A couple months ago, I noted that all three seats on the Court of Criminal Appeals up for election in 2014 would be open, as every pertinent incumbent would be retiring. Similarly, with the elevation of Justice Nathan Hecht to the role of Chief Justice, his seat will hold a special election in 2014, meaning four of the seats on the Supreme Court will be up for election. However, it appears at press time that they will all include incumbents.
All these Supreme Court slots have no other candidates besides the incumbents. The three Court of Criminal Appeals slots, however, each respectively have two candidates. All aforementioned candidates are Republicans, and all signs suggest that the Democrats will not even contest most of these seats, as they have typically done in the past.
First things first, Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, who was just recently appointed to the position by Governor Perry, will run for re-election for the Chief slot (Position #1). He is hitherto unopposed. Justices Jeffrey Boyd and Phil Johnson will also run for re-election for Positions 7 and 8, respectively. Justice Jeff Brown, a former Houston Appeals Court Judge who was recently appointed by Governor Perry to replace Hecht’s associate justice seat, will run for re-election to Position 6.
In Position #3 on the Court of Criminal Appeals, incumbent Tom Price will be retiring, and two candidates have emerged to replace him: Bert Richardson and Barbara Walther. Richardson, as the astute may recall, is a former District Court who presided over the Lehmberg/Perry trial. A Republican, he served as the Judge of the 379th District Court (in Bexar County) from 1998 to 2009, when he was defeated for re-election by Democrat Ron Rangel. Walther, by comparison, is an incumbent Judge for the 51st District Court. Also a Republican, she has served continuously in the position since 1993. The 51st district consists of Coke, Irion, Schleicher, Sterling and Tom Green counties, in the western component of the State.
In Position #4 on the Court of Criminal Appeals, incumbent Paul Womack will also be retiring. Like Position #3, two candidates have emerged to replace him: Jani Jo Wood and Kevin Yeary. Wood currently works as an attorney for the Harris County Public Defender’s office, and formerly worked for the Texas Innocence Project. Yeary, on the other hand, is an appellate prosecutor in the Bexar County District Attorney’s office.
Lastly, in Position #9 on the Court of Criminal Appeals, the incumbent Cathy Cochran is retiring. Again, similar to the two aforementioned post, there are so far two Republican candidates vying to succeed Justice Cochran: Bud Kirkendall and David Newell. Kirkendall, a Judge of the “2nd 21st” (I know, it’s absurd) District Court, has served in that capacity since 2005. Before than, he served from 1983 to 2005 as the District Attorney for the area (which consists of Colorado, Gonzales, Guadalupe and Lavaca Counties). Newell is a prosecutor in Fort Bend County.
Absent divine intervention not seen since antediluvian times, the Republican primaries for these seats are tantamount to election. Accordingly, all those except the most ardent Democrats should study the choices to determine who you would prefer sitting on the high court for the next six years.
Grits for Breakfast has more.