News Release from the office of State Senator Robert Duncan

February 11, 2009
Contact: Deon Daugherty Allen
(512) 463.0128

Senator Duncan files bill to restore trust in Texas judiciary

AUSTIN — Sen. Robert Duncan today filed Senate Bill 782 and Senate Joint Resolution 23 to allow Texas voters to determine whether our judges should continue to labor under the perception that the litigant with the most money will win in court most of the time.

This legislation sets up a system of appointment, followed by a retention election to put appellate judges on Texas benches. All current justices would be grandfathered into the new system and subject to a retention election when their current terms expire.

“We need to take the money and politics out of our judicial system,” Senator Duncan said. “For too long, Texas has been an easy target for anyone who disagrees with a judge’s findings. Most people believe that if someone contributes big money to a campaign, they will benefit. No one should have to fear the justice system based on campaigns or contributions.”

Also today, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson endorsed a merit selection plan during his biennial State of the Judiciary.

“I am concerned by the public’s perception that money in judicial races influences outcomes. This is an area where perception itself destroys public confidence,” Justice Jefferson said.

He noted a recent poll that showed 80 percent of the participants - four out of five people - believe contributions influence a judge’s decision.

“Is our current judicial election system, which fuels the idea that politics and money play into the rule of law, the best way to elect judges in Texas? The status quo is broken. It is time for Texas to set a high standard for judicial selection.”

*Attached is an MP3 recording of Senator Duncan's recorded message, which is about judicial selection, and a transcript of the recording.