Wallace B. Jefferson, the newly retired Chief Justice of Texas’s Supreme Court, is remarkable for many reasons. A Republican in the most Republican state in the Union, a black man in a state dominated by white conservatives, he has nonetheless been a dogged voice on behalf of Texas’s poorest and least powerful litigants. He has also been a consistent critic of the dubious way in which Texas selects and retains its judges—through a series of judicial elections that are unabashedly partisan.
This month, Jefferson returned to private practice, leaving his post on the highest civil court in Texas nine years after he was appointed its chief by Governor Rick Perry. I recently interviewed him by telephone on a series of issues. First up was the notion of judicial elections. Here’s a slightly edited version of our lengthy conversation (the first of a series I’ll be posting here at The Atlantic over the next few weeks). Jefferson’s remarks aren’t just notable for their candor about the structural failure of the state’s judicial campaigns. They also shed valuable insight into the motivations behind that failure — and explain why things aren’t likely to change anytime soon.
Read more. [Image courtesy of Baylor University]