More time to blog

The SE Texas Record Mar. 8, 2008, 7:48am

Some jurists have what it takes to serve on an appellate court. Others seem better suited to perform for daytime television.

Texas voters could hardly be blamed for finding Galveston District Court Judge Susan Criss not ready for prime time.

Democratic primary voters thwarted Criss Tuesday in her bid for a spot on our state's highest court, sending her self-absorbed act and anti-business message packing. The voters chose Corpus Christi Appellate Court Judge Linda Yanez instead, a quieter option sure to attract less lightning in the coming fall general election.

The result offers some hope for the Democrats, who in their quest to crack the State Supreme Court (it is currently 100 percent Republican) won't be weighed down on the November ballot by another trial bar-loving judicial caricature.

Judge Criss was a darling of plaintiff's lawyers for her populist posturing from the bench, particularly those lawyers with cases pending before her in Galveston.

As reported back in January, law firms with suits in her courtroom donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to her campaign, aspiring to spread her brand of justice statewide. They applauded Criss' harsh and skeptical treatment of corporate defendants and their legal arguments.

A friendly judge-- and that Criss remains on the district court-- makes it far easier for trial lawyers to build settlement leverage against their targets.

But while Criss promised to be the trial bar's friend in Austin, she also clearly wanted to be famous, a possibility that turned off voters, we must surmise.

Effective appellate judges are better off being known by their written words in opinions, not their random musings to the media. Criss seemed too desperately attracted to broadcast face time and noise.

Dubbing herself the "blogging judge," Criss announced last year she would start offering candid commentary via her own Web site on various subjects. And she aggressively has used her position presiding over controversial civil litigation against BP as a means of building her own brand name.

By her measure, all publicity has been good publicity, even when it is inappropriate commentary on pending cases, or public criticism of higher courts who overturned her rulings.

In faux courtrooms like Judge Judy's, voters enjoy a little show. Apparently the votes felt that when it comes to the real thing, they expect actual substance.

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