How is it that on Election Day 2018, all Republican judges in Harris County, Texas, lost? Voter fraud? It seems implausible that every single Republican who has been serving for decades all of a sudden lost. Even if people voted solely along party lines, the numbers don’t add up because Republican legislators in the same district won.
All elected Republican judges in civil, criminal, family, juvenile and probate courts, lost.
Now Democratic judges hold all 59 seats that were on the ballot. Only one Republican, Brock Thomas, who was hired to oversee a special drug court, remains on the bench in Harris County, the Houston Chronicle reports.
“The upheaval has raised questions among lawyers and defendants about what happens next,” the Chronicle states.
Among those elected were 17 black women who were part of a group called the “Houston19” of black women judges who worked together to get elected. Two in the group were already presiding over state district courts and lost their bids to move to appellate courts. They will remain state district judges.
Dedra Davis, who was elected to civil court, said the group represented more than 220 years of experience and are ready for public service.
“A little more fairness, a little more impartiality, and a little more equality is coming, and not everybody’s happy about that. Their bottom line is going to change,” she told the Chronicle. “Lawyers who made $500,000 a year from their relationship with a judge who always gave them appointments aren’t going to see that anymore.”
Davis said many civil judges who have held their benches for years have stopped reading pleadings and filings in cases and instead just make decisions on the spur of the moment, when the litigants appear before them.
“The pleadings need to be read and reviewed for you to be fair and give an informed decision about what’s going on,” she said.
“At the courthouse, when you look at (campaign finance) reports, you can often see why the rulings are what they are, which have nothing to do with what’s been said in the court,” Davis added. “That’s not how it should be. It should be fair and impartial.”
Judges interviewed by the Chronicle in both parties attested that judges shouldn’t be elected along partisan lines. Requiring judges to belong to a political party can keep bad judges in office for too long or oust good judges, with voters knowing very little about the quality of the judge, they argue. Texas is one of few states that elects partisan judges.
Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University and the author of a 2017 report on the selection of judges in Texas, said Tuesday’s election may lead to calls for reforming judicial elections, the Chronicle reports.
Democrats didn’t just sweep Harris County, they swept even higher into the 1st and 14th Courts of Appeal.
Paul Simpson, Chairman of the Harris County GOP, released a statement about the judges’ losses.
“I am mad. Mad at the avoidable losses wreaked across Texas by the Beto wave of straight-ticket votes,” he said. “That straight-ticket wave turned Fort Bend County Democrat, defeated Republicans on appellate courts across Texas, elected Democrats across the state to Congress and the Legislature, and swept every countywide vote in Harris County.”