Progressive Supreme Court Justices on the Ballot in Texas

12 mins read
Texas flag and U.S. flag

In the United States of America, every state has the right to construct its own judicial structure within the limits of the Constitution. The state of Texas divides its final legal decisions into two higher courts. The Texas Supreme Court hands down the final word on civil and juvenile matters, while the Texas State Court of Criminal Appeals is the last stop for adult criminal cases. During the 2021 term, the Texas Supreme Court will hear issues concerning redistricting, voting rights, eminent domain, and more. These decisions will affect Texas but could have implications nationwide. 

For almost 25 years, Texas Supreme Court justices have been all Republican and mostly white men. But that could change this year. Texas holds partisan elections for all court appointments, which means that candidates must indicate their political party on the ballot. In 2018, however, the Republican Party lost so many lower court elections that GOP lawmakers may choose to support nonpartisan elections in the future.

This election cycle, the slate of Democrats vying for the State Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals gives voters a chance to increase demographic diversity and expand the court’s legal expertise. All of the Democratic candidates are women, including Judge Amy Clark Meachum, who would become the first female Chief Justice; Elizabeth Davis Frizell, who would be the highest court’s first African American justice; and Kathy Cheng, a single mom and Asian immigrant. The Democratic candidates are an inclusive group of Black, Asian, Hispanic, and native Texan nominees. These judges would help the court better reflect what the population of Texas looks like today. 

The Texas Appeals Court recently upheld a 2017 law against a ballot line for straight-party voting, so it’s up to voters to educate themselves about each candidate and do the work to mark the entire ballot.

Justice is ALWAYS on the ballot!

Supreme Court Chief Justice Candidate: Judge Amy Clark Meachum

“We need to elect judges who put public service and fairness over special interests.”

A Texas native and mother of three, Judge Amy Clark Meachum is running to become the first female Chief Justice of the Texas State Supreme Court and to restore balance to a court that has had Republicans filling the seats for 25 years. 

Judge Clark Meachum presides over the 201st District Court in Travis County and serves as the Civil Presiding Judge for all the civil and family courts, also in Travis County. In these roles, she has always strived to arrive at the most just decision. Her integrity and commitment to serving all Texans has been recognized by the Austin Bar Association who awarded her the 2019 Outstanding Pro Bono Judicial Award. She also serves on the board of Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas. In addition, Judge Clark Meachum works to improve the justice system as liaison to the Administrative and Public Law Council for the State Bar of Texas. 

Judge Clark Meachum’s legal career includes awards for practicing civil litigation. Through her pro bono, nonprofit and volunteer work, the judge has helped underserved children by expanding access to books and museums. 

Editorial boards from The Dallas Morning News, The San Antonio Express News, The Austin Chronicle, The Houston Chronicle, and The El Paso Times have all endorsed Judge Clark Meachum as an impartial jurist with innovative ideas for expanding access to the courts for all Texans. She has been endorsed by Black, Mexican-American, and LGBTQ+ associations as well as labor groups. 

Judge Clark Meachum’s Republican opponent, Houston Judge Jerry Zimmerer, has attacked her with sexist remarks as she works to break the glass ceiling in Texas. In response, Judge Clark Meachum said, “If he chooses to disparage a more qualified and experienced judge because of her gender, he’ll find himself on the wrong side of history.”


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Kathy Cheng, Texas Supreme Court, Place 6

Cheng for Change. Cheng for Justice! 

Kathy Cheng, who calls herself “a proud American by choice,” escaped political oppression with her family as a child and came to the United States. Cheng says daily elementary school recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance helped her learn English, and the words indivisible, freedom, and liberty all held special meaning for her.  

As a practicing litigator dealing with real estate, probate, family, tax, and criminal law, Cheng says she saw close up how Texas’s judicial system falls short of these American ideals. She’s running to help change the judiciary so it serves all people, regardless of their background, status, income, or abilities.

In her first run for a state supreme court position in 2018, Cheng told Local Profile magazine she’s running because, “As an Asian-American immigrant of multicultural backgrounds and experiences, having experienced and witnessed disparate treatment, I know the importance of giving effect to the terms justice, fairness and equality to all.” 

In 2019, Cheng’s Republican opponent, Jane Bland, was appointed by a Republican governor. Bland’s views align with more conservative ideologies, and Cheng believes her diverse legal experience, coupled with her life experience and background, would better serve the people of Texas. Democrats in Texas agree, choosing Cheng overwhelmingly (75%) in the March primary. The people of Texas deserve a judge who will make rulings from a perspective more similar to theirs. 

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Elizabeth Davis Frizell, Texas State Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3

“It’s time for a change at the highest level of criminal court.”

Texas leads the nation in incarceration rates, and Dallas County has an extraordinary number of wrongful convictions. All too often prosecutors seek and judges impose the death penalty instead of life sentences. Execution can even be considered when the convicted person was not the perpetrator of violence but merely present at a capital crime. In 2019 alone, Texas imposed the death penalty 9 times, accounting for almost half the country’s 22 executions.

In Texas, as in other states, equal justice and public confidence are undermined by sentence disparity rooted in race, mental health issues, and intellectual or economic ability. In one highly publicized case, Crystal Mason, a black woman on supervised release for felony tax conviction, cast a 2016 provisional ballot that was never counted. The supervisor of the probation office admitted to never discussing voting issues with Mason. Nevertheless, she was convicted of felony illegal voting and sentenced to five years. Yet in the same county in 2018, a white Republican justice of the peace who admitted to falsifying signatures to get his name on the ballot was given 5 years of probation and a $750 fine. 

Throughout her 26 years as a criminal defense attorney and criminal court judge, Elizabeth Davis Frizell has witnessed the detrimental effects of these unjust decisions close up. That is why she is running for the State Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3. This high court steps in to correct lower court rulings and clarify disputes raised by the lower courts.

Judge Frizell has argued or presided over more than 200 criminal cases concerning sexual assault, capital murder and other violent crimes. She has argued cases in both State and Federal Court and has represented defendants in the Texas Court of Appeals. She has also written appellate briefs. 

Her breadth of experience with criminal justice makes her the ideal candidate for the highest criminal court. As she told The Amarillo Pioneer, she has “the experience to review rulings and decisions of Trial Court and Appellate Judges to determine whether the law was followed or appropriately applied.” 

Vote for Elizabeth Davis Frizell for Place 3, State Criminal Court of Appeals for better justice in Texas! 

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Texas State Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Appellate Democratic Candidates

Elevate Judge Staci Williams, TX Supreme Court, Place 7 — Website | Facebook | Twitter

Elevate Judge Gisela Triana, TX Supreme Court, Place 8 — Website | Facebook | Twitter

Elevate Judge Tina Clinton, TX Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 4 — Facebook | Twitter

Elevate Judge Brandon Birmingham, TX Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 9 — Website | Facebook | Twitter

Elect Delonia A. Watson, 2nd Court of Appeals District, Place 6 — Website | Facebook

Elect Matthew Hegeman, District Judge 67th Judicial District

Elect Tim Brandenburg, District Judge 96th Judicial District — Website | Facebook | Twitter

Elect Alisha Darden, District Judge, 153rd Judicial District — Website | Facebook

Lakesha Smith, District Judge, 213th Judicial District — Website | Facebook | Twitter

Elect Valerie Baston, District Judge 342nd Judicial District — Facebook

Elect Former Senior Judge Maryellen W. Hicks, District Judge 348th Judicial District — Facebook | Twitter

Elect Olyn Poole, District Judge, 352nd Judicial District — Website | Facebook

Elect Michael Munoz, District Judge, 360th Judicial District — Website | Facebook

Elect Karen Williams, Criminal District Judge, Tarrant County Number 2 — Website | Facebook | Twitter

To read more about the importance of electing progressive judges, read here.

Photo by Avi Werde on Unsplash

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