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Judicial selection in Texas

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Texas
Seal of Texas.png
Texas Supreme Court
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Texas Court of Appeals
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Texas District Courts
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   4 years
Texas County Courts
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   4 years
Texas Justice of the Peace Courts
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   4 years

Selection of state court judges in Texas occurs through partisan elections at each court level. Term lengths vary, but all judges must run for re-election at the end of their terms.[1]

Under the Texas Constitution, judges' terms begin on January 1 after their election or re-election.[2]

Appellate courts

See also: Partisan elections

The 9 justices of the supreme court, 9 justices of the court of criminal appeals and the 80 judges of the court of appeals are selected in an identical manner. Judges are chosen in partisan elections (statewide for supreme court and criminal appeals justices, by district for court of appeals judges) to serve six-year terms, after which they must run for re-election if they wish to continue serving.[1]

Selection of the chief justice or judge

Unlike most states, the chief justice or judge of each court is selected by voters at large. He or she serves in that capacity for a full six-year term.[1]

Qualifications

To serve on any of the appellate courts, a judge must be:

  • a U.S. citizen;
  • a resident of Texas;
  • licensed to practice law in the state;
  • between the ages of 35 and 75;*[3] and
  • a practicing lawyer and/or judge for at least 10 years.[1]

*While no judge older than 74 may run for office, sitting judges who turn 75 are permitted to continue serving until their term expires.[1]

Vacancies

In the event of a midterm vacancy, the governor appoints a replacement who must be confirmed by the Texas Senate. The appointee serves until the next general election, in which he or she may compete to serve for the remainder of the unexpired term.[1]

Summary chart of qualifications, selection, and terms of Texas courts

District Courts

See also: Partisan election of judges

The judges of the Texas District Courts are, like the appellate judges, chosen in partisan elections. They serve four-year terms, after which they must run for re-election if they wish to continue serving.[1]

Selection of the presiding judges

Though Texas is home to well over four hundred district courts, the courts are grouped into nine administrative judicial regions. Each region is overseen by a presiding judge who is appointed by the governor to a four-year term. According to the Texas Courts website, the presiding judge may be a "regular elected or retired district judge, a former judge with at least 12 years of service as a district judge, or a retired appellate judge with judicial experience on a district court."[4]

Qualifications

To serve on the district courts, a judge must be:

  • a U.S. citizen;
  • a resident of Texas;
  • licensed to practice law in the state;
  • between the ages of 25 and 75;*[3]
  • a practicing lawyer and/or state judge for at least 4 years; and
  • a resident of his or her respective judicial district for at least 2 years.[1]

*While no judge older than 74 may run for office, sitting judges who turn 75 are permitted to continue serving until their term expires.[1]

Vacancies

Like the appellate courts, the district courts fill vacancies by gubernatorial appointment with senate approval. Judges serve until the next general election, at which point they may compete to fill the remainder of the unexpired term.[1]

County Courts

See also: Partisan election of judges

The county courts encompass two categories of judgeships: the constitutional county courts and judgeships created by statute, including the Texas Statutory Probate Courts and Texas County Courts at Law.[5]

Many aspects of the judgeships are the same. All county level judges are elected in partisan elections by the county they serve and serve four-year terms, with vacancies filled by a vote of the county commissioners.[5]

Constitutional County Courts

All of Texas' 254 counties have a constitutional county court, and the judges serve ex officio as the head of each county's commissioners' court. Judges of these courts need not have a law license, and the only qualification for office is that a candidate "shall be well informed in the law of the state."[5][6]

County Courts at Law

The statutory county courts (county courts at law) are established by the Texas Legislature.[5]

To serve on a county court at law, a judge must:

  • be at least 25 years old;
  • be a resident of his or her respective county for at least two years; and
  • have practiced law or served as a judge for at least four years preceding the election.[5][6]

Probate courts

Statutory probate courts are also established by the state legislature. Qualifications for probate judges are identical to those of county court at law judges.[5]

Justice of the Peace Courts

The members of the Texas Justice of the Peace Courts are elected in partisan elections and serve four-year terms. They are elected in a precinct-wide election.[5]

To serve as a justice of the peace, justices must complete a 40-hour course on relevant duties within one year of his or her election. They must also complete a similar 20-hour course each year they continue to serve.[6]

Municipal Courts

The rules regarding judges of the Texas Municipal Courts vary by each city's charter. The majority of the judges are appointed to a two-year term by the city's governing body, though some instead compete in partisan elections.[5][6]

History

Selection methods in Texas have undergone several changes since the inception of the judiciary. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest:

  • 2007: The state constitution is amended by voters, allowing sitting judges who reach the mandatory retirement age of 75 to finish their term.[1][3]
  • 1965: The constitution is amended:
    • Judges who reach the mandatory retirement age of 75 are automatically retired.[3]
    • A judicial qualifications commission is created to remove judges for misconduct and disability.
  • 1891: The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is created. Its justices are chosen in partisan elections to serve six-year terms.
  • 1876: Various changes are instated:
    • Justices of the supreme court are elected to six-year terms.
    • The court of civil appeals is created. Its justices are elected to six-year terms.
    • District court judges are elected to four-year terms.
    • The terms of county court judges are reduced to two years.
  • 1869: Various changes are instated:
    • Supreme court justices are appointed by the governor with senate consent to nine-year terms.
    • District court judges are appointed by the governor with senate consent to eight-year terms.
    • County court judges are elected to four-year terms.
  • 1866: All judges are elected by popular vote. Term lengths are adjusted: supreme court justices serve for ten years, district court judges for eight and county court judges for four.
  • 1845: All judges are appointed by the governor with senate consent and serve six-year terms.[7]

Selection of federal judges

United States District Court judges, who are selected from each state, go through a different selection process than that of state judges.

The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior." They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America nominates judges, who must then be confirmed by the U.S. Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.[8]

Step ApprovedA Candidacy Proceeds DefeatedD Candidacy Halts
1. Recommendation made by Congress member to the President President nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee President declines nomination
2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews candidate Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to committee
3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation Candidate becomes federal judge Candidate does not receive judgeship

See also

External links

References

TexasUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of TexasUnited States District Court for the Western District of TexasUnited States District Court for the Northern District of TexasUnited States District Court for the Southern District of TexasUnited States bankruptcy court, Eastern District of TexasUnited States bankruptcy court, Western District of TexasUnited States bankruptcy court, Northern District of TexasUnited States bankruptcy court, Southern District of TexasUnited States Court of Appeals for the Fifth CircuitTexas Supreme CourtTexas Court of AppealsTexas Court of Criminal AppealsTexas District CourtsTexas County CourtsTexas County Courts at LawTexas Statutory Probate CourtsTexas Justice of the Peace CourtsTexas Municipal CourtsTexas countiesTexas judicial newsTexas judicial electionsJudicial selection in TexasTexasTemplate.jpg