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Texas Supreme Court, Place 8

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  • Jim Chisholm (G)

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    Phil Johnson (R) Justice, Texas Supreme Court

  • RS Roberto Koelsch (L)

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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?

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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.
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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 Austin
Age 73
Campaign Phone Number (512) 637-8778
Fax Number 800-433-1387
57 years
Justice, Texas Supreme Court
B.A. Texas Tech University, J.D. Texas Tech University School of Law
Church, Law School alumni and college alumni organizations. Otherwise, my time is occupied by the demands of my position, duties associated with it, and family.
Trinity Christian Schools Supervising Committee (Chair, 2 terms); Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind Board of Directors (Chair, 2 terms); Lubbock Area Foundation Board of Directors; Lubbock Legal Aid Society Board of Directors (Chair, 1 term); Commission on Alcohol & Drug Abuse, Region I Advisory Group; Carillon Foundation Board of Directors; Downtown Kiwanis Club of Amarillo Board of Directors (President, 1 term); Golden Spread Council Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors.
I have previously sought and been elected to the offices of Justice, 7th Court of Appeals; Chief Justice, 7th Court of Appeals; and Justice, Texas Supreme Court, where I now serve.
Over $500,000 for the primary and general elections, combined.
Ryan Texas PAC; Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC; Vinson & Elkins PAC.

I was divorced shortly after I returned from Vietnam in 1968. I have been sued for actions taken by the courts on which I have served. The Attorney General's office defends such suits and I'm unaware of any relief having been granted to the plaintiffs in the suits.
See answer to previous question as to lawsuits. I have not declared any type of bankruptcy.
While I was serving as Chief Justice of the 7th Court of Appeals I was elected by the Chief Justices of the other thirteen courts of appeals to serve as Chair of the Council of Chief Justices for the term that included the 2005 legislative session. The Legislature funds the budget of each court of appeals separately, based on line items of expense projected by the individual court for the next biennium. That budgeting process traditionally resulted in friction among the courts and a bit of confusion among the budget-writing legislators as each Chief sought to maximize the funding for his or her individual court when presenting that court’s proposed budget to the Legislature. During the time I served as Chair of the Council of Chief Justices I proposed that instead of each Chief striving to maximize their own court’s budget, we try presenting an overall funding proposal to the Legislature based on a formula by which individual courts would be funded on the basis of similar funding for same-sized courts; i.e., three justice courts would be funded similarly, four justice courts would be funded similarly, etc. Under that concept individual courts would receive similar funding as other courts with the same number of justices, but would have more flexibility to allocate their budgets according to individual court priorities. Also, the legislative budgeting committees would not evaluate and decide on fourteen different sets of budget priorities, although the individual court budgets would still be subject to legislative examination and oversight. I believed that such a methodology would decrease friction among the Chiefs and present the legislative budget committees with a much easier task when funding the courts of appeals. After discussion and revision of some aspects of the proposal, the Chiefs agreed to try it. The Chiefs then worked together to contact budget committee chairs and individual legislators on the budget committees, explain the advantages of the concept, and persuade them to try the proposed budgeting method. The legislators agreed to try the plan and it seemed to work well. The methodology has been used by the courts of appeals in presenting their budgets to the Legislature since then and the Legislature has continued funding the courts of appeals on the basis of ‘similar funding for same size courts.’ Accomplishing the proposed goal increased harmony and a sense of cohesion among the courts, reduced the time and workload of the Legislature in budgeting for the fourteen courts of appeals, and enhanced the relationship between the courts of appeals and the budget-writing committees of the Legislature.
There are many attorneys and judges I admire, and I cannot say there is a particular one I admire most. However, one judge I admire greatly is current United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. I admire him because his positions on issues are carefully thought out, his opinions are consistent on legal principle, and in my view he correctly adheres to principles that underlie the structure of government envisioned by our country's founders as set out in the Constitution.
I am running as a matter of public service. I believe it is critical to the welfare of Texas for the Court to have Justices who are experienced, impartial, conservative, and respect the constitutional separation of powers between the judiciary and the other branches of government. My record demonstrates that I have been that type of judge and I wish to continue serving the public in the same manner.
Voters should vote for me because of my experience, my qualifications, and because “the proof is in the pudding.” That is, my record shows that I have properly performed the duties of my position on the Court in an impartial, conservative manner, respecting the constitutional separation of powers between the judiciary and the other branches of government. My record is the best evidence that I will continue doing so if re-elected. My qualifications include having been appointed by Gov. Perry after a very thorough ‘vetting’ process in which numerous other well-qualified candidates were considered, and then having been elected twice. Before my Supreme Court service, I served on the 7th Court of Appeals for over six years-more than two of which were as Chief Justice-and practiced general and civil trial law for over 23 years. The quality of my service on the Supreme Court is reflected by my being endorsed for re-election by those who best know how to evaluate the performance of a Justice on the Court: retired Texas Supreme Court Chief Justices Tom Phillips and Wallace Jefferson and nine other retired/former Justices of the Court (in order of their leaving the Court: Justices Dale Wainwright, David Medina, Harriet O’Neill, Scott Brister, Steve Smith, Craig Enoch, Deborah Hankinson, Barbara Culver Clack and Eugene Cook). I have also been endorsed by thirteen former presidents of the State Bar of Texas. My experience includes varied life experiences such as serving as a pilot and officer in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam conflict, serving on different civic and church boards, volunteering in various organizations, and varied experiences in the legal field. After being honorably discharged from the service I attended law school and graduated with honors. During law school I served on the Law Review, a select group of students who wrote, edited and published legal books and articles. Following law school I practiced law for over 23 years doing mainly civil trial law. I was certified in Civil Trial Law and Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1984 and have maintained those certifications since then. While in private practice I prepared, mediated, arbitrated, and tried disputes and lawsuits of all kinds, as well as maintaining a varied general practice including family law, probate, and representing small and large businesses. I also worked with legislators at various times in drafting, reviewing, testifying about and shepherding legislation through the legislative process, so I have a special understanding of and respect for how the legislative branch of our government functions.
I have not been notified of any by the Commission and I am unaware of any.
No.
I value legal precedent highly. My experience in representing clients for over 23 years before becoming a judge convinced me that stability and predictability in the law are critical. Stability and predictability in the law allow individuals and businesses to plan ahead and not be worried about having to constantly change those plans because of changing court decisions. I would deviate from precedent only if the precedent was clearly erroneous or the legislature changed the law on which the precedent was based.
The Texas Supreme Court has taken the lead in providing funding for legal aid to low income individuals through several initiatives such as the program by which interest on lawyers’ trust accounts is used for funding legal services, and by creating a judicial Access to Justice Commission to plan and implement ways to provide legal assistance persons otherwise unable to afford it. The State Bar has undertaken programs such as Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans to provide legal aid to persons with low incomes, and the Texas Young Lawyers group has numerous programs that provide legal assistance and legal information to persons with low incomes. The Texas Bar Foundation provides grants to many programs that provide legal services to the poor. At the urging of the Supreme Court, members of the Access to Justice Commission and other Bar leaders and members, the Legislature increased appropriated funds for access to justice and legal aid initiatives. Continuing these efforts and increasing legislative appropriations are realistic ways to help meet the legal needs of those who cannot afford legal services.
The question implies that arbitration is imposed by courts. But courts only “mandate” arbitration in the sense that courts honor agreements to arbitrate disputes and enforce statutes addressing arbitration; courts do not mandate arbitration of disputes absent agreements to arbitrate. And because arbitration is pursuant to agreement, for the most part the agreement itself and the arbitrator, or arbitrators, designated pursuant to the agreement control the cost, effectiveness and fairness of the arbitration proceedings, subject to state and national statutes that govern arbitration. Under current arbitration statutes Texas courts realistically have little control over matters such as the cost, effectiveness and fairness of arbitration proceedings, absent provisions in the arbitration agreement otherwise.
It was not of great significance to me as either a practitioner or as a court of appeals justice whether the relevant Supreme Court opinion was unanimous, because whether or not it was unanimous, it was the controlling precedent as to matters the opinion addressed. Now that I am on the Supreme Court I am not as concerned about whether the Court’s opinions are unanimous as I am about whether the opinions and result reached are correct. I write separate opinions to explain my reasoning if I have a significant disagreement with either the result reached by the majority of the Court, or with some aspect of the reasoning expressed in the majority opinion.
Clarity, of course, is of great importance in court opinions. While I was in law school I was a member of the Law Review, which was a selective organization that wrote, edited and published articles and books on the law. That experience helped develop my legal writing skills early in my legal career. Then while I was in private practice I wrote numerous trial and appellate briefs (my law practice was mainly a trial practice). My writing was, and is, greatly affected by my experience as a trial lawyer who regularly tried cases to juries. I learned that simplifying arguments and using unadorned language where possible was the best way to have the audience understand my position. As a busy trial lawyer I found appellate opinions to be much more readable and understandable if they followed a fairly standard format, were succinct, and used plain, everyday language to the extent possible. After I became a justice on the Court of Appeals in 1999, my full time job was to review trial records and appellate briefs, evaluate the appeal and write an opinion deciding the appeal. In writing my opinions I tried to write opinions of the nature I appreciated when I was a lawyer: fairly standardized in format, as short as possible, given the necessity of fully addressing the relevant arguments of the parties, and containing unpretentious language. During the more than 6 years I was on the Court of Appeals I authored hundreds of opinions, so I had a great deal of practice writing opinions. Each opinion was reviewed and critiqued by at least two other justices (courts of appeals for the most part sit in panels of three justices), so I learned to focus on clarifying my opinions from the outset. While I have been on the Supreme Court, my primary job has been to review briefs and records, write opinions, and suggest edits to opinions of other justices in which I join. On the Supreme Court my opinions are reviewed and critiqued by eight other justices and I review and critique the opinions written by the other justices, so I have become even more atuned to clarity in my writings. I continue to attempt to use a standardized format in my opinions as well as focusing on keeping my opinions as brief as is reasonable and using everyday language to the extent possible.
Courts are constitutionally limited to deciding bona fide cases and controversies brought to them. That constitutional limitation precludes courts from seeking out matters, even important ones, into which they can insert themselves in order to write opinions and enter judgments. If a controversy involving funding of constitutional responsibilities by the government is brought to and is within the Court’s jurisdiction, however, the Court has the duty to decide the case. Courts enforce their judgments by issuing directives which generally must be enforced by the executive branch of government.
My experience is that each of the Court’s decisions is based on the particular facts of the case in light of applicable rules of law, rules of procedure and evidence, and statutory and constitutional provisions. My experience also is that the Court decides each case on its own merits, not on whether one party or the other is a business. So, I disagree with the view that the Court is pro-business.
No, it does not. In the past few years the Court has reduced the number of cases it carries over from one year to the next. Last fiscal year the Court disposed of all argued cases except for eleven. Adhering to internal Court deadlines, which the Court constantly stresses, and minimizing turnover on the Court are ways to assist in reducing the number of cases carried over from one fiscal year to the next. New justices coming onto the Court must become familiar with how the Court does its business, do the daily work of the Court, possibly plan for and begin running for election, and catch up on cases already argued and pending.
The amount of time to dispose of a case, regardless of whether it is a plaintiff’s case or a defendant’s case, depends on many individualized factors such as the procedural posture of the case, whether the case is being held because a similar case is being decided by the Court and the similar case may determine, or assist in determining, the outcome of the case being held, the complexity of the case, and the difficulty of the issues presented by the case. Given the current docket status, a reasonable goal is to dispose of cases within a year after they are argued.
I choose to run as a Republican because I have long viewed Republican values and philosophies as more conservative and closer to my own values and philosophies than those of the Democratic party.
The Texas Constitution provides for electing judges. I have taken an oath to support the Constitution and laws, so I support the system of electing judges that is now in place. I have determined to make known my experiences with the current system to anyone who asks, but to refrain from advocating change to the current system because of my position. I note, however, that almost every proposal I have seen for changing to a different system for judicial selection has its own set of disadvantages.
The perception that campaign contributions do, or might, influence a judge’s decision highlights one of the main problems with electing judges. Most judges are troubled by the need to raise campaign funds. The practical answer to the question is that lawyers who have, or may, appear before a judge seem to be among the relatively small number of persons who are willing make campaign contributions and thereby help defray campaign expenses necessary for a judicial candidate to run for office. Absent campaign contributions to allow a candidate to communicate his or her qualifications, experience, and message to voters, only wealthy candidates who can self-fund campaigns have a reasonable chance of being elected and staying in office. Part of my commitment to voters, whether potential campaign donors or otherwise, is that I will maintain impartiality toward the parties and attorneys when I decide cases. I have fulfilled that commitment for the fifteen years I’ve served as an appellate justice by constantly and consciously focusing on excluding any consideration of who the parties and lawyers are when I consider cases.
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