Bruce Davidson, Good Judgment Needed to Fix System, San Antonio Express- News, December 22, 2002.
Article reports that a bipartisan group of Texas state legislators have moved to replace the statewide system of judicial elections with gubernatorial appointments. State Senator Robert Duncan, a Republican from Lubbock, says the plan would rid the judicial system of partisanship and big campaign contributions, and remove the perception that justice is for sale. “Texas has a reputation for being a rogue state with regard to our civil justice system,” Senator Duncan said. Texans would have to approve the new system through an amendment to the state constitution. In 2001, the Senate approved a resolution that would have let the voters decide whether they wanted elected or appointed judges, but the measure died in the House. New Push in Texas for Appointed Judges, New York Times, March 3, 2003.
Article reports that in his biennial state of the judiciary address, Texas Supreme Court Justice Tom Phillips asked lawmakers to give voters the opportunity to reform the state judicial system. For years, Phillips, a Republican, has pushed for replacing the current system of judicial elections with one that would have the governor appoint the judges who then can be voted out of office. He said such a system would help eliminate much of the special interest money, and the perception of political duplicity from the courts. “Our partisan, high- dollar judicial selection system has diminished public confidence in our courts,” Phillips said. “Millions of people across the world now believe that politics has compromised the rule of law in Texas courts.” Associated Press, State Supreme Court Justice Calls for Judicial Elections, Amarillo Globe-News, March 5, 2003.
Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Phillips argues that Texas’s “partisan, high-dollar judicial selection system has diminished public confidence in our courts, damaged our reputation throughout the country and around the world, and discouraged able lawyers from pursuing judicial careers.” He calls for “a constitutional amendment to allow the people to decide whether they would prefer another election method.” Noting that “most Texas judicial races are unopposed,” Justice Phillips argues that “retention elections would preserve most of the good of electing judges while alleviating most of the bad. Far from diluting the democratic process, retention elections would actually give most voters more control over their judges than they now enjoy.” Thomas R. Phillips, It’s Time to Bang the Gavel on State’s Judicial Election System, Dallas-Fort Worth Star- Telegram, March 9, 2003.
Column argues that the “apparatchiks” of the Texas Republican Party have “launched a shrill attack against ‘elitist’ judicial reforms,” fighting to preserve the state’s system of partisan elections rather than replacing it with a system of appointments and retention elections, as proposed by Texas Supreme Court Chief