The Texas Government

How are state judges selected in Texas? Discuss two different methods used in other states for selecting judges. What are the arguments for and against each of the selection methods you discussed? How do you think that Texas judges should be selected? Explain your reasoning. How does being appointed or elected affect the accountability and independence of judges? Explain your reasoing. How informed do you think the Texas public is about judicial elections and judicial candidates?

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Writing Assignment Instructions
These instructions are for both writing assignments. Please read them carefully.
There are two writing assignments worth 100 points each. The purpose of these essays is to provide students an opportunity to discuss a key concept or topic in Texas politics and to show a basic understanding of academic research and reporting skills. Students should offer evidence for their arguments. Thus, submissions that are more comprehensive and detailed will earn a higher point total. Each assignment should be a minimum of 750 words. Submissions must include a works cited page (note: there must be a parenthetical citation at the end of each sentence that contains information from a source). The textbook should be one of the sources and included on the works cited page (sources other than the textbook should be used as well).
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Sample Answer

 

Texas Government

State judge selection can be a sensitive process for most states in the United States, mainly because the administration of justice requires competence. In Texas, the selection of state judges has remained controversial for decades because it still uses the partisan election system, which has been accused of being ineffective in the administration of true justice primarily because of outside political influences. The partisan election system means that judges are elected during the general election, and their faces are placed alongside their party affiliation. According to Public Policy Research Institute (2020), many proponents of the partisan election process in Texas claim that the system is effective because it allows the voters to have a voice and hold the judges accountable (p.5). Therefore, it is clear that partisan elections in the Texas selection system and nonpartisan election system in states such as Alaska and Michigan, respectively.

The merit system is primarily used in the selection of appellate judges where an appointed independent, bipartisan commission is appointed, which mainly consists of lawyers and non-lawyers who interview and vet various applicants and forward the eligible lists to the governor for appointment. The appointed applicants’ list is based on their merit, and the governor is required or must appoint one of the candidates on the list. However, the appointment of these judges is not permanent because “Voters then have periodic chances to vote judges they don’t like out of office” (Ramsey, 2020). Therefore, the merit system is done by a group of law professionals that pass the applicants through a series of questions and discussions to measure their competency before forwarding their names for appointment.

The nonpartisan election system is another popular selection of judges in states such as Montana, Georgia, Arkansas, and Oregon. The nonpartisan election system involves appointing the top two candidates to run during the general election without considering their party affiliation. However, the nonpartisan system application is different in the states because some allow the announcing of political affiliation by the candidates, and some have codes of conduct and stand on controversial issues (Public Policy Research Institute, 2020, p.21). Therefore, the nonpartisan system of selecting state judges is the opposite of partisan election because it does not allow designating party affiliation on the ballot. The judges are not required to state their stand on political issues in many states currently using the nonpartisan selection system.

The merit selection system, like other systems, has its advantages and disadvantages in various states that are currently utilizing it in the selection of judges. The merit system means that the applicants’ political affiliation is not used as the basis of their appointment but their competence and qualification in conducting judicial affairs. However, the merit system suffers from drawbacks, such as opponents equating it to a political appointment and arguing that voters have a right to elect judges (The Fund for Modern Courts, 2021). Therefore, merit selection is better because it allows state judges to be appointed based on their qualifications, not political affiliations. Still, the appointment by the governor among the listed candidates can turn political too. The nonpartisan selection system allows the appointment of state judges without political influence or candidates being required to announce their political affiliation, enabling voters to elect judges based on their track record, education, or experience. However, nonpartisan selection has been accused of being concealed into partisanship. Crawford (2017) claims that “members chosen in nonpartisan elections tend to express more partisan views about public policy than their co-partisans elected in an explicitly partisan system” (p.2). The statement is clear that eliminating political influence even in the nonpartisan selection of state judges is impossible.

The Texas judges should be selected using the merit selection system because it gives them an equal opportunity to be appointed based on their experience or track record, not party affiliation. The first reason Texas should consider a merit selection system is the ability to reduce diversity because it offers all candidates an equal opportunity to be appointed. Additionally, the merit system eliminates the use of money as a tool for campaigning, reduces political influence in judicial selection, and reduces the conflict of interest, especially when the campaign contributors appear before the judge in a trial (The Fund for Modern Courts, 2021). Therefore, Texas should consider adopting the merit system in judges selection because it will effectively eliminate the personal ideas and biases brought by being affiliated with a particular party.

The appointment positively affects judges’ accountability and independence because it allows the selection of the most qualified, as depicted in the nonpartisan system where lawyers are involved in interviewing and forwarding the qualified candidates for the governor’s appointment. According to The Fund for Modern Courts (2021), “studies repeatedly show that the voting public is far less knowledgeable about its judicial candidates than it is about candidates for other offices.” Therefore, the accountability and independence of the judges in the states are protected when appointed because allowing the voters to elect will lead to bias or the election of incompetent judges because of the limited information they have on listed candidates. Because most Texas citizens are informed about the judicial elections and candidates, an appointment is the best option for Texas because it will allow professionals such as lawyers to vet the candidates based on their merit and not their political stance.

 

 

 

References

The Fund for Modern Courts. (2021, August 10). Why we support an appointed systemhttps://moderncourts.org/programs-advocacy/judicial-selection/why-merit-selection/

Public Policy Research Institute. (2020). Texas Commission on Judicial Selection Final Report. TJB. https://www.txcourts.gov/media/1450219/201230_tcjs-final-report_compressed.pdf

Ramsey, R. (2020, January 20). Analysis: Voters elect Texas’ judges. The state might take that power — but it’s risky. The Texas Tribune. https://www.texastribune.org/2020/01/20/voters-elect-texas-judges-state-might-take-that-power-but-its-risky/

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