Movement on changing judicial selection in Texas House and Senate

Not to pick on Texas two days in a row, but the state’s House and Senate are both moving on judicial selection at a rapid clip.

On May 3 the Senate State Affairs Committee approved SB 103, a law that would end straight ticket voting for the state’s judicial offices. As I mentioned, the state’s Chief Justice has been asking for an end to the practice for years and the use of straight ticket voting has been cited as a reason for entire counties to clear their bench (i.e. remove all Democrats for Republicans or all Republicans for Democrats) in the last several years.

The other piece of legislation was HB 2772, approved May 2 by the full House. The bill directs the creation of a committee to examine judicial selection in the state. Specifically the committee is to look at

  1. lifetime appointment
  2. appointment for a term
  3. appointment for a term, followed by a partisan election
  4. appointment for a term, followed by a nonpartisan election
  5. appointment for a term, followed by a nonpartisan retention election
  6. partisan election for an open seat, followed by a nonpartisan retention election for incumbents
  7. any other method or combination of methods for selecting district judges and appellate judges and justices.

The committee is made up exclusively of members of the legislature

  • chair of the senate jurisprudence committee
  • chair of the senate criminal justice committee
  • four senators appointed by the lieutenant governor
  • chair of the judiciary and civil jurisprudence committee of the house of representatives
  • chair of the criminal jurisprudence committee of the house of representatives
  • four members of the house of representatives appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives

The committee would have until January 6, 2015 to come up with a recommendation.