News & Insights

Enough is Enough: No More Political Attacks on the Judiciary


Spring 2024


The Advocate

We trial lawyers have all disagreed with rulings from the bench. Not every call goes our way. But with few exceptions, Texas lawyers have maintained a respectful tone after their losses, refraining from accusations of judicial bias or corruption. Recently, however, some troubling trends have emerged in our nation’s and our state’s discourse, with politicians – and sometimes lawyers – attempting to undermine judicial decisions and apply political pressure with ad hominem attacks on judges who have rendered those decisions.

Political leaders of all political stripes have unfairly criticized judges; ACTL and ABOTA have spoken up for the judiciary. Much has been written about the growing chasm between the political parties and the heated rhetoric between liberal and conservative politicians. With each passing election cycle, political discourse reflects increasing polarization, intensity, and vitriol. Partisan news outlets and social media echo chambers only fan the flames. Politicians lash out at those with opposing opinions.

I write about a specific category of political attacks: those leveled at the judiciary. Consider the following recent real-world examples of politicians’ criticism of judges whose rulings displeased them:

  • a court “has established itself as an unfair venue where litigants’ fate is predetermined by the court’s political leanings”;
  • a judge made an “activist and politically-motivated decision”;
  • “an extremist, right-wing zealot with no regard to human life”;
  • “a Highly Politized Democrat Judge”;
  • an “unhinged Judge,” “highly political and fully biased,” who “has lost all credibility”;
  • a “stone-cold ideologue” whose decisions are “made before [the issue is] even presented” and who “writes press releases on behalf of” an interest group; and
  • a “court has escalated its troubling pattern of behaving as a political actor instead of an impartial arbiter of disputed cases.”

As you can glean from this sampling, the judicial attacks come from both ends of the political spectrum. Some of the underlying judicial decisions may rest on tenuous reasoning; I have no idea. The losing side in any legal battle has every right to file an appeal, question the substantive judicial decisions, and express disagreement in the press. Like all of us, sometimes judges miss the mark and are subject to correction or critique. Questioning the merits of a decision is fair game, but undermining the judicial process itself should be off limits.

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Geoff Gannaway 713.951.6263