JUDICIAL - 1960, 1965, 1983, 2001, 2003, 2006, 2009 The League of Women Voters of Texas supports an effective, independent, qualified, and inclusive judiciary for Texas, which includes:
- a uniform fiscal policy as part of a single system of centrally administered statewide courts
- a single system of centrally administered statewide courts with a uniform fiscal policy
- assignment of judges according to special training and docket needs.
The League supports the selection of judges in the following manner:
- nomination by a diverse, representative, nonpartisan commission, with appointment for a specific term or appointment by the governor for a specific term
- judges are subject to retention or rejection in an unlimited number of periodic nonpartisan elections
- this should apply to Texas Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, and Courts of Appeals
- selection of state district court judges may be by non-partisan election or by appointment/retention
- judicial campaigns should be funded with public money.
In 1958, the League adopted nine principles for a good constitution, one of which was "Provisions for justice with a minimum of delay," and in 1959 undertook the initial study of the judicial article as part of its work for general constitutional revision. Consensus was reached in the areas of court structure, court administration, and court financing.
In early 1965, the position on the selection and tenure of appellate judges was adopted. Members again looked at selection of judges in 1982 and, by February 1983, included district judges in the position on judicial selection. Every regular session of the legislature in recent years has produced bills regarding the selection of judges. None has passed.
Following delegate debate at Convention 1999, the Periodic Program Review (PPR) Committee was assigned review of the Judicial position, especially regarding judicial selection, and the following recommendations were adopted at Convention 2001.
Since centrally administered statewide courts have been in effect since 1985, the wording in the first bullet was reversed to reflect emphasis on the need for a uniform fiscal policy. (There is still disparity of funding levels among various appellate and district courts.) The PPR committee had suggested dropping the position regarding assignment of judges according to special training and docket needs, but during the Program Planning process, local Leagues recommended retaining the position since it is used for advocacy at the local level for specially trained judges, such as in family courts.
Delegates at the 2001 Convention, at the PPR committee's recommendation, also voted to drop the position regarding effective removal procedures for judges. The state constitution provides for removal procedures through a State Commission on Judicial Conduct. This provision was added to the constitution in 1965, after the League's initial study/consensus in 1959-60. Thus this bullet has been achieved.
Although it is conceivable that the removal process could be thwarted by a legislative effort to cut off funds to the Commission, LWV-TX does not need to retain the position in order to address such a situation. The overarching statement of the Judicial position and/or the League principle that "efficient government requires competent personnel" could be used to advocate effective judicial removal procedures.
The 2001 convention approved a restudy of judicial selection. A committee restudied the issue producing a Facts and Issues entitled JUDICIAL SELECTION IN TEXAS: Nothing' s Perfect. Limited consensus was reached in the fall of 2002 and approved by the LWV-TX Board in January 2003. That consensus continued to support the appointment of Texas Supreme Court and appeal judges, but for local judges Leagues only agreed that if judges are to be selected by an election, it should be nonpartisan.
At Statewide Conference, March 2009, a bullet was added to clarify our position on district judges in order to lobby more effectively and to provide flexibility to work with legislators to reform the way judicial offices are selected in Texas.
At Convention 2010, delegates voted to add the provision that judicial elections should be funded with public money, although this is covered in our position on Political Campaign Process.