According to a recent report produced by Texans for Public Justice, the nine members of the Texas Supreme Court raised $11 million in their most recent general election. The report states that the biggest donors were lawyers and law firms, who supplied $5.2 million, or 48 percent, of the justices’ total campaign expenditures. Individuals or companies with interest in the energy and natural resources field donated another large portion of the total amount raised by justices. A Texas Supreme Court spokesperson said the justices support changing the campaign contribution system, but that the change must come from the legislature. The entire report is available at www.tpj.org. Connie Mabin, Report Says Corporations, Lawyers Funded Supreme Court Races, Hous. Chron., April 13, 2000.
Editorial supports the federal lawsuit filed by Public Citizen and the Gray Panthers challenging Texas’ judicial election system, stating, “It is surprising that this type of court challenge has not appeared before.” The editorial argues that judicial elections in Texas are often determined by arbitrary measures such as the length or familiarity of a candidate’s last name or their party affiliation. The editorial suggests that the premise of the lawsuit -- that the election of judges is discriminatory because low-income Texans do not have the financial resources to influence court decisions by making campaign contributions -- may be hard to prove, but adds, “it certainly raises a valid question about the ability of lawyers and others to donate to a judge’s campaign and then appear in court later.” According to the editorial, Texas legislators should, at the very least, consider a plan that would force judges to recuse themselves from lawsuits involving a party that ha! s contributed to their campaigns. Suit Should Prompt State to Reform Judiciary, The Dallas Morning News, April 17, 2000.
14. Editorial states that “[f]rom the state’s chief justice to just-a-citizen, Texans know that the state’s system of choosing its court judges is a mess.” The editorial expresses hope that the recent federal lawsuit filed by Public Citizen and the Gray Panthers which challenges the current system of judicial elections in Texas will “shake the state into action. There’s been far too much hemming, hawing, procrastinating and being embarrassed in the national media about our `justice for sale’ system. Lawmakers shouldn’t have to be forced by the federal courts to clean up a situation that virtually everyone agrees is tainted.” Judging Texas, Austin American-Statesman, April 24, 2000.
15. Op-ed by Texas attorney Richard Henderson applauds Public Citizen and the Gray Panthers for filing a federal lawsuit challenging the Texas judicial election system. He writes, “I hope the lawsuit forces a change of our system of selecting judges. I write this as a former judicial candidate who accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions; as an attorney who has contributed thousands of dollars to judicial campaigns…; and as an observer of judicial campaigns that