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Fixing Texas’s Conservative Courts: Adding More Judges

A Simple Fix for Texas’s Right-Wing Courts: More Judges

Judge James Ho enjoys a unique position on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, often seen as a junior varsity Supreme Court due to its conservative rulings without facing the Supreme Court’s scrutiny. However, the issue extends beyond conservative courts’ existence; the structure of the Fifth Circuit and Texas federal courts heavily favors right-wing litigants, making it difficult for others to succeed.

Ho recently defended the conservative legal establishment’s process against criticisms, dismissing concerns about the Texas federal courts’ rules as baseless and potentially damaging to the judiciary’s integrity. However, calls for deeper structural reforms have gained traction, particularly after the Judicial Conference proposed changes to prevent forum shopping, which received backlash and was downplayed to nonbinding guidance.

Ho criticized the proposed changes, arguing that they would disadvantage rural litigants by forcing them to travel to larger cities for hearings. However, the proposed changes would only affect certain civil cases, not the majority, nor criminal cases where travel distances could affect defendants’ rights.

Fixing Texas's Conservative Courts: Adding More Judges

Fixing Texas’s Conservative Courts: Adding More Judges (Credits: The Washington Post)

The conservative legal establishment often utilizes forum shopping and sympathetic judges to achieve ideological rulings, exemplified by cases like the abortion drug case where specious arguments led to nationwide injunctions. This process, prevalent in the Fifth Circuit, affects various legal areas and favors conservative outcomes due to the court’s composition.

Ho’s defense of the current system and his dismissal of criticisms reveal a reluctance among conservative judges to acknowledge legitimate concerns or consider reforms. However, Congress holds the power to enact reforms, such as mandating the Judicial Conference’s proposals or creating additional judicial seats to address workload issues and prevent single-judge divisions.

While Ho’s metaphorical defense likening single-judge divisions to small-town grocery stores may seem apt, it underscores the need for a more diverse and balanced judiciary. Reforms suggested by neutral observers like the Judicial Conference, including adding new judgeships, should be considered seriously to ensure fair and efficient legal proceedings.

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