For better or for worse, I think most would agree that this has been one of strangest and most contentious presidential elections in recent memory. Whichever way the election turns out, history will be made. If Ms. Clinton wins, she will, of course, be the first female President of the United States. It is well documented that if Mr. Trump wins, he will be the oldest President ever to take office.
What seems to have gone unnoticed this election year is the amount of Texas judicial seats up for re-election. According to Ballotpedia, three Texas Supreme Court seats, three Texas Court of Criminal Appeals seats, and twenty seats in the fourteen district courts of appeal are on the ballot for Election Day. The Texas Supreme Court is the highest court in Texas for all civil matters, and the Texas Court of Criminal appeals is the highest court for all criminal matters.
Each of the three Republican incumbents up for re-election in the Supreme Court (Debra Lehrmann, Paul Green, and Eva Guzman) have drawn Democratic, Libertarian, and Green party challengers. Again according to Ballotpedia.org, all nine current Supreme Court Justices are Republican. If two or three of the incumbents lose, this could signal a significant shift in the historically conservative Supreme Court.
In the Court of Criminal Appeals, eight of the nine sitting Judges are Republican, with Judge Lawrence Meyers being the lone Democrat on the Court. Judge Meyers is running for reelection, as is Republican Judge Michael Keasler. Republican Judge Cheryl Johnson is not running for reelection, and her seat on the Court of Criminal Appeals has drawn candidates from all four parties.
The Fifth District Court of Appeals, which hears both civil and criminal appeals from the Dallas, Collin, Grayson, Hunt, Kaufman, and Rockwall county district and criminal courts, also has the potential for some change this election. Republican incumbent Justice Lana Myers is being challenged by Democrat Judge Gena Slaughter, the current sitting Judge for the 191st District Court in Dallas County. Republican incumbent Justice David Schenck is being challenged by Democrat Judge Dennise Garcia, the current sitting Judge in the 303rd Family District Court in Dallas County.
Currently, all thirteen sitting Justices on Fifth District Court of Appeals are Republicans. Thus, even if both Judge Slaughter and Judge Garcia win seats, the impact upon the Court as a whole may be small, but the impact upon the parties appearing before the Court may be big. Appeals usually are heard in three-judge panels. Therefore, rather than facing three Republican Justices for any one case, a party potentially could face a panel containing one or two Democrats.
Locally, in Dallas County, incumbent Democratic Judge Eric Moye’ is being challenged by Republican Barry Johnson for his spot as Judge of the 14th District Court. Also, Republican Greg Gorman and Democrat Maricela Moore are battling it out for the 162nd District Court after former Judge Phyllis Lister-Brown passed away.
There are, of course, many more judicial races — too many to cover in this blog post. But after all is said and done, the question that remains is what difference does it make whether a Judge is a Republican or Democrat? Or whether a particular Court is dominated by Judges of a particular politicial affiliation?
The answers to these questions could be and probably are the subject of many articles and books. To the extent one can make generalizations, the quick answer is many believe Republican Judges tend to favor business and Democrat Judges tend to favor individuals. Republicans tend to favor defendants and Democrats tend to favor plaintiffs. This is far from being universally true, and just like in law school, there are exceptions to every rule and exceptions to the exceptions.
But no matter what you believe, Election Day 2016 no doubt will prove to be interesting on both a national and a local level.