As reported on this blog’s Twitter feed, Governor Rick Perry has appointed five new justices to various intermediate courts of appeals. They are:
- 352nd District Court Judge Bonnie Sudderth, who will replace new Tarrant County Criminal Court at Law Judge Bob McCoy on the Second Court of Appeals;
- Cindy Bourland (pictured), a private practitioner with Bourland Law Firm PC, who will fill the Third Court of Appeals seat vacated by new Chief Justice Jeff Rose;
- Bexar County Court at Law Judge Jason Pulliam, who will replace newly-elected Chief Justice Sandee Bryan Marion on the Fourth Court of Appeals;
- David Schenck, an appellate lawyer with Dykema Gossett PLLC, who will fill the seat opened by long-serving Fifth Court of Appeals Justice Michael O’Neill’s retirement; and
- Sole practitioner Greg Neely, who will replace retiring Justice Sam Griffith on the Twelfth Court of Appeals.
Each of the new justices is filling an unexpired term and will stand for election in 2016.
Many assumed that Governor-Elect Greg Abbott would be making these appointments after he takes office on January 20. The reason Governor Perry made them instead most likely involves the timing of the upcoming legislative session, which begins on January 13. Under the Texas Constitution, recess appointees may take office immediately, subject to later approval from the Texas Senate. However, when the Senate is in session—as it will be starting next Tuesday—the appointee must be confirmed before being sworn in. See Tex. Const. art. IV § 12(b)-(c). Because our legislature only meets every other year, its agenda is quite full with matters of statewide importance (i.e., school finance). Thus, leaving these appointments to Governor Abbott could have significantly delayed seating the new justices and hindered their respective courts’ dockets.