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Harriet O’Neill

Perry appoints Lehrmann

No surprise at all.

Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Judge Debra Lehrmann to the Place 3 seat that Harriet O’Neill will soon vacate on the Texas Supreme Court. Lehrmann, a Fort Worth District Court judge, won the Republican nomination for that seat in a runoff against former state Rep. Rick Green, R-Dripping Springs.

This is exactly what I expected when Justice O’Neill announced she was stepping down. Any other outcome would have been a huge upset.

O’Neill to resign from Supreme Court

State Supreme Court Justice Harriet O’Neill, who announced last year that she would not run for re-election, has now announced that she will step down from the Court in June.

She told Gov. Rick Perry and the other members of the court today that she will step down from the bench on June 20.

O’Neill, a Republican initially elected to the court in 1998, has been a judge for 18 years. She announced last year she wouldn’t seek reelection and there’s been wide speculation that she would leave the court before her term ends in January. The governor gets to appoint someone to serve the rest of the term. Among the choices are the three candidates who’ve been nominated by the major parties: Republican Debra Lehrmann, Democrat Jim Sharp, and Libertarian William Bryan Strange III. Perry isn’t bound to choose any of them, but naming, say, Lehrmann, would give her the fundraising advantages of an incumbent appellate judge.

I think the odds that Perry names Lehrmann to replace O’Neill are approximately 100%, unless Lehrmann for some odd reason asks not to be named. Honestly, there’s no good reason for him to do otherwise. As an added bonus, he’d then get to name Lehrmann’s successor to her District Court bench in Tarrant County. Barring anything strange, I don’t see how this doesn’t happen.

Brister retiring from Supreme Court

A second State Supreme Court justice will not be on the ballot next fall.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Scott Brister will leave the court for private practice next month, he announced Monday.

Brister, a former Harris County civil district court judge and a former judge on the 14th District Court of Appeals in Houston, opens the door for Gov. Rick Perry to appoint someone to fill the rest of his term. That appointee could then run for office as an incumbent in November 2010.

Perry appointed Brister to the Texas Supreme Court in 2003 to fill an unexpired term. Then he was elected to a six-year term that runs through 2010.


Brister will stay in Austin, heading the appellate practice for Andrews Kurth. The firm’s news release states Brister will also have a litigation and alternative dispute resolution practice.

“It was time for me to move on and give someone else the opportunity to serve,” Brister said in a news release from the court.

As the story notes, Brister’s colleague Harriet O’Neill is not running for re-election but will serve out her full term. Brister had very little money in his campaign coffers, so this should not come as a surprise. As with O’Neill’s retirement, it is another opportunity for the Democrats.

UPDATE: Perry has more.

State Supreme Court Justice Harriet O’Neill not running for re-election

Trail Blazers reports that State Supreme Court Justice Harriet O’Neill will not run for re-election in 2010. They have a statement from her, which I’ve placed beneath the fold. Two things to note about this: One, as she did not say she was resigning, this will be an actual open seat on the ballot. In the recent past, judges who intended to leave have stepped down beforehand – sometimes with extremely propitious timing – so that a replacement could be named who would then get to run as an incumbent in the next election. Nobody will have that advantage this time as things stand now, so her bench becomes a very attractive electoral target. Expect there to be a contested primary on both sides for this one. Two, as we saw in my TEC reports spreadsheet, O’Neill had the most cash on hand among the Republican judges that are up for election next year; despite not raising any money this year, for reasons that are now apparent, O’Neill had $95K in the bank. Paul Green has $52K and Scott Brister under $10K. You couldn’t ask for a more level playing field than this to start out, which is good news for whoever eventually runs for these seats. In the meantime, my best wishes to Justice O’Neill in her retirement and whatever she chooses to do next.