Evaluating Judicial Selection in Texas: A Comparative Study of State Judicial Selection Methods
AUSTIN—The Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) Foundation has released its latest paper, “Evaluating Judicial Selection in Texas: A Comparative Study of State Judicial Selection Methods,” an in-depth study comparing the methods used by various states to select their judges.
“The law is the bedrock of our society, and judges are the guardians of the rule of law. If they do not apply the law in a competent, efficient and impartial manner, the public’s trust in the rule of law will erode,” TLR Foundation President Hugh Rice Kelly said. “There is no perfect system for selecting judges. While it is not the purpose of this paper to make specific proposals for establishing a new system of judicial selection in Texas, we do believe that our current system of partisan election of judges does not place merit at the forefront of the selection process. The intent of this paper is to help inform Texans and the Legislature of the judicial selection methods used across the country as Texas engages in a public debate on how judges will be chosen in the future.”
The 86th Legislature passed House Bill 3040, creating a commission to study how the state should select its judges in the future. The commission will have 15 members: four appointed by the governor, four appointed by the lieutenant governor, four appointed by the speaker, and one each appointed by the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the board of directors of the State Bar of Texas.
Texas is one of only six states that uses partisan elections to select all of its judges. Other methods of selection include nonpartisan elections, gubernatorial appointments, legislative appointments or some combination of these methods. Each selection model has its own advantages and disadvantages, which are discussed at length in the foundation’s paper.
The Texas judiciary is prone to partisan sweeps that remove jurists from office based on prevailing top-of-the ballot politics rather than the competence or experience of judges.
The TLR Foundation conducts and supports academically sound, impartial and non-partisan research, study, analysis and writing related to the justice system in Texas. Research is conducted by lawyers, scholars, analysts and professionals with experience and expertise in the areas being researched and reported. The foundation’s published research and reports are posted on its website and are available to the public. The purpose of the foundation’s activities is public education on matters concerning the Texas justice system, including its statutory and common law, its regulations and administrative agencies, and the organization and operation of its courts.