Say what you will about the judges on Texas' highest criminal court, but one thing is common to all nine members of the Court of Criminal Appeals -- they rarely leave their jobs voluntarily.
In fact, a majority of the judges on the bench were first elected to the court in the 1990s and its last member to leave, Charles Holcomb, did so because he’d reached the age limit for serving on the court.
So it came as a bit of a surprise that three of the court’s judges, Cathy Cochran, Paul Womack and Tom Price, made it known they are not seeking reelection when their terms end in 2014. And there’s also a common reason the three judges are not seeking reelection, Cochran says.
“I think all three of us do not want to run another election. We’re tired of that,” Cochran says.
Contrast the CCA with the Texas Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson announced his retirement recently, noting that he’d served with 21 different justices since he was first appointed to the state’s highest civil court in 2001. Many of Jefferson’s colleagues left for private practice, were appointed or sought higher office, or were defeated.
“We’re known as the stealth court for a reason,” Cochran says of the CCA. “Our court is not a stepping stone to something else. It’s an end of itself-- there’s no grand ambition to leave. And nobody loses because no one pays attention to the court,’’ she says.
However, it’s the right place for judges and aspiring jurists who love criminal law, she says -- another reason Cochran says and she and her fellow soon-to-be-departed judges want to alert their potential replacements.
“We want our court to have good and competent people when we leave and we wanted people to have time to think about it,” she says.
As for Womack, he says it's just time to go.
"I’m 66 and I’ll be 67 before my term ends," Womack says. "It just seems like retirement time for me.’’
Price did not immediately return a call for comment.
-- John Council