There are plenty of opinions, legal and otherwise, regarding the accidental resignation of Judge Bill McCleod from his County Court at Law #4 post. No doubt, he has quite a fan base that he worked hard to build by literally being everywhere during his campaigns for office over the years. Ultimately, the law is the law and the County Attorney and County Commissioners made the right call–legally and politically. While the Democrats were straight-forward on the decision, the Republicans seemed to want to play political games given how they voted on the matter.
But, as Kuff reports, the appointment of the new judge, Lesley Briones, came quickly and without much discussion or consideration. While there are no questions of legality, there are political and maybe procedural questions, especially from Democratic activists.
Mostly, Democratic activists have never heard of Briones–even Commissioners who supported her appointment. The questions I got from various activists included:
- Who is she? Well, Briones has worked with a big firm and a major local nonprofit. She taught at-risk kids in South Texas. She’s educated, obviously. And from my research, she has some South Texas roots (that’s always a plus for this transplant).
- Has she represented clients in local courts? I have no idea, but it was pointed out to me that maybe not. Perhaps her work has been more transactional and advisory given her resume. Still, she’s trained in the law and will receive the same kind of courtroom training as all of our other judges.
- Is she a Democrat? I don’t have access to that voter info, but it was pointed out that she does have a favorable primary voting record.
Others expect potential candidates to be party activists and wonder if she’s been to club meetings or knocked on doors in the past.
I don’t blame Dems for asking these questions. We vote and expect our votes to be heard. And Dems feel like we weren’t heard or advised on the appointment by Commissioners. Commissioners did not give voters a chance to be heard on the appointment or find out who else was considered. But, they did open up the meeting to those speaking on McCleod’s behalf. We may not have gotten to vote on the appointee, but some participation would have been nice.
But, I’m also of the opinion that we don’t elect County Commissioners to save the political hides of people who mess up. We’ve got real issues that must be addressed: Recent environmental disasters, voting rights, criminal justice reform, health care, transportation and roads, etc. And this is exactly what we elected them to do. It was an error of ambition that put the County Commissioners in a position of wasting valuable time on this, instead of doing the work for which they were elected. That they wanted to get beyond this situation and get back to work, well, I don’t blame them.
In this case, we trust those we elected to make the right decisions. If you don’t like the decision, well, email them, message them, or show up at a meeting and tell them. At this point, I’d rather just move forward.
For Briones, if she decides to run for the position in the 2020 special election, then she’ll probably need to get through a primary before getting to the general election. At that point, she’ll have more experience, and, hopefully, she’ll have made herself known to activists. But if we’re the Democrats I know we are, then I’d expect it to be a free-for-all because there aren’t many open judicial seats coming up in 2020 and the political bug is obviously nipping at potential candidates.
She seems very well qualified for the position.
Spot on analysis. Thank you.