© 2023 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

The Source: Former Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson | Reforming How Texas Chooses Judges

University of Texas

In the first segment:

"The question is not how is the judiciary? We must ask instead whether our system of justice is working for the people it has promised to serve. Do we have liberty and justice for all? Or have we come to accept liberty and justice only for some?" - Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson's State of the Judiciary, March 2013.

Last week the state's highest jurist stepped down. Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson left public service to re-enter private practice after 12 years on the Texas Supreme Court, where his voice was credited with moderating what has been seen as a pro-business bench.  

He has won numerous awards, had a school named after him in Northside ISD and was both the first African American on the Texas Supreme Court as well as its first African American Chief Justice.  

Jefferson joins us to talk about his story and the issues of justice he sees facing Texas as he leaves public life.

Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson joined the law firm of Alexander, Dubose, Jefferson & Townsend

In the second segment:


The Texas judiciary is a partisan, elected body. Judges raise money and they often find themselves ruling in cases where lawyers have donated to them, or the companies those lawyers represent.  

Can judges be trusted to rule justly in a system that can pit them against their donors? In her study, "Justice At Risk," Joanna Shepard-Bailey states that there is strong evidence to support a "significant relationship" between large donors and the way that justices they donate to vote across the country.

More than 90 percent of the United States' judicial business is handled by state courts and 89 percent of all state court justices face the voters in some type of election -- Justice at Risk

Texas has a history of judicial reforms and as they say it isn't for the short winded. Last month a Texas Supreme Court Justice added his voice to the calls for reform -- Don Willette came out against judicial elections saying he hopes his last race is his last race.

Willette joins former chief justices Tom Phillips and Wallace Jefferson advocating for changes in the system.

The legislature has failed to pass comprehensive reforms in the past two legislative sessions, but State Rep. Justin Rodriguez joins us to talk about his legislation providing for the study of the issue. Wallace Jefferson and Joanna Shepard Bailey also join us.

*The Source airs at 3 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM - audio from this show will be posted by 5:30 p.m.

Stay Connected
Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive