By Ray Chávez
The national debate over the selection of the next Supreme Court Justice has grabbed the attention of the public because of the long ranging effects that will emerge from that selection. But while the national attention is warranted, Texas voters need to focus their attention closer to home.
Unlike the federal court, Texas has a two-court system to adjudicate final decisions on state matters. The Texas Supreme Court decides civil cases while the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals addresses criminal matters. Texans have an advantage over the nomination and confirmation process that is practiced at the federal level. Texas voters get to choose who is placed on the state’s highest courts.
Four justices face reelection in the all-Republican Supreme Court that has made a series of controversial decisions, including lifting a moratorium on evictions and limitation on voting by mail. Likewise, the justices of the Court of Criminal Appeals are also all-Republican, with three members up for re-election.
As observers of the national debate have seen, the party affiliation and political philosophy of judicial candidates matters. Conservatives are fond of saying that they will best serve the courts by Constitutional interpretation of the law in its various decisions. They claim that progressive justices will “legislate from the bench,” as if conservatives are above making decisions that are divorced from their own personal social orientation and biases. If you are a good judge of human behavior, you know that this party line is a myth.
What Texas needs and deserves are for its two courts of last resort to have a balance of judicial viewpoint. We don’t have that now with the current composition. The Democrats have offered up a slate of highly qualified candidates who deserve your attention and scrutiny. It is important that voters examine the qualifications of those fine candidates, including a Democratic candidate for Chief Justice of the 3rd Court of Appeals. Let’s bring some balance to our state courts in order to facilitate fair decisions.
Ray Chávez is a retired journalist and mass communications professor who lives in Buda.