support. However, limited reforms met with some success. The Legislature passed a bill that limits contributions to judicial campaigns to $250 and prohibits judges from contributing to committees supporting or opposing judicial candidates. It also passed a measure mandating judicial election voter guides for distribution on Internet. Bruce Davidson, Judicial Politics See Some Reform, San Antonio Express-News, June 24, 2001.
Editorial considers the Houston Bar Association’s recent survey evaluating judges in Harris County and Texas appellate benches and finds that “partisan elections shelter -- sometimes foster -- incompetence as distinguished judges of the minority party are swept out, often to be replaced by inferior candidates of the majority party.” It warns, however, that public financing would “bring problems of its own making” because apprising voters of candidates’ qualifications would be “prohibitively expensive.” Furthermore, the money may well “wind up in the slush funds of party hacks and kingmakers more interested in enforcing ideological purity and grasping personal power than in promoting a qualified judiciary.” Courting Disaster, Houston Chronicle, July 27, 2001.
Op-ed by Anthony Champagne, Professor for the School of Social Science at the University of Texas, Dallas, warns that “the new calm in Texas judicial politics” is only temporary. Citing Georgetown Law Professor Roy Schotland, Champagne states, “there is every indication to think that the ‘nastier, noisier, and costlier’ campaigns of much of the rest of the nation will soon come to Texas.” He notes that during the 1980s, Texas had some of the most contentious judicial elections in the nation. In the 1990s, however, Republican domination of state politics drastically reduced the competitiveness of court races. Champagne argues that the state’s rising Hispanic population will likely strengthen the Democratic party. As a result, judicial elections are likely to become more competitive and in the near future more rancorous.
Anthony Champagne, The Calm Before the Next Judicial Storm, Texas Lawyer, October 15, 2001.
46. Op-ed by Craig McDonald, executive director of Texans for Public Justice (TPJ), charges: “in Texas . . . it’s . . . campaign contributions . . . that often determines who can win and preside in the courtroom.” TPJ’s 1998 study, “Payola Justice,” found that trial lawyers and business groups contributed millions to candidates. Noting that “the candidate with the most money almost always wins,” McDonald points out that 60% of the Texas Supreme Court’s cases involve a campaign contributor to at least one of the justices. Contributions pose two threats. First they endanger the appearance of an impartial judiciary: 80% of Texans, and 50% of Texas judges, believe that judges are influenced by campaign contributions. Moreover, TPJ’s latest study of 4,000 petitions for the right to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court suggests that the appearance is supported by reality: “the more money that a law firm or party to a lawsuit gave to the judges, the more likely