While a state commission appears poised to recommend the end of partisan judicial election in the state of Texas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is pushing back.
The Judicial Selection Commission was created during the recent legislative session to “study and review the method by which statutory county court judges, including probate court judges; district judges; and appellate justices and judges are selected for office in Texas.”
The commission consists of four members from each the Texas House and the Texas Senate, as well as various citizen members, and is chaired by David Beck, a trial attorney and member of the University of Texas Board of Regents appointed by Abbott.
After their initial meeting earlier this week, it appears most members of the commission are prepared to recommend doing away with partisan judicial elections, with only State Sen. Joan Huffman (R–Houston) showing any hesitation and some news outlets forecasting the change as a done deal.
On Friday, however, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released a statement fighting back against those reports and outlaying his opposition.
“I was surprised by news reports today indicating there may be support for abandoning the longtime democratic practice of partisan election of judges by the Texas Commission on Judicial Selection before the commission begins their hearings. The purpose of the Texas Commission on Judicial Selection is to examine a number of issues regarding the judiciary and make recommendations,” said Patrick.
“I expect the members to have an open mind on every issue—including the partisan election of judges—with the single goal of making sure Texas continues to maintain one of the best judicial systems in the country. Texans feel strongly about voting for their judges. The commission will need to make a compelling argument to the people and legislators to change the current system. I do not believe that support exists today,” he added.
Those comments were echoed in Patrick’s statement by another one of his appointees to the commission, State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R–Granbury).
This is good news for conservative Texans, as eliminating partisan elections for judges is a goal of Democrats, who aim to place more liberal judges on the bench.
Members of the commission include State Reps. Todd Hunter (R–Corpus Christi), Brooks Landgraf (R–Odessa), Inja Minjarez (D–San Antonio), and Carl Sherman (D–Dallas), as well as State Sens. Joan Huffman (R–Houston), Brian Birdwell (R–Granbury), Robert Nichols (R–Jacksonville) and Juan Hinajosa (D–McAllen).
The commission is required to submit a report on its findings and recommendations to the governor and the legislature no later than December 31, 2020.