May 10, 2002
Poll: Lawyers favor ending partisan judicial races

More than 80% of lawyers who responded to a survey favor ending partisan judicial elections. Those who voted for change were moderately in favor of merit appointments followed by retention elections over simple nonpartisan elections. I'm indifferent as to which alternative is better, but you don't have to watch too many TV ads for judges to think that anything has to be better than what we're doing now.

Neither party is too exercised about this poll:

"The survey is moderately interesting, but historically Texans have wanted partisan elections in courts," said Court Koenning, new executive director of the Republican Party of Harris County.

"It seems like a Democratic attempt to take the judiciary back," he said.

County Democratic Chair Sue Schechter, a lawyer who participated in the survey, questioned whether it accurately reflects lawyers' sentiments, given the low response rate. She said she's open to considering alternatives to the present system, but doesn't believe most voters are familiar with the merit option.

Changing the system would be politically difficult.

"Whoever is in power at the time is usually against changing the judicial selection," Schechter said.

Schecter's assertion about the party in power is certainly true. I just believe that a judge elected on a brand name - which is what a party is in this context - is a judge that's been elected for a bad reason. There's no way to fully avoid cronyism and coattails, but I believe minimizing those things is the right thing to do.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 10, 2002 to The great state of Texas