We probably don’t say it frequently enough, but Texans have a really good thing in the Texas Supreme Court.
In spite of several changes in the lineup in the recent past (Justices Bland, Blacklock, Huddle, Busby, and Young have all come on board in the last few years), the Court has not missed a step. Its opinions demonstrate a consistently impressive level of scholarship, wisdom, and awareness of the sanctity of the impartial administration of justice. They also witness a profound respect for the rule of law and the co-equal functions of the three branches of government under the Texas Constitution. Though we may not agree with every decision the Court hands down, every decision is solidly grounded in the law and based on rigorous legal analysis.
More generally, that our judicial system can operate at such a high level given its meager resources testifies to the leadership of Chief Justice Hecht, the longest serving state high court justice in the nation. It’s easy to forget that the Chief Justice, as well as other members of the Court, have responsibilities that go far beyond deciding cases. Texas has one of the most, if not the most, decentralized and diffuse court systems in the country, a legacy of our immense geographical size and healthy suspicion of centralized authority. The Court sits at the top of a pyramid with a somewhat disproportionately wide base, and exerting influence on that base is an endless exercise of tact, practical politics, and sensitivity to local needs. There is friction, to be sure, but the integrity and serious intent that the Court has long demonstrated with regard to improving the judicial system for all Texans cannot be gainsaid.
We could go on. In an era in which trust in government is scraping the bottom of the barrel and our politics seem hopelessly polarized, Texas is blessed to have an institution that functions not only as our founders intended but better than they could have hoped. TCJL and its members have made it the top priority of the organization to support the efforts of the Court and the judiciary to build an even stronger and more sustainable judicial system that can serve the needs of nearly 30 million Texans. But none of that will do any good if the people responsible for leading this system can’t get out of their own way or become distracted by partisan politics or ideological chimeras.
We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Chief Justice Hecht and Justices Lehrmann, Boyd, Devine, Blacklock, Busby, Bland, Huddle, and Young. Each has traded a successful and financially rewarding career in private practice for public service. They don’t do it for political glory—hardly anyone in the state even knows their names. They do it because they know that our liberties and way of life are only as sustainable as the judiciary that protects them.