What started as an initiative of the Hidalgo County Democratic Women has grown into a larger movement to ensure experience trumps politics in the judicial selection process by County Commissioners.
“The issue of the appointment to the interim position of County Court at Law #7 has caused many of us to question the methodology that the County Commissioners use to select the best-qualified person for a 15 month long interim appointment,” noted Rosalie Weisfeld, a founder of the Hidalgo County Committee for Judicial Excellence, in an open letter to supporters.
Weisfeld and other founders are supporting the appointment of former 13th Court of Appeals Justice Linda Yañez over lawyer Rolando Cantu, who has no judicial experience.
“The legislature created this court to begin functioning on September 1, in order to move the backlog of cases in this county — we need action now and most importantly we need an experienced Judge,” Wesifeld states in the letter to supporters.
The open letter forming the new Committee for Judicial Excellence lists Judge Yañez’ qualifications for the position:
Judge Linda Yanez has a story like so many ‘valleyites’. She came from humble beginnings as a farmworker, who became a teacher, who became a judge. Not just any judge, Governor Ann Richards appointed her in 1993 as the First Latina Appellate Judge in the history of Texas, where she served with distinction for 17 years. She was an elementary school teacher in the valley and a law teacher at Harvard Law School. She is currently serving as a Visiting Judge in Hidalgo, Cameron and Starr Counties. Since January, 2011 she has moved a docket of over 1500 cases for Hidalgo County citizens. She is licensed to practice law in 2 states (passed both bar exams the first time she took them). She has 2 law degrees, including a Master of Laws from the University of Virginia Law School in the Judicial Process. She is an EXPERIENCED JUDGE, EXPERIENCED LAWYER, EXPERIENCED LAW TEACHER, EXPERIENCED JUDICIAL LECTURER, AUTHORED OVER 3000 APPELLATE OPINIONS, MOTHER OF TWO LAWYERS [Caps in original].
Attorney Rolando Cantu has no judicial experience, a fact that has drawn criticism toward Commissioners Joseph Palacios and Joe Flores for their support of the candidate.
In defense of his candidacy, the Monitor reports that “Cantu said he would bring ‘life experience’ and ‘honesty and integrity’ to the court.” While that may very well be true, it is obvious that Yañez would bring that, as well as three decades of legal experience, with almost 18 of those years spent on the bench.
Owing to the deadlock, the Commissioners Court postponed the new County Court at Law No. 7 appointment until Tuesday, Sept. 27. Commissioner Joel Quintanilla is expected to cast the deciding vote.
“We’ll be there in numbers on Tuesday to remind Commissioners that behind every backlogged case is a real person who deserves an experienced Judge,” added fellow organizer Brandy Wingate. “And we’ll be there to remind them that whatever happens, we’re not going away — we plan to stay involved.”
Read the open letter in its entirety here.