Tuesday, September 26, 2023 Sep 26, 2023
87° F Dallas, TX


By Glenna Whitley |

THE LAW Where do judges go after defeat at the polls? Well, ousted judges such as ROBERT MOSS and SNOWDEN LEFTWICH, like the old circuit riders, now go from one court to another, nodding wisely and pounding gavels for other judges who are sick or on vacation. Some visiting judges make up to $60,000 a year.

That was not what the public had in mind when they turned them out, according to some lawyers who feel that the common practice of using visiting judges to clear crowded dockets has gotten out of hand.

“The case load in Dallas County has outstripped the creation of new courts,” says attorney FOBERTJORDAN, chairman of a Dallas Bar Association task force that spent a year studying the problem.

Among the remedies the DBA has proposed is requiring both parties to approve if a visiting judge is appointed to hear their case. One (elected) judge snorts at that idea. “That’s a wonderful dilatory tactic,” he says. “All the lawyer has to do is never agree.”

“Some of their complaints are legitimate,’1 says Judge PAT MCDOWELL, the regional administrative judge who assigns visiting judges. But he points out that the Texas Constitution allows the appointment of retired or former judges, including those defeated at the polls. For that reason, McDowell is cool to a plan in the Texas Legislature that would prohibit defeated judges from coming back as visitors.

“Some needed to be defeated and ought not to serve,” says McDowell. 1 “Others are good.” He 1 proposes to have elected judges evaluate visitors, then base his assignments on those ratings. “You just have to trust me to do it,” McDowell says.