Democratic candidates for appellate judgeships in Texas scored historic victories in Tuesday’s election.
By far, the most significant Democratic upsets occurred at the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas, which went from a unanimously Republican bench to an overwhelmingly majority of Democratic judges.
But Democratic candidates also scored huge appellate court victories in Houston and Austin.
In fact, every Democrat running for the judgeships on the First, Third, Fifth and Fourteenth courts of appeals won Tuesday night.
Republican judges on the Texas Supreme Court safely retained their seats. Attorney General Ken Paxton won in a squeaker.
Three Texas lawyers – all Democrats – also scored major wins Tuesday night. AZA partner Lizzie Fletcher in Houston and Colin Allred in Dallas were part of the “blue wave” that handed the U.S. House of Representatives to Democrats. Dallas attorney Nathan Johnson defeated Texas State Senator Don Huffines.
Fifth Court Sweep
The biggest sweep was at the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas, which has been under Republican control for three decades. The last Democratic judge to be elected to a spot on the 14-member appellate bench in Dallas was in 1992.
That ended Tuesday night when eight Democratic candidates for the Fifth Court achieved a sweeping and monumental upset over their Republican challengers – many of them are incumbent justices.
“Yesterday’s election is the biggest moment of change for that Court since its founding in 1893,” said David Coale, an appellate law partner at Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst. “Overnight, the Fifth Court went from all-Republican to majority-Democratic, including a new Chief Justice.
“It will take some time for the impact to fully sink in, but for business cases this change can be expected to significantly affect the review of jury verdicts from Dallas and surrounding counties, the enforcement of arbitration agreements, and the availability of summary judgment,” Coale said.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Texas Criminal District Court Judge Robert Burns defeated sitting Justice Douglas Lang 52.8 percent to 47 percent in the race for chief justice of the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas.
Dallas District Judge Judge Ken Molberg defeated Jim Pikl 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent.
Attorney Erin Nowell defeated incumbent Justice Craig Stoddart 52 percent to 48 percent.
Robbie Partida-Kipness, a Dallas personal injury lawyer, won over sitting Justice David Evans 52 to 48 percent.
Dallas trial lawyer Bill Pederson upset sitting Justice Jason Boatwright 52 to 48 percent.
Labor and employment attorney Amanda Reichek defeated sitting Justice Molly Francis 52 percent to 48 percent.
Dallas appellate lawyer Cory Carlyle received 52 percent of the vote to John Browning’s 48 percent.
Leslie Osborne, a Dallas trial attorney, defeated Justice Elizabeth Miers 52 percent to 48 percent.
First Court Results
On Houston’s First Court of Appeals, Justice Jane Bland lost to Gordon Goodman, a former lawyer at NRG Energy, 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent.
Harris Co. Assistant County Attorney Julie Countiss defeated Republican Terry Yates for a seat on the First Court of Appeals, 52 percent to 48 percent.
Veteran Houston lawyer Richard Hightower scored a victory over incumbent Justice Michael Massengale 52 to 48 percent.
Sarah Beth Landau, an appellate lawyer in Houston, defeated Judge Harvey Brown 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent.
On the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, Houston trial attorney and art gallery owner Meg Poissant received 51 percent of the vote to 49 percent for incumbent Justice John Donovan.
Houston litigator Jerry Zimmerer defeated Brett Busby 51 percent to 49 percent.
Judge Charles Spain defeated incumbent Justice Mark Brown 51 percent to 49 percent.
Meagan Hassan, a Houston tax attorney, defeated incumbent Justice Bill Boyce 51 percent to 49 percent.
On the Third Court of Appeals in Austin, Chari Kelly defeated incumbent Justice Scott Field 54 percent to 46 percent.
Edward Smith defeated sitting Justice Cindy Bourland 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent.
Gisela Triana defeated Mike Toth 54 percent to 46 percent.
Thomas Baker defeated Republican David Puryear 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent.