Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman stepping down


Eva Guzman

Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman is resigning from her post effective Friday.

She informed Gov. Greg Abbott of the decision in a letter sent Monday. The news was first reported by the Houston Chronicle.

“With utmost gratitude for the opportunity and gift of public service, I write to inform you that I am resigning from my office,” Guzman wrote in her letter to Abbott, a copy of which was obtained by The Texas Tribune. “It has been the honor of a lifetime to answer this high calling.”

Guzman, a Republican, was appointed to the post in 2009 by then-Gov. Rick Perry as the first Hispanic female on the court. She ran for a full six-year term the next year before winning reelection in 2016. Her second term would have ended Dec. 31, 2022.

Before Perry appointed her to the high court, Guzman served on the 309th District Court in Harris County and the Houston-based Fourteenth Court of Appeals.


In her letter to Abbott, Guzman did not state a reason for her resignation, fueling speculation that she may have aspirations to run for another office during the 2022 election cycle.

Her resignation will create a vacancy on the state’s highest civil court, which Abbott will be able to fill with an appointment. The court is currently occupied by all Republicans.

I’ll get to the Chron story in a minute, but first two things to note. One is that Guzman was the high scorer in the 2016 election, winning 4,884,441 total votes. That’s over 75K more than the next highest candidate (Debra Lehrmann), and 200K more votes than Donald Trump. She was the strongest Republican in Latino districts, which is not a surprise. If she is running for something else, she will be harder to beat than most. Two, note that at every step of the way – district court, 14th Court of Appeals, Supreme Court – she was appointed first, and ran for a full term later. She’s far from unique in this, of course, I just noted it in this story. The ability to fill judicial vacancies is an underrated power of the Governor’s office. One does wonder what all the incumbent Republican judges and justices who are ready to step down and take a higher-paying job will do when the Democrats finally take that office.

And it usually is for a payday, if it’s not for retirement, when a judge or justice steps down like this. In this case, as that Chron story notes, the speculation is that she wants to run for something else.

One race that Guzman could be contemplating began heating up last week: the Republican primary for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s seat. Land Commissioner George P. Bush — whose uncle, former Gov. George W. Bush, first appointed Guzman to the 309th District Court in Harris County in 1999 — opened up his campaign last week.

AG makes the most sense, at least in the abstract. I mean, she’s not going to run for Ag Commissioner. The question to me is, does she get into the “I Will Gladly Debase Myself For Donald Trump’s Endorsement” sweepstakes, or does she position herself as the non-Trump candidate, with actual accomplishments and conservative bona fides? This is where I admit I’m giving this speculation the side-eye. It’s hard to imagine, at this late date and with no record of sucking up to Trump in the past, that she could out-sycophant either Ken Paxton or George P. Bush. It’s also hard to imagine that there’s enough Republican primary voters who will prefer a non-Trump candidate in this – or almost any – race. I mean, you know who else didn’t do so well in that CD06 special election? Mike Wood, the anti-Trump Republican in that race, who got a whopping 3.2% of the vote. Eva Guzman would do better than that, but I see her as the odd person out in a three-or-more-way race. There’s no evidence that there’s a constituency for that kind of candidate, and as noted it’s awfully late for her to claim to be The One True Trump Candidate. Maybe I’m missing something – maybe she thinks the Lege will draw a Congressional district for her – but I don’t see how this makes sense. We’ll see if I’m right.

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6 Responses to Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman stepping down

  1. Kibitzer Curiae says:


    This kibitzer was very surprised by the announcement and initially thought she had been forced out to make room for another Republican in line for a judicial re-appointment (now that the appellate reorganization bid has failed as a scheme for the re-employment of GOP jurists who had been voted off their benches).

    Guzman is the most senior associate justice on SCOTX, so you could say she was next in line to be eased out to make room at the top, but she wasn’t appointed by Abbott and didn’t owe him any favors. And position 1 (Chief) is not currently open.

    Note also that — unlike Justice Green and Phil Johnson — she resigned before the end of the court’s term (not just her own term of office) and with less than a week’s notice. Strange! — Which raises the possibility that there were personal rather than political reasons, and that those personal reasons (if applicable) have their own timing dynamics.


    Form a strategic perspective, it would have made sense for Abbott to persuade Chief Nathan Hecht to resign, promote Guzman to Chief – to general awe and acclaim – which would then still create another high court vacancy on Guzman’s current slot. If that one gets filled with some current Republican sitting on a court of appeals, say Jeff Alley in El Paso or Randy Wilson in Houston, Abbott can place another recent ballot-box rejectee on the appellate vacancy thus created.  It would be another round of the game of “musical benches”.

    But Chief Hecht likely feels that his leadership is still indispensable to the flourishing of the State of Texas and its jurisprudence.  

    We can agree with Kuff that Attorney General would be a better fit for a SCOTX justice looking for a second career than any of the other statewide executive-branch offices (not to mention Abbott himself serving as precedent), but that job would hardly appeal to Guzman.

    After all, AG is a much more political position than that of a judge, and would make her the target of political controversy, which — unlike Ken Paxton — she won’t relish. If she were to go that route, however, she would have a fair chance to beat Paxton, or perhaps eliminate him in the first round of the primary. If she makes it through the primary stage, her prospects would be good for the general election, even if the GOP’s lead in the statewide tally were to diminish across the board. She has many things in her favor, including some measure of cross-party appeal.

    If the wish for a bigger paycheck played any role at all, the obvious choice would be to join a leading law firm. That’s where other SCOTX retirees can be found, chiefs included. If memory serves right, WBJ wasn’t even shy about letting it be known that he wanted to make more money when he stepped down prematurely, clearing the throne for the ascension of Nathan Hecht.

    My best bet is for Guzman to put in a bid for Chief Justice once Hecht resigns or has to retire for reasons of age. Fifth Circuit and SCOTUS are not realistic prospects in the short run.

    A final thought: What about that new statewide appellate court for government-entity litigation? Did that make it to the Governor’s desk?

    Such as start-up specialty court would be a perfect stepping stone for chief of the Supreme Court once Hecht is gone. 

  2. Lobo says:


    Forget the armchair scenario above! Senate Bill 1529 by Huffman, relating to the creation of a statewide “Texas Court of Appeals” to hear certain cases, was passed by the Senate, but died in the House.


    Re: “Mike Wood, the anti-Trump Republican in that race, who got a whopping 3.2% of the vote.”

    Comment: That’s not a suitable comparison. And here is why:

    1. It wasn’t a primary, so Democratic votes were part of the 100% of all votes. A fairer comparison of the Wood’s performance would be to express his 2,503 votes as a percentage of all votes cast for Republican candidates in that contest, or to compare it to the number of votes received by the Trump-endorsee.

    2. There were 11 Republican candidates competing for Republican votes. There 10 Dems and 2 others, for a total of 23. Obviously, there won’t be that many candidates to challenge Paxton in the GOP primary.

    3. The primary for Attorney General will be statewide while the congressional district 6 special election was a district election spanning three Texas counties with very small numbers. Per SOS results, the race total was 78,471.

    The two top scorers got 15,077 and 10,865, respectively.


    As I argued yesterday on the Buckingham for Land Commissioner story, it was folly on the part of the Texas Democratic to have 10 Dems compete in that race, which the Dems could have won because there were so many Republican candidates (11) to fragment the GOP electorate in the district.

    Instead of two Dems coasting into the run-off (which would have assured victory for one of them), we now have two Republicans, and they advanced with less than 20% each from the first round.

  3. Mainstream says:

    If she chooses to seek the Attorney General position, I think she would be the leading contender for most Republicans. Bush has baggage with many activists related to his handling of the Alamo, the recent failure to provide much flooding funding to Houston, and just the disdain of many activists for the Bush family. Paxton has the multiple corruption probes and upcoming trial.

    My only concern for Guzman is whether she can win over the rural GOP voters who may see Paxton as a warrior for their causes, and who may be resistant to a female or a Latina. I recall that incumbent Justice Medina was defeated by an Anglo in the GOP primary, albeit after some allegations about some improper behavior. I also think I recall appointed incumbent Judge Xavier Rodriguez lost to an Anglo in the GOP statewide primary. Both Anglo victors were well known in GOP activist circles.

    The only statewide victory for a Hispanic Republican against an Anglo I can recall is Alberto Gonzales, an appointed incumbent running as Al Gonzales who won 58-42 over Rod Gorman, but only after huge expense for television advertising. Former Chief Justice Tom Phillips has noted that in the 8 media markets where Gonzales did not advertise he lost 56-44 percent. Gorman was an unknown with no funding.

  4. Jerry E Patterson says:

    I’m willing to bet she’s running for AG, and I’m willing to be she wins the primary (in a run-off) as Bush and Paxton beat the crap out of each other in that primary. She doesn’t have to play in that dog fight, allowing the other two to do all the negative attacks on each other.

  5. Kibitzer Curiae says:


    Buzzard No. 2, Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, began circling this week, telling Gov. Greg Abbott that she’ll retire, effective Friday, and leaving her intentions unannounced — except for a broad scattering of hints from political allies that she wants to be the first female attorney general in state history. The justices on the state’s highest civil court aren’t high-profile political celebrities, but Guzman is following the same path that moved U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Abbott from the court into higher office. Each won the AG post from the court and flew on to their current perches from there.

    – Analysis brought to you paywallfree by Ross Ramsey over at the Texas Trib.


    Here is Kibitzer’s update on the prior ruminations, see supra.

    Law . com has provided a link to Justice Guzman’s actual resignation letter, dated June 7, 2021. – Thanks in the name of the general public, not the mention the Armchair Speculariat.

    Let’s just say that there is nothing conspicuously unusual here, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing at all to provide fodder for speculation:

    1. As already mentioned, the amount of notice was minimal: Less than a week, and this abruptness will likely disrupt the workflow on the Court unless this has been cleared with Abbott, who may be poised to replace her with dispatch. Surely, there is already a stack of supplicants from prior competitions for judicial vacancies in the hopper, so this high-court selection process wouldn’t have to commence from scratch. Still, this is unusual. — What will happen with her current cohort of law clerks? What about any cases assigned for a first opinion draft pending in her chambers? What could have precipitated the rush out the door?

    2. The resignation is effective Friday, but the letter is also specific as to the time: 3 PM. That could matter because Friday is opinion-release day and they hand them down in the morning with clockwork regularity at 9 AM. So, the afternoon date for departure would allow for final Guzman work product to be issued in the morning, with a few hours to spare for public reaction and opportunity for corrections or retraction as a safeguard, just in case. If a going-away deliverance by Guzman takes the form of a punching dissent or spirited concurrence, it might fuel theories that discord on the court might have something to do with her abrupt toss of the towel.

    3. Finally, there is a glaring omission. She thanks the people of Texas — more than once — but has nothing good or graceful to say about her colleagues, or the chief, for that matter. Instead she refers to the ecology of her workplace only institutionally (the highest civil court and the judiciary, which incudes the 2 lower courts, for a combined total of 22 years of public service). Rather than expressing appreciation for the privilege of serving in such distinguished company, she instead congratulates herself for her leadership on two SCOTX-sponsored commissions that have no direct bearing on the jurisprudence of the state or the work of her peers.

    While — temperamentally speaking — Guzman may not seem well suited for the office of AG, at least not in the combative mode of Ken Paxton, she does have an interest in the quality of the state’s public policy. Those interests found expression in some of her writings on a high court that regularly — however disingenuously — disavows a policy-making role for public consumption.

    It may be the case that they are all textualists now, but text fetishism is a different matter. Guzman has a deeper commitment to the public good that goes beyond word games and Oxford commas. She is not one of those who would eagerly let the law be an ass.

    Another high office may provide an opportunity to be both more creative and less constrained, and have a greater and more lasting impact on the lives of Texans without having to seek consensus among peers with divergent judicial role conceptions.

    Stay tuned.

    Literary reference:

    Fun Fact from Eva Guzman, via her twitter: “Unlike SCOTUS, #SCOTX opinion assignments are made by random draw. We blind draw the cases, which are written on blue index cards, in reverse seniority order. The draw is like a box of chocolates: “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

  6. Pingback: Guzman to run for AG – Off the Kuff

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