December 04, 2007
It's official: Criss versus Yanez for Supreme Court Place 8

It appears that the Criss/Yanez dilemma, in which sitting Judges Susan Criss and Linda Yanez have announced their intention to run for the same State Supreme Court seat, will not come to a resolution that allows both candidates on the ballot in November. According to this subscriber-only Texas Lawyer article, the two tried to come to an agreement, but never could.

Yanez and Criss tried to mediate their differences in September. Yanez says Houston solo Barbara Radnofsky suggested the mediation, which Radnofsky conducted in her home.

Radnofsky, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, in 2006, confirms she conducted the mediation but declines further comment.

Yanez says the mediation lasted about four hours. "It didn't work," Yanez says, adding that Criss was set on running for the Place 8 seat.

"I told her then that I was not going to throw away thousands of dollars spent on campaign materials and petition-gathering to start over," Criss says.


Criss suggests that Yanez could make history by running for chief justice of the currently all-Republican Texas Supreme Court.

"There are no Hispanic chief justices on any Supreme Court in the country," Criss says. "She really could make history by becoming the first Hispanic chief justice."

Yanez calls that suggestion a gimmick. "This is a serious race," she says. "I am a serious candidate."

However, Criss says she didn't make the suggestion until after Yanez accused her of standing in the way of history by stopping Yanez from becoming the first Latina on the Texas Supreme Court. That occurred at a July meeting between the two candidates, Criss says.

That's not true, Yanez says. "When I give my speeches, I talk about the element of the historical significance of my race," she says. "But I have even gone so far as to say that is not the reason anybody should vote for me."

Yanez has made history in the past. Appointed to the 13th Court in 1993 by then-Gov. Ann Richards, Yanez is the first Hispanic woman to serve on an appeals court in Texas history, according to her biography posted on the 13th Court's Web site. The 13th Court sits in Corpus Christi and Edinburg.

When asked if she would consider switching races this year, Yanez responds, "Absolutely not. . . . I've announced for this seat, and I intend to file for it."

Criss, who voters first elected to the 212th District Court in 1998, says that Emmett Sheppard, then president of the Texas AFL-CIO, and Boyd Ritchie, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, asked her in late April to run for the state Supreme Court. That occurred on the last weekend in April, Criss says, noting that she had decided by the start of the next week to run for the Place 8 seat.

"I suggested that she run," Sheppard says of Criss.

"We encouraged her to run for the Supreme Court -- not any specific seat on the court -- the same as we encouraged Justice Linda Yanez," says Ritchie, the Young County attorney. "Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine they'd end up running for the same seat."

With all due respect, I think you need wilder dreams, Boyd. The seat they're both running for is held by an appointee, Philip Johnson, who beat a Libertarian in 2006 for the unexpired term of his office. The other two are held by justices who have already won a full term in a statewide race against a Democrat. Place 8 is the obvious first choice for anyone looking to run.

Criss says she suggested to Boyd that he call Yanez to get her to run for the Supreme Court.

A few weeks after deciding to run for Place 8, Criss says that she called Yanez and suggested that Yanez run for the Place 7 position held by Justice Dale Wainwright. "I told her, "I think this is our time,'" Criss recalls.

As we now know, and as the article discusses later, there are now two candidates running for Justice Wainwright's seat as well. It looks to me like Chief Justice Jefferson will get a pass, however.

I can't say I'm happy about the way this has turned out. It's good that we have well-qualified candidates who want to make statewide runs like these, and I hope the nature of this primary will help elevate the profile of each candidate. I'd still have preferred that one or the other of Criss and Yanez had chosen to run against Jefferson, but I can't tell from the story who decided on Place 8 first, and I can't blame either of them for wanting to stay put. So, let's fight it out, and may the best candidate win. According to her press release, Judge Yanez filed yesterday, and Judge Criss tells me she will file later this week. Assuming nothing changes, we should at least have ourselves an interesting race.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 04, 2007 to Election 2008

Criss decided on Pl 8 first.

Posted by: Jim Sharp on December 4, 2007 9:53 AM

Boyd Richie's office is saying that he scheduled a telephone conference between himself, Yanez, and Criss to see if this question of who was running for which office could be worked out. Apparently, Criss announced after Boyd had set up the meeting but before the meeting had occurred. Classy!

Before you assume that either Criss or Yanez would be a better judge than the incumbent, Judge Phil Johnson, please stop and read a few of Judge Johnson's opinions. He is probably the most even handed Judge on the Court. I know that it is in vogue to support or attack a judicial candidate along party lines, but Judge Johnson is fair and non-partisan.

Posted by: conservative democrat on December 4, 2007 5:28 PM