commissioner’s court might serve to remind us from whence we all. came. ” Lou told us frankly that his experience with the Observer could only get better the first time he picked up the magazine he almost lost his lunch. He explained that he had found one of those rare coin-operated Observer news racks long about 1971 and decided to give it a try. He fished out the requisite change and reached into the box with the same hand that was carrying his brown-bag lunch. But before he knew it the box snapped shut and his lunch was inside. There was nothing he could do but buy back his lunch. As a regular recipient of our paltry freelance checks, I guess Lou has come to realize that’s how it is sometimes with this magazine you put in more than you get out. Still, he has accepted the job. We told him he could put that lunch on his new expense account. D.D. DIALOGUE Readers Stew Over Judicial Appointments and “Official English” Faulty Criticisms and the Ultimate Irony I read with interest Amy Johnson’s article \(TO, RefOrm? The Case Against the Appointment of Judges.” I find it ironic that Ms. Johnson’s article made a better case for dumping the current elective system than it did for, retaining that system. Ms. Johnson spends a considerable amount of her article discussing the “legitimate criticisms” of the current elective system. She discusses voter “unseemliness” of lawyers contributing large ,sums of money to the judges who hear their cases, and the impact of straight-party voting on judicial elections. But her suggestions for “reform” of the system single-member districts, allowing judges to discuss their judicial values hardly seem calculated to solve those problems, particularly at the statewide level where the problems are most acute. Ms. Johnson’s criticisms of the alternative system an appointed judiciary also fall flat. Her criticisms mostly fall into the category of namecalling: appointing judges is an “elitist process” which “smacks of privilege.” This sort of labelling ignores the fact that a judicial selection committee would be responsible to the people that appointed it, people like the governor, the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the house, and other leading state officials. Probably the ultimate irony is that federal district judge last year William Wayne Justice. Ms. Johnson undoubtedly admires Judge Justice, as many of us do, for his independence and his willingness to take politically unpopular stands on the bench. Where would Judge Justice be today if the federal judiciary were elected from singlemember districts? Kerry McGrath Austin Lawyers! Phooey! It is no surprise that Amy Johnson, a lawyer, wrote a defense for the present way of selecting judges under this system, lawyers. with the help of people who work in court, elect the judges and the lawyers wait to bring . their cases before the one whom they have helped to elect who else knows or thinks about a judge until election time? I have been in court twice in a long lifetime and saw it exhibited each time I did not quite understand the first time, but the second occasion made it indisputably clear! and acceptable to all the socalled disciplinary organizations in the state. If \he purpose is a closed system for lawyers and judges to rip off the public, please don’t call it “justice” any change will be an improvement on the method we have! Topsy Clour Houston Sharpen the Issues There is no easy or satisfactory solution to the question of how to select judges. Amy Johnson’s brief for electing judges sheds little light on the issue. The alternatives are appointment, election, and various combinations that involve initial appointment and subsequent confirmation by the voters. Several observations and questions may help sharpen the issues. 1.Judges are very different from legislators. Assertions such as “Judges are as much lawmakers as legislators” and “judges are politicians who make law just as legislators do” are flat out wrong. It is of course true that judges sometimes “make” law, and that some judicial decisions have a major impact on society, but that does not turn judges, particularly trial judges, into legislators. 2.Judges are treated as an undifferentiated lump. Ms. Johnson fails to recognize the different roles of judges that inhabit the different layers of the judicial system. The Texas Supreme Court hears appeals from other courts. and its decisions are binding on lower court judges throughout the state. Trial courts hear disputes that involve individual parties. Most of their decisions are not appealed, and have no impact on the legal system. The same selection system is not necessarily appropriate for all types of adjudicators. 3.I learned about judicial elections while attending law school in Richard J. Daley’s Chicago. The machine employed the “bed sheet ballot” strategy, which called for the election of a huge number of officials, including the dog catcher and all state judges. With so many names on the ballot, most were unknown to even the most informed voters, and voting for each elected office was a time consuming exercise. The result was that many people voted a straight party ticket, or voted for only a few positions at the top of the ballot and ignored the judicial \(and other 4.If one is concerned about judges being unelected makers of policy then the focus should be on the court that clearly has the greatest influence on life in America, the United States Supreme Court. More generally, if election of judges is such a good idea, why not focus on the appointed federal judiciary? 5.Ms. Johnson not only wants to elect judges, but to have them campaign for office, and to “discuss their values.” This will “make explicit the political decisions of the judiciary,” and prevent it from falling “into the quagmire of disrespect.” Surveys commonly show judges or legislators. 6.It is not obvious that having judges behave more like legislators is a good idea. A decade of reading the Observer has not given me an excellent impression of the state legislature. In the same issue as Ms. Johnson’s article, Gara LaMarche tells us that “Civil liberties are always in danger when the Texas legislature comes to town,” and Carol THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5
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