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Voting for Judges in Texas
*Information provided by LWV-Texas Education Fund
Although in some states judges are appointed, most judges in Texas are elected.
Voting Decisions in judicial races are among the most important that a Texas voter makes.
WHY ARE JUDICIAL ELECTIONS IMPORTANT?
Judges make decisions about fundamental issues that affect all of us – family life, education, health care, housing, employment, finances, discrimination, civil rights, public safety, and government actions. Those decisions can have long-lasting impact on individuals, groups, and the public as a whole.
It is critical that our judges make fair decisions based upon open-minded and unbiased consideration of the facts and the law in each case. Judges must know the law and not be influenced by any external political and economic factors.
WHAT SHOULD VOTERS LOOK FOR WHEN ELECTING JUDGES?
- Judges should uphold the rule of law.
- Judges should be independent and impartial.
- Judges should possess the appropriate temperament and character.
- Judges should possess the appropriate capabilities and credentials.
- Judges and the judiciary should have the confidence of the public.
- The judicial system should be diverse and reflective of the society it serves.
- Judges should be constrained to perform their duties in a manner that justifies public faith and confidence in the court.
Unlike candidates for most political offices, judicial candidates cannot make promises about decisions they would make when certain issues or types of cases come up in their court. Questions posed to judges, therefore, focus on improvements they would make to their court, the need for impartiality and how they would increase access to justice.
HOW IS THE TEXAS COURT SYSTEM ORGANIZED?
The Texas court system is made up of a statewide network of trial courts and appellate courts. In trial courts, judges and/or juries evaluate the facts and the law and make a decision in a civil or criminal legal dispute. When decisions in most trial courts are appealed, they are sent to an appellate court where judges consider what happened at the trial court, evaluate legal arguments, and then decide if a mistake was made. See Texas Courts: A Descriptive Summary for a chart of the Texas court structure.
The state’s two highest courts, the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals, have both administrative and appellate responsibilities. The Supreme Court is the final court of appeals within Texas for both civil and juvenile cases. The Court of Criminal Appeals hears criminal cases that are appealed from one of the 14 Courts of Appeals and death penalty cases that by law go straight to the Court of Criminal Appeals.
All members of each court are elected for six-year terms, with three elected every two years. Any vacancies are filled by gubernatorial appointment until the next general election.
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