The second volume of the report of the Texas Commission on Judicial Efficiency (TCJE) deals with the work of the Task Force on Judicial Selection and contains several significant recommendations.
Independence and accountability are the themes of recommendations to improve the Texas court system. The TCJE believes the current judicial selection system needs a major overhaul, and the TCJE's judicial selection proposals address the lack of racial and ethnic diversity on the bench, the politicization of judicial campaigns and service, and the perceived loss of qualified judicial candidates. One plan for systemic change, the Appoint-Elect-Retain Plan, proposes gubernatorial appointments, expands Senate confirmation rules, preserves contested judicial elections, and substitutes retention elections for the balance of the judge's term of service. Under another proposal, the Modified Bullock-Ellis-Duncan Plan, appellate vacancies would be filled by gubernatorial appointments, taking diversity into consideration. The TCJE recommends three targeted reforms: (1) lengthen the term of appellate judges from 6 to 8 years and the term of district, statutory, county, and probate judges from 4 to 6 years; (2) increase the amount of practice needed to qualify to serve on district, statutory, county, and probate courts from 4 to 8 years; and (3) subject judges to automatic disqualification on motion of the other party if they accept campaign contributions from a party to a lawsuit or counsel for that party in excess of limits specified in the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act. Further information on judicial selection findings of the TCJE is appended. 6 footnotes
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