November 05, 2008
My court will go on

The Chron reprises a theme it sounded prior to the election.

The mood was somewhat somber and confused today at the Harris County Civil Courthouse, a day after voters gave nearly half the incumbents their walking papers.

"Though we anticipated it would be close, to see really good judges swept out is still stunning," said civil District Judge Patricia Kerrigan, a Republican who, with all precincts reporting, had more than a 2,500-vote lead.


The straight-party Democratic voting that ushered in a new batch of civil and criminal district judges in Harris County was not the surprise. It was why the three civil-court Republicans who survived were able to do so.

"It doesn't seem that qualifications were the criteria voters used," said Kerrigan. "There are some very good judges who were voted out."

I'm going to say this again, for what I hope will need to be the last time: Did anyone who is expressing all this worry now do the same thing back in 1994 when the Republican wave swept out one experienced Democratic judge after another? The reason for it then was the same as the reason for it now - a change in the county's partisan mix brought about by demographic and cultural trends that culminated in the election. The courts survived this mass exodus fourteen years ago, and it will survive it now, and again in 2010 if we see a repeat. I for one will not be losing any sleep over this now that these trends favor my party.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 05, 2008 to Election 2008

The Chronicle should have asked judge kerrigan to define what she means by "very good judges." Her definition of a very good judge may be judges who go out of their way to protect corporations and insurance companies at the expense of injured texans. These judges that were booted out the door now have to go back to the real world of the legal profession. LOL

Posted by: cb on November 5, 2008 5:58 PM

"It doesn't seem that qualifications were the criteria voters used," said Kerrigan. "There are some very good judges who were voted out."

Yes, some judges who were deemed "very good" by Texans for Lawsuit "Reform" were defeated. The reason the survivors were not defeated? Take a look at the names of the candidates who lost: Andres Pereira; Goodwille Pierre; Ashish Mahendra; and Mekisha Murray. Care to draw any conclusions as to the criteria used?

Posted by: Temple Houston on November 5, 2008 6:26 PM

Michael and I were talking about this last night. Wasn't 1994 the year that brought us John Devine over Eileen O'Neill, speaking of qualified judges?

If people are concerned about partisan sweeps of good judges, maybe we should rethink how we elect judges.

Posted by: Ginger Stampley on November 5, 2008 6:57 PM

Methinks Kerrigan doth protest too much. But beyond that reality, the partisan labeling and election of judges is flawed beyond comprehension. It's time for non-partisan appointment of judges by non-partisan committees. If Justice is blind it must also be non-partisan.

Posted by: Terry Harr on November 5, 2008 8:49 PM

Please can we now stop doing judical races by partisan politics? I am somewaht embarrassed to be a Texas attorney, and forced every two years to endure fund raising appeals from Judges before whose courts I have cases pending.

I have never been able successfully explain to a client the difference between bribery and campaign contribution solicitation. My own policy is that I simply refuse on moral and ethical grounds to donate to the campaign fund of any candidate for judicial office.

It is so odd how the "but everybody does it" justification is employed by adult Texans to defend this system while those same adults with a somewhat straight face express horror at the surrender to peer pressure teenages use to explain drug use, teen sex and other "moral lapses" which pale in significance when compared to jusdicial campaign contributions.

The Texas Judicial election process is a farce and a stain on the integrity our legal system. Just say no.

Posted by: Othniel on November 6, 2008 9:08 AM

** I for one will not be losing any sleep over this now that these trends favor my party. **

Is there any reader here who thought you would be losing sleep over this? :)

Temple Houston makes a plausible suggestion in response to the question raised by the article, no?

As for non-partisan committees -- they tend to sound great, but in reality, we live in a partisan world and parties serve a useful function in our political system. I would suggest that non-partisan technocratic governance by committee may not be as non-partisan in practice as in theory, and may bring its own drawbacks. These are worth considering before radical change, no?

Posted by: Kevin Whited on November 6, 2008 10:11 AM

I don't say this very often, but I agree with Kevin. I do not believe there would be a real non-partisan panel in practice - there would be way too much pressure to influence its methodology by those with partisan interests. And if the process is going to be affected by partisan interests, it may as well all be out in the open, which leaves us where we started.

Which brings me back to my original point: Why all the hand-wringing about this now? I do recall some people expressing these concerns back in 1994. They were mostly Democrats, and the Republicans scoffed at them. We survived then, we'll survive now.

Ginger - Yes, that was the year "Devine intervention" was visited upon us. When Gary Polland apologizes for that, I'll entertain notions of how to ensure quality judges stay on the bench in times pf partisan changes.

One more thing, in re: Temple's comment. In 2004, the low scorer among Democratic judicial candidates was a fellow named Zone Nguyen. He was an outstanding candidate, who was at the time working in the Advocate General's office in the Army at Guantanamo. Maybe if more people had known his qualifications, he'd have gotten more votes. If anyone knows how to better educate the populace on races like these, I'm all ears.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on November 6, 2008 11:35 AM

I've really never seen any good way to inform the electorate about judicial races. It's one thing if you live in a small county with a few judges that you might know personally, or someone you know might know personally. But even experienced litigators in Harris County often feel uninformed when it comes to making judicial selections in so many races. I can't see how the average citizen can hope to do so, other than reading endorsements and the bar poll.

Posted by: Kenneth Fair on November 6, 2008 1:35 PM
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