Federal Judge Upholds Texas' Partisan Statewide Judicial Elections System

(Note: Texas has a bifurcated appellate system, meaning that there are TWO “supreme” courts in the State. The Supreme Court handles civil appeals. The Court of Criminal Appeals handles, duh, criminal appeals.)

Texas will continue to elect Justices to its Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals by partisan statewide at large elections. United States District Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos sided with the State of Texas and declined to grant relief to a group of Hispanic plaintiffs, who were seeking to have the Justices of both courts elected in single member districts, with Texas to have been split up into a number of districts, at least one drawn with a Hispanic majority.

The Judge ruled while that both courts are overwhelmingly white, partisanship, rather than race, was the leading cause for that situation and thus the plaintiffs were not entitled to relief. I agree with the Judge both as to the judgement and for her reasoning behind the judgement.

Of course, I strongly oppose partisan elections as a means of selecting judges, but that is unlikely to change in Texas anytime soon.

(Note: Ramos is an Obama appointee and was active in Democratic politics prior to being appointed to the bench, so it can’t be said a Republican judge made this ruling. :smile: )

Or just wait a few years for demographic changes. :smile:

Seriously though, that is not the solution,not for Hispanics, not for Caucasians, not for Blacks, not for Texans in general.

The solution involves completely deep sixing Texas’ entire juiciary, from top to bottom completely rewriting the Texas Constituion and Texas statutes regarding the State judiciary. Abolish the entire existing court structure.

The model language I have written and proposed to several organizations that deal with this issue in the States includes the following proposals:

  1. A four tier court system, consisenting of a single Supreme Court with 100% discretionary jurisdiction with the sole exception of capital appeals which would be mandatory jurisdiction. Perhaps five to seven regional courts of appeals which would have mandatory appellate jurisdiction from the trial courts A number of Superior Courts (trial courts of general jurisdiction). Large counties would have their own Superior Courts with the appropriate number of judges while a number of smaller counties in rural areas might be grouped together to form a Superior Court district. Finally, each county would have a county court with the appropriate number of judges, the county court have limited jurisdiction over misdemeanors and small claims.

  2. I would use merit selection to appoint judges to all courts in the States. Merit selection panels, which would be required to have partisan balance and would be subject to supermajority rules for selecting finalists for each vacancy. They would present 3 finalists for each vacancy and the Governor would make the final choice from that list.

  3. Judges would be subject to voter retention at extended intervals and would be eligible to serve for life, should the voters continue to retain them.

  4. A Judicial Qualifications Commission (which would be required to have a partisan balance and acting under supermajority requirements) would investigate claims of malfeasance, incompetence or disability and could recommend forced retirement for disability and removal from office for malfeasence or incompetence and the State Supreme Court would have have the authority to remove or forcibly retire judges of the lower courts on the recommendation of the Commission, as is currently the case in Florida. The Legislature would have power to impeach and remove Supreme Court Justices for just cause on the recommendation of the Commission.

  5. Judges would have salary protection.

In any event, Texas, Pennsylvania and a number of other States require major changes to their judiciaries. The problems that exist are not ones a federal court could ever solve.

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