Advocate editorial board opinion: We should appoint state judges, not elect them

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Sept. 13, 2010 at 4:13 a.m.

We have suggested it before, but we think state judges should be appointed based on their merit, not elected.

Our recent visit with Judge Mike Keasler, who teaches judicial ethics and is a judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, last week brought to mind this issue.

We certainly thank Judge Keasler for the visit and we appreciate his educating us about the judicial system.

How we should select judges in our judicial system -- should we elect them or have them appointed based on their merit?

As Judge Keasler noted, most people don't know that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals exists.

It is a high court like the Texas Supreme Court that the judges deal with crime, and the judges are elected. Yet who knows who the judges are in this court?

And should these judges be identified as a member of some political party?

Judge Keasler said his court is one of great importance, disposing about 10,000 cases a year, including all of the death penalty cases.

But when voters vote, it's like playing roulette because generally voters don't know anything about the judges they elect.

"What's too bad is a person can just jump up and run," Keasler said.

"With appointment, at least you have to go through a vetting process." He added that the code of judicial conduct has in it to try to separate judges from just normal politicans.

Quoting Supreme Court Judge Sandra Day O'Connor, Keasler said, "The very election of judges compromises neutrality."

We agree. We think like Keasler, that the governor with senate confirmation should appoint judges. This type of selection would demand accountability and provide independence for the judges.

We certainly endorse Judge Keasler's views on selecting judges. And we urge our lawmakers to effect some change in the process of judge selection.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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