Gov. Greg Abbott has just named Rebeca Huddle to fill a vacant seat left open on the Supreme Court of Texas. It’s the fourth time Abbott, not voters, chose the next justice on Texas’ highest civil court.
Justices Jimmy Blacklock, Jane Bland and Brett Busby were all also appointed by Abbott, and all three of them have yet to face Texas voters. Bland and Busby are on the ballot this November, however, Huddle will be allowed to serve on the Texas Supreme Court until 2022 before she will have to face an election.
Huddle’s appointment was precipitated by the retirement of former Justice Paul Green, also a Republican, earlier this year. Green announced his retirement in July, but he did not actually leave the court until Aug. 31 — a date that many Texas Democrats found to be suspiciously convenient for Republicans.
Had Green left office a mere 10 days earlier, prior to the election filing deadline, Texas voters, not Abbott, would have chosen his replacement in the upcoming November elections. Instead, because of Green’s timing, Huddle will occupy a seat on the most powerful state court in Texas for nearly two years before she is made to face the voters.
Green claimed, in an interview with the Texas Tribune, that the coincidental timing of his departure was entirely unintentional. He refused, nonetheless, to consider changing his retirement date in order to allow Texas voters to choose his replacement.
Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, denounced the move in July.
“Green purposely timed his resignation to disenfranchise Texans and not let them choose their next Texas Supreme Court justice. That is dead wrong and against the fundamental principles of our democracy and the sanctity of the Texas Supreme Court,” Hinojosa said. “Resigning a week after the filing deadline is a cynical political move intended to salvage the crumbling Republican lock on the Texas Supreme Court, allowing political partisans to inflict the will of their donors on the people of Texas … The people should choose their justices, not Greg Abbott.”
Green, when asked by the Texas Tribune to respond to Hinojosa’s statement, said “I’m not going to bother with that.”
The Texas Supreme Court, Texas’ highest court for all civil cases, issues the final decision on matters ranging from disputes over municipal ordinances, to voting rights and policing reform. In a recent decision, the court blocked Harris County from sending mail-in ballot applications to the 2.4 million registered voters in the county.
Had Green’s former seat been placed on the ballot, more than half of the current seats on the court, a potential controlling majority, would have been left up to voters. Democrats have not held a seat on the court in over two decades — although that could change this November — as four justices are up for reelection.