is holier than they are,” since he readily admits that he is in a uniquely good position to make such a protest, the editorial praises him for “thrust[ing] the issue before voters during the fall election.” “Big money and poorly informed voters fuel judicial elections in the Lone Star State, and the system needs to be changed.” Justice Phillips’s “on target and well-timed” protest “offers some hope for reform.” Phillips Takes Lead in Judicial Reform, San Antonio Express-News, July 18, 2002.
Article reports that Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Phillips “took his election reform campaign to the national stage” by “endorsing a list of innovations for reducing the influence of money and partisan politics on the judiciary” contained in a new report by the nonpartisan Committee for Economic Development. The innovations include nonpartisan elections, longer terms (six to ten years), publicly financed judicial campaigns, and stronger disclosure laws. Justice Phillips noted, however, that an appointment system, as suggested by the report, would not necessarily solve the judiciary’s problems. “You have to be very careful to see that governors and legislatures are not able to make an end run to retire judges … merely on the basis of trying to get somebody more philosophically compatible with the majority party of the moment.” The full report can be obtained at http://www.ced.org. Chuck Lindell, Judge: Throw Politics Out of Court, Austin American-Statesman, August 10, 2002.
Article reports that U.S. District Judge James Nowlin has “ruled unconstitutional a Texas judicial conduct rule prohibiting judges and judicial candidates from expressing opinions on disputed legal and political issues.” Judge Nowlin relied on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down a similar Minnesota rule. Texas Supreme Court candidate Steven Wayne Smith (R.), who filed the suit challenging Texas’s judicial conduct rule, began using his new freedom immediately, “criticizing prior court rulings on school finance and abortion.” State Court of Appeals Judge Margaret Mirabal (D.), Smith’s opponent, said that his comments indicate how he will rule on school finance and parental notification. “Even under Judge Nowlin’s opinion, that is not appropriate. We are supposed to look at the facts and apply the law regardless of our personal viewpoint,” she said. Jane Elliott, High Court Candidate Speaking Freely, Houston Chronicle, August 10, 2002.
83. Article reports that “critics of judicial elections … fear [that] the rising amount of money flowing into judicial elections is undermining judicial independence.” The Chamber of Commerce, for instance, which spent heavily in several judicial races in 2000, remains “very interested in judicial elections” and will likely match or exceed their 2000 spending this year, according to James Wootton, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform. Expressing concern over an American Bar Association poll showing that 72 percent of Americans worry that campaign fundraising compromises judicial impartiality, ABA