March 04, 2003
Appoint or elect?

It's interesting to see this article about bills in the Texas Senate to replace the current system of electing statewide judges with appointments and retention elections.

Currently, all Texas judges are elected. Even if appointed by the governor to fill a vacancy, a judge eventually must run in an election to keep the post.

Under Senate Bill 794, the governor's nominations would go to the Texas Senate for approval or rejection.

After an initial term an appointed judge would face a "retention election," in which voters could opt to keep the judge or toss him or her out of office based on performance. There would be no candidate running against the judge in that election.

"The most formidable opponent can be yourself," said Rep. Elizabeth Jones, R-San Antonio, who is sponsoring House Bill 1511 in the Texas House.

I support this effort, though I'd like to see more than one retention election per judge. There's an awful lot of money that goes into our judicial elections, and money from special interest groups have had a big effect on judicial races. You can never remove the influence of money on judicial selections, but I do think this plan would at least dilute it somewhat.

You may wonder why, in a state that has an all-Republican government, I wouldn't be more wary about letting the Governor pick judges for the Senate to approve. Well, I figure we've already elected Sharon Keller, so how much worse could this system be?

Despite the bipartisan support that this bill has, I give it at best a 50-50 chance of passing since both state political parties oppose it, presumably because this would decrease their own influence. But I'll allow myself to be pleasantly surprised.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 04, 2003 to The great state of Texas | TrackBack