Thursday, December 13, 2007

Good Candidates Needed for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

We need to find some good candidates for the discredited Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. In 2004, Texas Monthly called the all-Republican Texas Court of Criminal Appeals the "Worst Court in Texas" in a bold headline on the cover of the magazine. In this month's magazine, Texas Monthly says that Sharon Keller, the CCA's Presiding Judge, should be impeached for her unethical behavior on Sept 25, when she said "We close at 5" and refused to accept an appeal from a man set for execution that night. Excerpt:

When a man’s life is on the line—to say nothing of the U.S. Constitution—our top criminal judge should behave like one: with prudence, fairness, and a calm hand. It’s time for Keller to go. If the commission doesn’t act quickly, we’ll have to wait until January 2009, when the Legislature—which has the power to oust high judges—reconvenes, or worse, 2012, when Keller is up for reelection. The fact is, we need to do it now. Impeach Sharon Keller.

Keller is not on the ballot in 2008, but that does not mean the Court should get a pass.

Grits for Breakfast has written extensively on the need for candidates to step up now and run for the CCA:
Of the incumbents who're up next go-round, at least Tom Price has the good sense to call a spade a spade, vocally declaring some time ago that the court's radical pro-prosecution precedents made them a "laughingtsock" around the nation's legal community. And Cathy Cochran finally came out to publicly criticize the Presiding Judge over the recent "We close at 5" debacle. The other judge up next year, Paul Womack, probably should be targeted before those two, but really IMO it's time to begin a comprehensive infusion of fresh blood.
There are three seats up and Democrats should find strong candidates for all of them. Both Scott Henson at Grits and I have separately asked some people to run, but so far no one has said yes. Now, there are only three weeks left before the filing deadline. We need to find someone before it is too late.

A Democrat can win election to the CCA in 2008 for two main reasons 1) the national political environment is favorable to the Democrats and a winning Democratic presidential candidate could have an impact on lower ballot races and 2) the "laughingstock" reputation of the CCA is likely to cause many editorial boards and other organizations to endorse a well-qualified challenger to the Republican incumbents on the ballot.

The key here is "well-qualified". In 2006, some media outlets, including the Dallas Morning News, wanted to endorse someone other than the Republican incumbents, but they did not think the challengers were up to the task in 2006. Excerpt from the DMN editorial:
When it comes to uninspiring court contests, the statewide Court of Criminal Appeals pretty much takes the cake.

Three Republican incumbents, none of whom deserves to be a shoo-in for re-election. One Democrat and two Libertarians, none of whom could be bothered to show up for an interview – or, in the case of the Democrat, complete a questionnaire.
Keller is not on the ballot, but she can be an issue in the election. She only won in 1994 anyhow because of down-ballot pull on the heels of the sweeping national Republican victory that year. It is time for the tables to turn.

I am writing this post to ask the blogging community to help find good candidates for the CCA. Help us find a practicing lawyer, a law professor, or a judge whom we can interest in running for the CCA.

Please use the comments to suggest people the Texas Democratic Party should contact about running for the court. Or email names to me at scottcobb99 (at) and I will pass them along to the state party.

Candidates for the court are required to submit 50 signatures from each of Texas' 14 appellate districts, so even after a candidate is found, the blogging community should be ready to help the candidates get those signatures. I am ready to help.

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