Friday, March 02, 2018

Texas judicial elections broken but far from radar screen of legislative power brokers

Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention even if I haven't found time to author full posts on the topic.

Dallas DA race coverage
InJustice Today has a good piece summarizing the race from a reformer perspective.

Texas judicial elections broken but far from radar screen of legislative power brokers
The Baker Institute makes the case against electing Texas judges. Is anybody listening? According to the author, Mark Jones, "Texas is one of only two states that initially elects and then re-elects its judges in partisan elections where voters have the option of casting a straight-ticket vote." Notably, one of Texas' most distinguished jurists, Elsa Alcala is voting with her feet, leaving the Court of Criminal Appeals in large part because the election system is broken, as she told the Texas Tribune:
“Either [people] don’t vote in the race, or they vote based on familiar-sounding names,” Alcala said. “It’s not an educated vote in many instances.”

It’s largely why she’s leaving the court. Alcala was appointed to her position in 2011 by former Gov. Rick Perry, then elected to a six-year term the next year. When she announced in 2016 that she wouldn’t run again, she said a main reason was the “random and unreliable” results in partisan judicial elections.
See coverage of both competitive CCA primaries from the Austin Statesman. Meanwhile, out of state money is fueling a judicial candidate in the GOP primary for the Austin 3rd Court of Appeals who's running on a Trumpian, culture-war-style platform. And another Tribune story suggests qualified judges with Hispanic surnames have trouble making it through the GOP primary.

Systemic problems at juvenile justice agency
Texans Care for Children has a detailed blog post up on problems with Texas youth prisons and how to solve them. Notable quote: "When news breaks of staff abuses in these facilities, or even youth misbehaving, it's immediately labeled a crisis or a scandal. But in reality, it's not a new crisis. We are looking at a systemic problem."


Gadfly said...

The elimination of straight-ticket voting will help.

Otherwise, I like New Mexico's retention election system.

john said...

because judges become so often arrogant, stupid and crooked--notably when they're lawyers--perhaps there should be even more totally-random voting, to block the power build-ups. The judges are just going to rule against We The Poor People, so change them out as often as possible. They often only go by the written laws when it's expedient, for THEM.
The longer they are in power, the more they realize they can expand it. They become politicians!!
SURE, the public is affected by the media, by name recognition/celebrity. He who can afford the most advertising wins. TV ads are priced way out of the range of folks or small businesses, so big corporations and other special interests rule.
Every step of "law enforcement" has become politicized; anyone who gets power seems to want more.
UNELECT THEM ALL; VOTE FOR NO INCUMBENT. This is why ballots usually don't indicate who the incumbent is, or folks might vote that way, rather than by name recognition.

Anonymous said...


If the State Commission on Judicial Conduct (SCJC) were more active and transparent, and judges were denied immunity, then they would be more accountable for their actions. Hit their paychecks and then will begin to follow law.