San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

August 11th, 2009
County calls for judge candidates

STAFF REPORT

The Hays County Commissioners Court formally requested Tuesday that persons interested in being considered to fill the vacancy in County Court-at-Law left by the death of Judge Howard Warner should notify the court by noon next Tuesday, Aug. 18.

Warner died of cancer on July 18 after 27 years on the Hays County bench. He was 67.

Interested parties must reside in Hays County, be licensed to practice law in Texas and be in good standing with the State Bar of Texas, among other requirements.

The court requested that those interested send a letter of interest, a résumé and three to five references to County Judge Liz Sumter electronically at liz.sumter@co.hays.tx.us or via post to 111 E. San Antonio Street, San Marcos, TX 78666.

Interest received by noon on Aug. 18 will be considered by the Court.

The person selected will serve until the next regular election for the position in November 2010.

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0 thoughts on “County calls for judge candidates

  1. As a citizen of Hays County and a lawyer who practices regularly in the Hays County Court at Law, I would hope that the appointment process is open to all who wish to apply, and that the appointment process is public and transparent and subject to notice and comment by the public, rather than a rushed decision.

    Second, I would hope that if it is the commissioners’ desire to appoint someone who is not a election candidate as a “caretaker” for the position until the next election to avoid giving an election candidate “the edge” (as has been rumored), then the commissioners do just that – instead of appointing a purportedly disinterested person who now expresses interest in the position if appointed by the commissioners and given the edge of an incumbent candidate.

    Far more importantly, I would hope that the decision that the commissioners make is insulated from the politics of Hays County and the decision would be based on the merits of the candidates.

    Politics has no place in our courtrooms, but it creeps in from time to time and tarnishes the perception of fairness and justice in the courtroom. The job of a judge is to be fair and impartial, and to decide cases based on the facts and the law. Judges should be wise and experienced in the types of cases that they hear and free of outside influence. The Hays County Courts at Law primarily hears criminal cases, juvenile cases and probate matters. Occasionally civil cases and divorces are heard, but the overwhelming majority of the cases are criminal. Hays County needs a judge with criminal law experience.

    I understand that Jim Pape has expressed a willingness to serve Hays County as the next judge of County Court at Law #1. Hays County should be honored to have Jim Pape be willing to serve as its next County Court at Law Judge. In my humble opinion, there is no finer lawyer in Hays County than Jim Pape – not to mention he is a wonderful, caring, humble and gracious person and is well known and greatly respected by so many in our community. That community includes all aspects of the justice system, including lawyers, assistant district attorneys, law enforcement, probation officers, and court personnel. Jim Pape has far more legal experience than all the other candidates combined, and if he is willing to serve Hays County, then he has EARNED this position, and the question should not be will you have him as the county’s next judge, but will he have you and accept your appointment to serve the citizens of Hays County in this capacity.

    I encourage you all to ask various facets of the criminal justice system about Jim Pape – if you don’t already know. Come watch him pick a jury and see that half the panel thinks he hung the moon personally, the other half thinks his wife Dianne did. Ask defense lawyers. Ask District Attorney Sherri Tibbe or First Assistant Fred Weber and their assistants. Ask our District Judges. Ask law enforcement and the probation department officials. Check with the clerks of the courts.

    I am certain if Judge Warner was here, he’d tell you he has great affection for Tacie Zelhart, and rightfully so; but he’d also tell you there is no candidate whose qualifications come remotely close to that of Jim Pape.

    If Jim Pape is willing to serve, and the commissioners pick someone else, they will be doing a great disservice to Hays County – and creating the public perception that politics, and not merit, are how things are done in Hays County.

    Sincerely,

    Brian L. Baker, Attorney at Law

  2. I am a legal assistant in Hays County, and I attended Commissioners Court on August 11th, 2009. I applaud the Commissioners for not allowing an appointment to be pushed through by Judge Sumter this week. All four commissioners stated that they were in favor of transparency and public input as they made their decision. Although there is urgency to fill this position, setting guidelines for the process of appointment was paramount.

    I echo Mr. Baker’s comments above. I believe that Mr. Pape is by far the most qualified person for this position. I have know Jim Pape for the last 10 years. He is an honest, genuine, ethical, caring man who stands out in our community. He strives daily to be a better person, and helps others to do the same. He and his loving wife Dianne, have made a tremendous impact on my life, and the citizens of Hays County would be incredibly fortunate to him serve and positively impact our county.

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