Op-ed by Diane Davis, executive director of East Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse, and Jeff Clark, Texas director of the National Federation of Independent Business, urges Texas voters to cast ballots in this year’s Supreme Court elections: “It isn’t unusual for voters to skip down ballot races. But that would be shortsighted, for the Supreme Court’s decisions have an impact on Texans’ lives.” Of the Court’s nine seats, five are up for election. Davis and Clark praise the incumbents, asserting that the current Court is “a far cry from the scandal-plagued panel of the 1980s that prompted 60 Minutes to come to Texas . . . exposing the extent to which some justices of that era were being manipulated by a small group of wealthy personal injury lawyers.” Noting that personal injury attorneys have sponsored two PACs to contribute to judicial candidates, the Texas 2000 Political Action Committee and the Constitutional Defense Fund, they exhort voters to ask “why [the attorneys] are hiding behind obscure names” and to examine which candidates the PACs are supporting. Don’t Overlook Texas Supreme Court’s Contests, Diane Davis and Jeff Clark, Dallas Morning News, February 10, 2002.
Article discusses the level of voter ignorance in Texas judicial elections. Federal Judge Royal Furgeson asserts, “you can have great judges who lose to great politicians. No system is perfect, but ours is the worst.” State district judge John Hyde places the blame on the system of partisan elections: “I know of some cases of people switching parties to get elected. Some very fine judges have lost their seats just because they were Democrats.” At the same time, Judge Hyde maintains, “[t]he elected method assures the greatest amount of credibility.” The article also notes that campaign contributions pose an area of concern, citing a recent Texas Bar Association poll finding that 99% of the state’s attorneys and 86% of state judges believe that judicial decisions are influenced, at least in part, by campaign contributions. Shanna Sissom, Election of Judges: Is There a Better Way?, Midland Reporter-Telegram, March 4, 2002.
62. Editorial charges that Texas judicial elections are too often decided by little more than the appeal of a candidate’s name. For example, in their first GOP primaries, state Supreme Court Justice Wallace Jefferson handily won and his colleague Xavier Rodriguez lost, even though both were judges of color running against white men and had more money than their challengers. Some GOP officials contend that Jefferson benefited both from having an appealing name and for facing an opponent, Sam Lee, whose name could belong to an Asian-American. Rodriguez, on the other hand, faced Steven Wayne Smith, whose name is less likely to be attached to candidates of color. Since Texas is not likely to adopt merit selection, the editorial concludes that the media must do more to give voters information about the judicial candidates before them and that “voters . . . take up the responsibility of learning what’s behind all those names. Justice depends on it.” Voter Education Key in Judicial Races, Austin American-Statesman, March 17, 2002.