Ground for Texans, (CG4Tx.org), Integrity Texas (IntegrityTexas.org), and several friends.
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One Response to Texas Chief Justice Jefferson misses a bet

  1. Diane Owens says:

    Oklahoma switched to merit selection for their appellate judges in the 1960’s after one Supreme Court Justice was convicted on bribery charges, another was serving time for tax evasion and a third was impeached. These scandals led to two constitutional amendments to try to insulate judicial selections from partisan politics. District court judges are still elected but the contests are non partisan and interim vacancies are filled through merit selection. This is one area in which Oklahoma has Texas beat!

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