St. Mary's Law Journal


Charles Bleil


Judicial selection by popular election is no longer practical in Texas. Texans must question the adequacy of the Texas judicial selection process for the next century. The history of Texas has seen the implementation of various methods for selecting the judiciary. Initially, the creation of courts by the Republic of Texas’s Constitution required joint ballot of both houses of the Texas Congress to select judges. However, in 1876, Texas began holding elections for jurists by popular vote. This enactment was in response to the drafters’ desire to limit government intervention during the Reconstruction era. Although the suitability of popular election was proper for Texas during 1876, the current effectiveness of this system is questionable. The effect of several influences on the Texas’s judiciary during the past twenty years is evident. The emergence of Texas as a bipartisan state has had a noticeable impact on judicial elections because of party-line voting. Additionally, while the impact of catchy names has proven an important factor in recent judicial races, a catchy name has no relation to the quality of jurist. Finally, campaign costs for seats on the Texas Supreme Court have skyrocketed from $100,000 in the 1970’s to over $1 million dollars today. Further, criticism of special interest groups extending support to judicial candidates raises concerns of favoritism. Impartiality is of tantamount importance to a court. A fair and independent judge is critical within the judicial system to ensure constitutional due process. However, partisan elections coupled with special interest groups breeds distrust of the judiciary. Calls for reform have been unsuccessful. The current judicial selection method is outdated and inadequate to serve Texas today. A coalition of Texas citizens, including members of the bench and bar, is necessary to effectuate change.


St. Mary's University School of Law