Is there any way for the state to object to the assignment of a former justice of the Court of Criminal Appeals, who was defeated in a bid for re-election, to an appellate court panel? I had a case several months back where a defeated former CCA justice showed up on a panel and cast the majority vote and wrote a published opinion reversing a conviction out of our county. To compound the problem, the case had previously been transferred out of our normal appellate court district. Government Code Section 74.053 addresses objections to assigned judges and provides in subsection (d) "A former judge or justice who was not a retired judge may not sit in a case if either party objects to the judge or justice." I know the state normally can't object to visiting judges but is this a statutory provision that might address this problem? To me there is something inherently wrong with an appellate court judge who lost an election sitting by assignment on appellate panels and making decisions or writing opinions that may constitute precedent. Any thoughts?
(d) applies to civil cases only. Lanford v. Fourteenth Court of Appeals, 847 S.W.2d 581 (Tex. Crim. App. 1993).
If you look at the reversal rate for courts of appeals, I bet it is higher for non-elected judges who sit on panels.
Williamson County, Texas
I realize that we don't have enough elected judges to handle all the work and that elected judges are preferred in Texas. But, if we can't prevent ex-judges from sitting and, when they sit, they are unaccountable to the electorate, the time has come to revamp the system. I recall that Calvin Hartmann wrote an article in this vein some time back in The Texas Prosecutor.
My suggestion is a pool of elected visiting judges that can be siphoned off to visit around the state. Surely this will cost little more than the existing use of ex-judges but provide considerably more accountability.
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