The Austin-American Statesman reports that Texas Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson called for Merit Selection during his biennial State of the Judiciary address to the legislature:
Jefferson reserved the bulk of his speech for what he called “the corrosive influence of money” in judicial elections. Polls show that more than 80 percent of Texans believe campaign contributions influence courtroom events, he said.
“That’s an alarming figure — four out of five,” Jefferson said. “If the public believes that judges are biased toward contributors, then confidence in the courts will suffer.”
Chief Justice Jefferson’s proposed solution is Merit Selection, and he follows in the footsteps of his predecessors who also criticized the judicial election system and called for reform.
As one court watcher, Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice, noted, ““Chief Justice Jefferson’s acknowledgement that the Texas judicial election system is broken is the first step in restoring faith in Texas courts.” As in Pennsylvania, reform in Texas requires a constitutional amendment. We hope the people will get to make the chance to decide for themselves whether to change the way judges are selected.
Tags: Austin-American Statesmen
, Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson
, Craig McDonald
, judicial elections
, Merit Selection
, other states
, Texans for Public justice
A new study by Texans for Public Justice finds that most of the money being contributed to the six candidates currently running for the Texas Supreme Court (three incumbents and three challengers) comes from lawyers and litigants who’ve had cases before the Court in the last three years. Lawyers and law firms litigating before the Court comprised the biggest group of campaign contributors.
Texas — like Pennsylvania — is one of a handful of states that elects all its judges in partisan elections. These elections have become increasingly expensive. As the new study demonstrates, the campaigns are funded in very large part by parties doing business before the state Supreme Court. This only serves to solidify the public perception that money matters and affects judicial decisionmaking.
The study did not analyze the outcomes of the cases at issue, but only the degree to which campaign contributors are involved in Supreme Court litigation. This focus highlights a major problem with electing judges — that campaign contributions foster a belief that “Justice is for Sale,” and weakens public confidence in the courts. It doesn’t really matter if campaign contributors are winning more frequently than other litigants; if the public believes they get a benefit, the damage is done.
Tags: campaign contributions
, partisan elections
, Texans for Public justice