Despite committee’s recommendation, ending Texas’ partisan judicial elections looks unlikely

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The Texas Supreme Court on Jan. 15, 2020. Credit: Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

Texas looks unlikely to change its controversial partisan election system for judges — even after a commission studying the issue recommended ending the practice.

On an 8–7 vote, the 15-member group recommended in a report released Thursday that the Legislature change the longstanding method in the state, which requires judges to run with a political party, often collecting campaign checks from the very lawyers, businesses and lobbyists whose cases land before their courts. But the group did not overwhelmingly back a replacement system.

For decades, critics including former judges have pointed out that the system allows for the appearance of bias for donors or political allies, if not not improper influence itself. But the issue has always been politically intractable at the Texas Capitol, where large majorities would be required to change it through a constitutional amendment.