Judicial elections not perfect, but still the best

The SE Texas Record Oct. 25, 2008, 5:40am

Filed this week under "be careful what you wish for," a horde of self-proclaimed Texas do-gooders is calling for an end to campaign donations in judicial campaigns.

Led by a longtime understudy of trial lawyer inspiration Ralph Nader, "Texans for Public Justice" likes to call itself "non-partisan." And so it also tries to frame itself in policy statements incorporated into a report chronicling the money raised by candidates for our state supreme court.

"The rap is that justice is for sale in Texas, and this report doesn't do anything to dispel that," explained Craig McDonald, executive director of the Austin-based group.

His solution? "Take money out of the courtroom," ending competitive judicial elections once and for all. Let governors appoint our state judges, he said.

It has a reasonable tone until you remember who is funding McDonald It's trial lawyers.

Trial lawyers don't like judicial elections because when voters are paying attention, their candidates often lose.

"Let's sue more together" may be a winning platform for wooing wanna-be victims watching late night television. But when it comes to the ballot box, that angle has been a sure loser.

Trial lawyers know this. They watched their prodigal one, mega-millionaire class-action ace Mikal Watts, crash and burn in his bid to run for the U.S. Senate. They're aware that their brand has a tendency to be radioactive.

They also know their campaign giving assures a major influence in a governor's appointment process, no matter what political flavor. Their solution to quiet things down and end popular judicial elections would increase their collective clout, while cutting voters out of the process.

Voter interference in activist trial bar designs for the judiciary is what McDonald and his "group" are truly looking to stop. They don't think we average citizens are qualified to pick a judge because we aren't armed with law degrees. They don't want us to choose the men and women who reign over Texas' justice system. They want to be the only ones.

Letting the people elect judges isn't perfect. But if there's a better system than good ole democracy, we haven't seen it.

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