Legitimate Judicial Candidates Must Be ‘Judicious’

Texas is an unusual state in many respects: the largest of the contiguous United States; home of three of America’s ten most populous cities; the biggest producer of oil, beef, cotton, and wool in the U.S.; the best economic climate; one of the few states to exist as a sovereign nation (1836-1845) prior to joining the union; and the only one to fight and win a war for independence. Texans are extraordinarily proud of these distinctions, as well as barbecue, the University of Texas, Willie Nelson, Tex-Mex, and Blue Bell Ice Cream. (The Dallas Cowboys, alas, not so much anymore.) Texans should also be proud of the Texas Supreme Court — and care enough to look into who they are voting for.

Texas, you see, is one of the few states that select all their judges in partisan political elections. Texas voters tilt decidedly conservative, so the nine justices on the Texas Supreme Court are — like all other statewide elected officials — Republican. A corollary to this is that the most important election for statewide office is not the general in November (in which no Democrat has prevailed for over two decades), but the Republican primary — held this year on March 1. Unlike other elected officials, incumbent judges are not necessarily shoo-ins for re-election; they often lack name ID and have difficulty raising funds. Accordingly, in expensive statewide campaigns, judicial incumbents can be vulnerable to challenge. Three incumbent Supreme Court justices are on the ballot this year, and all face challengers, but the focus of this piece is on Place 5, currently held by Justice Paul W. Green. He faces a primary challenge by conservative activist and radio talk show host, Rick Green.

I have written elsewhere about the Green versus Green race, and the understandable — and perhaps calculated?–potential for confusion by Texas voters, who in 1976 elected to the supreme court an obscure, scandal-ridden lawyer named Don Yarbrough, apparently confusing him with former longtime U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough. Here, I wish to discuss a different aspect of the race: the candidates’ experience, judicial temperament, and reputation for character and integrity. Unlike the other branches of government, courts derive their moral authority from public respect, which requires that judges maintain the appearance of fairness and impartiality. For that reason, the conduct of judges must be honorable, dignified, and beyond reproach. Judges must be judicious, and act judiciously. The same is true of judicial candidates.

It is not difficult to evaluate the respective records of Paul Green and Rick Green because, as they say here in Texas, this is not their first rodeo.

Read More at The American Spectator

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