When U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz decries the “philosopher-kings” of the federal judiciary, he could just as easily be describing the pervasive problem of judges at all levels who are disconnected from the citizenry.
While the judicial canon of ethics rightfully restricts judges from pre-judging cases, many have taken to using it as pretext to wall themselves off from answering important questions about philosophy that guide voters decisions. These judicial candidates hold themselves out as inscrutable, standing at odds with the public’s right to know who they are hiring.
But that may be changing.
Incumbent Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett is a prolific user of Twitter. On the social media platform, followers gain insight not only to Willett’s quirky humor, but his constitutionally-grounded judicial philosophy. His efforts pulling back the curtain (if not, thankfully, the robe) has earned him kudos from across the ideological and political spectrum. Willett has single-handedly made the judiciary a little more accessible to the public.
And now SCOTX candidate Rick Green is taking the Willett formula to the next level. Green is challenging SCOTX incumbent Paul Green in the GOP primary. Both men have a lot going for them, though in different quantities. While we have not endorsed in the race, the endorsements the men have garnered provide insight into their political – and judicial – styles.
Paul Green has received endorsements from the usual players in the legal and business communities around the state. Texans for Lawsuit Reform and other incumbent-friendly interests are standing with Paul Green, seeing a reliable and predictable conservative jurist.
Meanwhile, Rick Green has been endorsed by most conservative grassroots groups in the state, including Texas Right to Life and the Texas Home School Association. Rick Green has made a conscientious effort to campaign directly to citizens, unabashedly brandishing his professional reputation as a constitutional scholar and historian.
But Rick Green’s campaign efforts have been focused where few judicial candidates have gone before: directly to the people.
Rick Green has issued a series of candid “behind the scenes” videos exploring life on the campaign trail for the Green family, hosted by his son. The unorthodox videos let voters see a side of judicial candidates (or any candidates, for that matter) rarely exposed. Rick Green is working from the premise that you can tell a lot about a man by his interactions with his family. Indeed, he is hoping voters will be able to see not just the political positions and judicial philosophy but also the values he is hoping to take to the state’s highest civil court.
Rather than judiciously talking down, the videos are meeting Texans at their level of interest in the court and educating them upward.
Whether or not Rick Green is successful at the March 1 ballot box, he has opened up the judiciary to a new, and welcome, kind of accessibility. One in which judicial candidates cannot hide behind a dusty set of 19th Century rules, but must face head-on the people they intend to sit in judgment over.