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Clients in the News


Thompson & Knight Attorney Richard Phillips quoted in The Fort Worth Business Press article
Who's next?
Perry to make his seventh Supreme Court appointment
October 5, 2012 11:52 pm

The Fort Worth Business Press:

The resignation of Texas Supreme Court Justice Dale Wainwright in September will create an unprecedented seventh opportunity for Gov. Rick Perry to appoint a judge to the nine-member court, but odds are that the seat on the bench will remain empty until after the general election on Nov. 6.

No names are being mentioned (publicly, at least) as a possible replacement.

"I'm sure he has had some names mentioned to him, but the governor has no real deadline or timetable to appoint a new justice to finish Justice Wainwright's unexpired term," said Richard Phillips in the Dallas office of Thompson & Knight, who noted that any appointment is subject to Senate confirmation during the 2013 legislative session.

Thompson & Knight attorney Richard Phillips in The Fort Worth Business Press article


"For political considerations, the governor likely will want to move quickly in making his choice to allow the new appointee to establish a record and broader name recognition before the 2014 election cycle," said Phillips, who is coauthor of the Texas Appellate Watch blog.

Some amount of appellate law experience will be something the governor will be looking for in a candidate, Phillips said or at least some judicial experience.

"These days you pretty much want someone who has been in appeals or has been a judge," he said. "It's essential; it makes the learning curve quite a lot less steep."


Judicial pay becoming an issue
Phillips said the high number of Perry appointees is simply a reflection of Perry's extraordinary time in office he is the state's longest-serving governor and of an increasing rate of turnover among the state's judges. 

Judicial turnover has been increasing in Texas and was the subject of a 2011 report by the state Office of Court Administration, which found that many judges were leaving their positions for private practice due to better pay in the private sector. Of the six most populous states, Texas pays its judges the least, the report found.

"Judicial compensation is affecting all levels of the judiciary everywhere," Phillips said. "Chief Justice Jefferson has talked to the Legislature about it but it's a difficult issue to tackle because the economy is tough all around right now."


Phillip said the court system will inevitably suffer as veteran judges like Wainwright are replaced with less experienced jurists.

"We are losing the benefit of having experienced jurists on the court," Phillips said. "I think the Legislature has recognized that it is something that needs to be addressed, but more needs to be done."

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