The Local Crank

Musings & Sardonic Commentary on Politics, Religion, Culture & Native American Issues. Bringing you the finest in radioactive screeds since 2002! "The Local Crank" newspaper column is distributed by Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.

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Location: Cleburne, Texas, United States

Just a simple Cherokee trial lawyer, Barkman has been forcing his opinions on others in print since, for reasons that passeth understanding, he was an unsuccessful candidate for state representative in 2002. His philosophy: "If people had wanted me to be nice, they should've voted for me."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Court Reform

A proposal to overhaul the Texas court system isn't being very well-received in the Legislature. One of its more controversial proposals is the create "expert courts" to handle cases deemed "too complex" for local judges to handle. Naturally, many "local judges" find this insulting and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association is concerned that this is just another type of backdoor "tort reform." Normally, I am not a big fan of panels of "experts" doing anything, but this bill (and its opponents both) gloss over a hard fact: as long as we elect judges in partisan elections, "unqualified" judges are going to get elected. And by "unqualified," I mean judges who lack the experience, temperament and judicial knowledge to handle cases but just happened to win because they have the right letter ("D" or "R") beside their name on the ballot. Ask ANY lawyer in Texas and they can tell you horror stories of being caught before such a judge. Republicans complaining about the judges swept into office last November in the Dallas County Tsunami forget that the Reagan Wave in the 1980's swept in all manner of bizarre and downright silly GOP judges all over the state. Ultimately, the only real solution to this problem is to have local judges (district judges and county court at law judges) run in non-partisan elections and run in districts in the big counties to better reflect their communities. Frankly, I think everybody involved in the law enforcement or court system (District Attorneys, County Attorneys, Sheriffs, Constables) should be elected on a non-partisan ballot since they have no real policy-making authority; they merely enforce laws passed by the (properly) partisan Legislature, but that's another issue. Appellate Judges and the Judges of the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Justices of the Texas Supreme Court should be appointed and then have to periodically run in retention elections where campaign contributions are strictly limited. Even then, it might well be necessary to create a sort of "expert pool" of retired judges with specialized knowledge who are retained by the State and dispatched to handle complex cases, such as death penalty trials, that might otherwise overwhelm judges in courts of general jurisdiction who are either new to the bench or never really practiced much in that field (complex commercial litigation, say, or criminal law) before being elected.

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Blogger Brody said...

What, you mean it's not a good idea to elect judges whose chief qualification is "School Photographer?" Shocking.

3/30/2007 8:35 AM  

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