A House committee on April 15 heard testimony on a bill that would create an interim committee to study how district judges and appellate jurists are selected for office.
House Bill 2772 author Rep. Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, told members of the House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee that he’s not suggesting he has “the magic pill” to solve the issue.
“But I think through a bipartisan commission that would include both members of the Senate and the House, that we could come up with some good ideas, a good dialog at least, for coming back in 2015 and hopefully addressing it then,” said Rodriguez, a San Antonio solo.
HB 2772 instructs the committee to study “the fairness, effectiveness, and desirability” of partisan judicial elections; judicial selection in other states; and alternative methods. Among others, HB 2772 says the committee must study lifetime appointment, and appointment followed by either a partisan election, a nonpartisan election or a nonpartisan retention election. The committee would have to issue recommendations in a January 2015 report.
144th District Judge Angus McGinty said that current judicial elections sometimes result in qualified judges, but unqualified people also get elected.
“I would urge you to consider how important a role a judge plays in our community,” said McGinty. “Judges certainly need to be experienced. I don’t know if this study will resolve all the issues, but it certainly is a step in the right direction.”
David Slayton, administrative director of the Texas Office of Court Administration, said that the Texas Judicial Council, the policymaking body of the Texas judiciary, has recommended since 1934 that the state reform judicial selection. In each legislative session since 1993, lawmakers have filed bills about judicial selection, but none passed, said Slayton.