A JOURNAL OF FREE VOICES We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of human-kind as the foundation of democracy: we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them we do not necessarily imply that we agree with them, because this is a journal offree voices. SINCE 1954 Founding Editor: Ronnie Dugger Editor: Louis Dubose Associate Editor: James Cullen Production: Peter Szymczak Copy Editor: Roxanne Bogucka Editorial Interns: Todd Basch, Mike Daecher, Ophelia Richter, Darvyn Spagnolly. 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INDEXES: The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981,77Ie Texas Observer Index. copyrighted, 0 1994, is published biweekly except for a three-week interval 477-0746. E-mail: [email protected] Second-class postage paid at Austin, Texas. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to THE TEXAS OBSERVER, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. THE DRAFTERS OF the state’s current constitution deliberately created a vig orous judiciary, as opposed to the hamstrung executive and legislative branches they devised, so that judges would protect their civil liberty. They trusted judges more than the other branches of government and conferred on them an active function in the Texas constitutional scheme. However, the drafters also contemplated the election of trial judges by single-member districts, which leads to the second point, namely, minority citizens’ access to judgeships. Most minority intermediate appellate judges suffered defeat. All African-American intermediate appeals judges lost their seats. Only two MexicanAmerican judges on the San Antonio Court of Appeals won reelection, and barely so, garnering significantly fewer votes than their Anglo counterparts, also Democratic incumbents. Earlier in the year, a Mexican-American candidate in the Democratic primary for the El Paso Court of Appeals lost to an Anglo opponent. The Libertarian candidate against Supreme Court Justice Raul Gonzalez wrapped up almost 20 percent of the vote; chances are that something other than Justice Gonzalez’s voting record contributed to that rather high vote. The same pattern shows itself on the district court level. Harris County, for example, has only one minority judge left on the bench, a Hispanic, and that’s probably because his post wasn’t up for election. The Republican sweep also brought some strange results, not the least of which was the election of Stephen Mansfield to the Court of Criminal Appeals. Mansfield’s credentials and veracity are tarnished, to say the least. Even the anti-Gary Graham coalition, to which he belonged, eventually withdrew its endorsement in light of serious questions about his experience and truthfulness. Some now suggest these results militate in favor of abandoning judicial elections in favor of appointments. Rather than taking away the people’s right to vote for their judges, which probably wouldn’t meet James C. Harrington is legal director of the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin, Texas. muster under the Voting Rights Act anyhow, a more preferable alternative would be electing appellate and trial judges by single-member districts. Single-member districts would help assure better minority participation and representation, and, because the geographic campaign areas for such districts would be smaller, other substantial benefits would accrue, such as less campaign expense, better voter knowledge and probably enhanced stability. Explaining the demise of minority judges because of the Republican victory doesn’t justify what happened; it indicates the need for an alternative method of electing jurists. \(In fact, some minority Republican candiand Mexican Americans in Texas still vote mostly Democratic. Ann Richards, for example, carried 88 percent and 70 percent of their ballots, respectively. Yet their voting strength and participation becomes submerged by a strong Republican vote, which is mostly Anglo. The net result is that Mexican Americans and African Americans cannot select judges of their choosing with the relative degree of opportunity that their Anglo compatriots enjoy. These member’s of our community are effectively disenfranchised with regard to the judiciary, in a way in which they are not disenfranchised in other areas of the democratic process. So, maybe the election last month will help improve the quality of the state’s jurisprudence, and perhaps it will encourage the Legislature to establish single-member districts for the appellate and trial benches, something our Solons should have done long ago. James C. Harrington ANDERSON COMPANY COFFEE TEA SPICES TWO JEFFERSON SQUARE AUSTIN, TEXAS 78731 512 z153-1533 Send me your list. Name Street City Zip EDITORIALS Judicial Selection and Voters’ Rights 2. DECEMBER 9,1994
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