Analysis of Texas Proposition 1: Should Judges Be Allowed To Serve Multiple Cities At Once?

This is part of a series on the 10 propositions appearing on the November 2019 Texas Constitutional Amendment Election.

Municipal Judge multiple city service
Proposition 1 (HJR 72)
“The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.”

There are many cities and towns that cannot afford a full-time municipal judge. As such, some municipal judges could readily hobble together a full-time income if they were able to serve in more than one city simultaneously. Proposition 1 attempts to solve this by allowing appointed and elected municipal judges in Texas to serve in more than one municipality at a time.

Recommendation: Against. Appointed judges are one thing, but when this applies to elected judges it gives a special carve-out in a state where candidates appearing on the ballot more than once is prohibited (Texas Election Code 52.034). In Texas, even a precinct chairman must withdraw from the ballot if seeking another balloted office — the only exception being seeking a congressional-level race and a presidential post at once, which was made for then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson in his bid for Vice President.

If a municipality has the ability to administer an election it can just as easily provide incentives to attract/develop the talent necessary to fill the post — or change the office into an appointed post. We recommend this proposition be rejected by voters for now and re-introduced in the 87th Legislature for appointed municipal judges only.

Below is the analysis from the Texas Legislative Council containing pros and cons.

Comments by Supporters
• A number of smaller municipalities lack individuals willing or qualified to serve as a
municipal judge, which impedes the ability of these municipalities to deal with cases such
as ordinance violations and fine-only misdemeanors. Although current law allows
appointed municipal judges to serve more than one municipality, this authority does not
extend to elected judges. Allowing a person to hold elected office as a municipal judge in
more than one municipality would make it easier to fill that office in smaller
municipalities. This would help improve public safety and produce a fairer and more
efficient judicial system.

Comments by Opponents
• Allowing a person to hold elected office as a municipal judge in multiple municipalities
could lead to judges not being able to dedicate an adequate amount of time or attention
to local concerns in a given municipality.

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