(Editor’s note: Over the next 10 weeks, this paper will give a pro and con outline of the issues on the Nov. 5 Constitutional Amendment election, as supplied by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters.)
Proposition 1 — Municipal Judges
The first is Proposition 1 (HJR 72) “The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.”
The Texas Constitution (Article 16, Section 40) prohibits a person from holding more than one public office at the same time but has many exceptions, including county commissioner, justice of the peace, notary public, postmaster, etc. The proposed constitutional amendment would add elected municipal judge to this list of exceptions.
A municipal judge oversees pre-trial hearings, small claims proceedings, and misdemeanor cases in a city or town. Proposition 1 would allow municipal judges to hold more than one paid public office at the same time, meaning they could simultaneously preside over multiple municipalities, regardless of whether they were appointed or elected.
• A municipal judge oversees essential local proceedings, such as pretrial hearings, small claims proceedings, and misdemeanor cases. Often smaller municipalities do not have municipal judges or attorneys qualified to serve as judges. Prop 1 would make it easier for smaller municipalities to fill empty judgeships with qualified individuals.
• The proposition could benefit public safety by making it easier to obtain search warrants and streamlining other proceedings, such as ordinance violations, misdemeanor offenses and other types of cases.
• This proposition is unnecessary as Texas law already permits a person to be appointed as a municipal judge in more than one municipality at the same time. This law would only allow a person to be elected in more than one municipality.
• If the municipal judge were elected to a community where he or she was not a resident, he or she may not have an understanding or interest in that community.