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Texas Supreme Court, Chief Justice

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    Nathan Hecht (R) Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Texas

  • William Moody (D)

  • Tom Oxford (L) Attorney

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Biographical Information

Length of residency in Texas:

Occupation/main source of income:

Education (include all degrees):

Highlights of current civic involvement/accomplishment:

Highlights of past civic involvement/accomplishment:

Previous public offices sought or held:

How much funding have you raised for your campaign?

Who are your top three contributors?

Have you ever been arrested or involved in any criminal proceedings or civil suits? If so, please explain:

Have you ever been involved in any civil lawsuits or declared personal or professional bankruptcy? If so, please explain:

What is an example of how you led a team or group toward achieving an important goal?

What judge or attorney do you most admire and why?

Why are you running for this office?

Why should voters choose you over your opponent?

As a judge (if applicable), have any complaints been filed against you to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. If so, please explain the disposition of those complaints.

As a lawyer, have you had any grievances filed against you with the State Bar of Texas? If so, what was the disposition (unfounded, private reprimand, public reprimand, suspension, disbarment)?

What value do you place on precedent? What would motivate you to deviate from precedent?

How should the state make sure that the legal needs of poor and working class defendants are being met?

A growing number of Texans, from consumers to corporate general counsels, report a growing concern with the cost, effectiveness and fairness of mandatory arbitration proceedings. Does this concern you and how should the Texas Supreme Court and the State Bar address it?

How important are unanimous Supreme Court opinions? What would prompt you to write a separate opinion?

Writing is an important part of this job. If opinions are not clear, the public, including lawyers and lower courts, are left confused. How should voters judge you in this area?

Does the court have the right to intervene if the Legislature fails to fund key constitutional responsibilities such as schools, jails and highways? If so, how does the court enforce that obligation?

Some see this court as pro-business. Is that accurate and, if so, does it impact justice?

Does this court have a significant backlog? If so, what would you do to reduce it?

What is a reasonable length of time for the court to dispose of a plaintiff’s case?

Because Texas selects its judges and justices through partisan elections, you chose to run as a Republican, Democrat or member of another political party. What philosophies of that party led you to choose it for this race?

Do you support our system of electing judges in partisan contests? Or would you favor moving to a different system, such as one where judges are appointed and then run later in non-partisan retention elections?

The Supreme Court oath that all lawyers take requires them to say that “we will avoid the appearance of impropriety.” In light of that, how can judges justify accepting campaign contributions from lawyers who have appeared or may appear before them in court?

Address P.O. Box 12248
City/Town Austin
Age 68
Campaign Phone Number (512) 477-7722
41 years
Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Texas
J.D., SMU Law School cum laude; B.A., Yale University (Honors in Philosophy)
As a judge, I am fully occupied in public service. I meet with legislators and leaders, professional and community groups, and newspaper editorial boards to encourage support for access to justice for our poorest Texans. In the 25 years I have served on the Supreme Court, I have worked to modernize and improve court procedures. As Chief Justice, I meet nationally with other states’ chief justices. I frequently speak and teach on the justice system as continuing education for lawyers and to increase public understanding. I am a member of the American Law Institute, which works to clarify American law. I am heavily involved in the work of the Cornerstone Christian Church of Dallas.
Besides the legal, educational, and church activities in which I have long been involved, I was proud to serve as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve, Judge Advocate General Corps, and was honorably discharged. As a district judge, I served as local administrative judge in Dallas County, representing the courts before other branches of government. I am the senior Texas appellate judge in active service.
I was appointed Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court in 2013. I was first elected to the Supreme Court as a Justice in 1988, and I was re-elected in 1994, 2000, 2006, and 2012. I served as a Justice on the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas from 1986 to 1988, and as Judge of the 95th District Court in Dallas from 1981 to 1986.
About $280,000 for the general election.
Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, Vinson & Elkins Texas PAC, and Locke Lord LLP.
I have never been arrested or involved in any criminal proceedings. I was sued by a political opponent in the 1980s, and I won. I was sued by a political opponent in 2012, but she quickly dismissed the suit. I have appealed two administrative decisions to the courts. I won one, and the other is pending in the district court. I have been named as a public official in several suits that did not involve me personally.
I have not been involved in any civil lawsuits other than those just listed. I have never declared personal or professional bankruptcy.
For 25 years, I have been responsible to the Supreme Court for overseeing rules of procedure and administration in Texas courts. I have worked with lawyers, judges, and academics from all over the State to reduce costs and delay in litigation. I have helped spearhead electronic filing and other technological improvements in the courts. I also oversee the Court’s efforts to help ensure that the promises of the rule of law are available to the poorest Texans. I have worked with legislators and legal aid providers to secure financial and volunteer support for legal services.
I was privileged to serve as a law clerk to Judge Roger Robb, now deceased, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. I admired him greatly as a brilliant, hard-working jurist. Judge Robb was succeeded by now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whom I also admire because of his many thoughtful contributions to American jurisprudence.
I have dedicated my life to serving the rule of law and our justice system. If Texas voters give me the continued privilege to serve, I have the experience, the proven record, the dedication to provide basic legal services to Texans, and the commitment to an efficient justice system to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas.
I am grateful to Texas voters for having elected me to the Supreme Court five times in the past 25 years. I believe I continue to deserve voters’ confidence because of my record of deciding cases fairly and justly. I have worked to improve efficiency and reduce costs and delays in our court system, and I have worked to assure that the justice system is accessible to all Texans, including the poor, the elderly, women subject to abuse, children, and veterans.
I am aware of only two that were not simply dismissed as having no merit. Both related to my responses to questions from the media about the qualifications of President Bush’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Commission attempted to admonish me for providing information to the public. I appealed and was exonerated on both complaints.
I am not aware of any grievances filed against me as a lawyer.
The Supreme Court of Texas has long held that it adheres to precedent for reasons of efficiency, fairness, and legitimacy, and it departs from precedent when those reasons no longer apply. The Court respects the stability that precedent gives to the law, but the Court does not refuse to correct errors that cause the general interest to suffer.
Each year, Texas lawyers devote millions of hours, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, in free legal services to the poor, including the elderly, children, women subject to abuse, and veterans. But the needs are great, and more must be done. The State has assisted efforts to provide basic civil legal services to the poor and should continue to do so. The Supreme Court is dedicated to ensuring access to justice by all Texans. The Court works to secure funding, tries to reduce the expenses of the legal system to people who feel they must represent themselves, and encourages lawyers to provide basic legal services to the poor. I oversee these efforts for the Court.
Mandatory arbitration is almost always by agreement of the parties, although consumers often feel they have no real choice in the matter. When parties agree to arbitrate, federal and state statutes require that those agreements be enforced with limited exceptions. The best way to discourage those agreements is to make court options more attractive by reducing costs and delays in the civil justice system. In an effort to do just that, the Supreme Court has adopted rules to expedite trials in smaller cases. I supervised the writing and implementation of those rules.
A unanimous opinion is usually clear and shows that none of the Justices joining it doubts the correctness of the decision. I write separately in dissent when I cannot agree with the decision, and I concur separately when I believe the decision is right but for a different reason, or to further explain why I think the decision is right.
I have written hundreds of opinions for the Supreme Court. I write opinions to explain the reasons for the Court’s decisions, not only to lawyers, but to non-lawyers. I have long been committed to plain language. For example, I recently oversaw the Supreme Court’s work to ensure that instructions to jurors in civil cases are not full of legal jargon but given in plain English that everyone can understand.
The Supreme Court’s job is to enforce the Constitution and laws of Texas and the United States. When the operation of the public schools has violated the Texas Constitution, the Court has ordered that changes be made. The Legislative and Executive Branches have respected those decisions and followed them. The Court has not had cases involving funding of jails and highways.
I disagree that there is any legitimate perception that the Texas Supreme Court is "pro" anything but fair and just decisions and efficient administration. The Court works very hard to reach the right decision in each case and to fully explain its decisions in written opinions that are publicly available. In addition, oral arguments in cases are broadcast and available through the Court’s website so that all can see those proceedings for themselves and form their own opinions. This transparency shows the public that the Supreme Court is diligent, fair, and just.
The Supreme Court has almost no backlog. The numbers of cases left undecided the past three fiscal years are the lowest in decades, since the Court has kept records.
Administrative rules require trial courts to make reasonable efforts to dispose of civil jury cases within 18 months and nonjury cases within 12 months. For family law cases, the time frames are 6 months if contested and 3 months if not. The rules require appellate courts to attempt to dispose of parental rights termination cases in 180 days. The length of time to dispose of any case can vary depending on its complexity and any special circumstances.
Judging must never be partisan, even though judges in Texas must run for election on partisan ballots. The Republican Party has always supported reforms to the election system to limit the size of political contributions to judges and to prohibit contributions except in the election season. It also supports judicial restraint and court decisions that are consistently, firmly grounded in the law, not in a judge’s personal views. That is why I have always chosen to run as a Republican candidate.
How judges are selected is a decision that must be made by the people of Texas. People want to elect judges to keep them accountable to the public, but there are so many judges on the ballot, it’s hard to know who are better qualified. Also, expensive, partisan elections raise concerns about the financial contributions necessary to campaign. There are ways to elect judges and keep them accountable without requiring them to raise contributions and identify with a political party. One is for judges to be selected first on their qualifications and experience by a distinguished, non-partisan panel, then run in non-partisan retention elections. That way, voters have a say in selecting judges that are qualified and removed from contributions and partisanship. Many states use a system similar to this, and I have always favored it. But that choice is up to the people of Texas.
In my first election to the Supreme Court in 1988, I voluntarily limited campaign contributions, even though my opponent did not do so, to help ensure a large number of smaller contributors rather than a few large ones. I tightened those voluntary limits in my 1994 campaign. Most of my voluntary limits have since become law for all judicial candidates to follow. The limits now set by the Legislature are designed to help avoid any appearance of impropriety. Having a broad base of support, as I have had, is another way to avoid any possible appearance of impropriety.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
City/Town Beaumont, Texas
Age 61
Campaign Phone Number (409) 363-4988
Fax Number 4098664196
I have lived in Texas since I was twelve.
Attorney
Graduated from The University of Texas with a degree in Political Science. Received a Doctor of Jurisprudence from The University of Houston.
Active participant in the "Jefferson County Pro Bono Program". Member of the Board of Directors for the "Spindletop Youth Soccer Program". President of the "Seabreeze Youth Soccer Association". Member of the Board of Directors for "People Helping People".
In addition to the above activities I have a long history of promoting and protecting constitutional rights. Examples include: While in Law School helping The Southern Christian Leadership Conference protect the rights of Vietnamese Shrimpers by locating and serving KKK members who were terrorizing the community. Representing black families used as pawns by HUD in efforts to desegregate public housing in Vidor, Texas. Successfully arguing at the Texas Supreme Court for equal rights of Texas fathers to their children (see "in the Interest of J.W.T."). Litigating to protect the free exercise of religion in Southeast Texas schools.
I have never held a public office. I have run as a Libertarian for the Texas Supreme Court several times in the past.
None, I do not accept donations.
N/A
I was convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana twice in the mid 1970s. I was a Plaintiff is a suit against the Beaumont Independent School District involving a "Church in the Schools" program they instituted. As the program involved only hand picked ministers from certain denominations I felt, and the courts agreed, it was an improper state promotion of religion.
No, other than as noted above.
I have successfully managed a law firm for many years. I am also proud of my work with youth soccer, often a more difficult leadership challenge than my business.
Every attorney and judge who has stood by his convictions even when unpopular.
The most important right we have is the right to by judged by a jury of our peers. That right has been under attack by both parties, but particularly the Republican Party, over the past twenty years. I will do my best to stop that erosion of this fundamental right.
I am a Libertarian, I believe personal liberty is the foundation of our great nation. There are two threats to our liberty, big government through the power of the State and big business through the power of the dollar. By aggressively enforcing our personal rights guaranteed under the Texas and U.S. Constitutions I will protect that liberty.
N/A
N/A
Precedent is important, but if it is wrong I will not hesitate to make the correct decision.
First and foremost we must protect the right to jury. The courts regularly substitute their judgment for that of a jury of our peers. We must back away from that approach. Additionally the courts must become more user friendly, many of our rules are impossible to understand without a law degree (or even with one!). Finally the IOLTA program works and should be continued.
Mandatory arbitration is a method by big business to avoid courts and juries. These clauses, often stuck in the fine print of contracts, should be carefully examined. If unfair they should not be upheld.
Not at all. I will write an opinion based on my reading of the law.
I will write simple, short decisions.
Yes, it is the courts job to enforce the law. If the public does not like a law they can change it. How the court enforces a law varies with the circumstances, injunctions and fines are certainly alternatives in the right situation.
Yes, see my earlier comments about the erosion of the right to a jury. The great majority of jury decisions overturned by judges over the past twenty years have been decisions originally in favor of the individual. Big business is well taken care of by the current court.
I do not believe this is a serious problem. These are important decision, they should be carefully examined.
A year is reasonable.
As indicated above our liberty is limited by big government and big business. The Libertarian party is the only party not beholden to one, or both, of these interest.
I support elections. While voters can be influenced by the massive amount of money spent on advertising there is not a better alternative. Do not fool yourself, appointed judges will be just as dependent on the power structure as elected judges.
They cannot, the practice should be illegal.