The Senate State Affairs Committee will hear two approaches to judicial selection reform at its hearing on Monday, April 1. SJR 34 and SB 577 by Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) establish an “appoint-elect-retain” system for selecting state district and appellate judges and justices. Under the proposal, a judge or justice would initially stand for office in a partisan election, followed by periodic retention elections thereafter. In the event of a vacancy, the gubernatorial appointee would run in the next general election in a partisan ballot, with subsequent retention elections. TCJL has historically supported this approach as the best way to balance the public policy objectives of an independent, accountable, and qualified judiciary and will register support at Monday’s hearing.
The other judicial selection bill on Monday’s schedule is SB 103 by Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston). SB 103 removes judicial offices from the straight-party voting, requiring voters to cast their ballots for each judicial office. The bill is aimed at mitigating the effects of straight-party voting, particularly in presidential election years, thus reducing the potential for sweeping qualified judges out of office every four years.
The hearing will take place in the Senate Chamber at 2 p.m. or on adjournment of the Senate. TCJL urges its members to register in support of SJR 34 and SB 577.