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State Supreme Court Justice Harriet O’Neill not running for re-election

Trail Blazers reports that State Supreme Court Justice Harriet O’Neill will not run for re-election in 2010. They have a statement from her, which I’ve placed beneath the fold. Two things to note about this: One, as she did not say she was resigning, this will be an actual open seat on the ballot. In the recent past, judges who intended to leave have stepped down beforehand – sometimes with extremely propitious timing – so that a replacement could be named who would then get to run as an incumbent in the next election. Nobody will have that advantage this time as things stand now, so her bench becomes a very attractive electoral target. Expect there to be a contested primary on both sides for this one. Two, as we saw in my TEC reports spreadsheet, O’Neill had the most cash on hand among the Republican judges that are up for election next year; despite not raising any money this year, for reasons that are now apparent, O’Neill had $95K in the bank. Paul Green has $52K and Scott Brister under $10K. You couldn’t ask for a more level playing field than this to start out, which is good news for whoever eventually runs for these seats. In the meantime, my best wishes to Justice O’Neill in her retirement and whatever she chooses to do next.

STATEMENT BY JUSTICE HARRIET O’NEILL

This week I met with Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson and informed him that I do not intend to seek reelection when my term expires in 2010.

I am deeply grateful for the unique opportunity to have served the people of this great state during my nearly 18-year tenure on the district court, the court of appeals and the Supreme Court of Texas. During that time I have viewed my proper role as interpreting and applying the law as written, rather than making the law. I have worked hard to render timely decisions that, though often legally or factually complex, are readily understandable to the people of Texas who have entrusted us with resolving their disputes.

As a founding member of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, I have sought to improve the administration of justice by ensuring that our courts are open to all with basic civil legal needs, regardless of income. Access to justice in Texas is built on a solid foundation that will benefit countless low-income Texans in desperate need of legal services for many years to come.

I have also strived to emphasize the critical role judges play as gatekeepers for families in crisis. By spearheading creation of the Supreme Court’s Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families, I have endeavored to enhance court resources to improve outcomes for children who, because of abuse or neglect, are placed under court supervision. The Children’s Commission has become a national model for effective collaboration and innovation. I am confident that with the structure, leadership, and broad-based support that is in place it will continue to be so.

The Texas judiciary is strong, and I am proud to have served with men and women of the highest integrity. I applaud Chief Justice Jefferson’s remarkable vision and outstanding leadership. Each of my colleagues on the Court has taught me a lot, and I appreciate their steady support, professionalism, and willingness to lend an ear whenever needed. Though we have not always agreed on every case, as no court does, I value the respectful nature of our deliberations and the collegiality that has always prevailed.

The Court is blessed with a skilled and dedicated staff, without whom the Court could not function. I especially want to thank Ginger Rodd, my staff attorney, for her wisdom and inspiration; she represents the best of our profession and I am proud to count her as my friend. Sylvia Griego, who skillfully guides our chambers and has the most positive attitude of anyone I know. Tina Amberboy, whose unwavering dedication continues to improve the lives, and life chances, of abused and neglected children. And a special thank you to my law clerks Josh, Monica, John, Sinead, Basheer, Juliet, Ben, Ryan, Patrick, Stephen, Michelle, Reagan, Andrea, Molly, Aaron, Gavin, Megan, Neda, Ashley, Leah, Jenn, Josh, Julian and Whit, for the knowledge and fun we have shared, and the camaraderie I know will continue beyond the bench.

Most of all, I thank my family for their unwavering support. My daughters, Carolina and Hailey, left their lives and friends in Houston and moved to Austin so that I could serve on the Court; they have been and continue to be my strength and inspiration. My husband, Kerry Cammack, has endured with good grace, and a strong shoulder, the workload and scheduling challenges the job presents. And I thank Alan, my stepson, who stepped into this whirlwind with a calming and supportive spirit.

I have not yet decided what my future career path will be. I only hope that my service has justified the confidence placed in me by the voters who have four times elected me to the bench. For that I am forever grateful.

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4 Comments

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