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  • Writer's pictureEric Beal

Happy Independence Day!!

I love the 4th of July! I love remembering all of the things that America stands for and all of the great people that helped found it and keep it.

One of the greatest things about this Country is that we get to vote. In Texas, that includes voting for our Judges.

All of our Judges from Justice of the Peace through Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court are in elected positions. Now, that does not mean that at any given time, all Judges in Texas are elected. If a judicial bench opens up due to early retirement or death or for some other reason, the Governor can appoint someone to fill the spot until the next election. So, typically, there are at least some Judges in Texas that have been appointed.

Nevertheless, at some point, all State Judicial Benches come up for re-election in Texas.

The problem is that most Texans have no idea who the Judges are. Most people pay little to no attention to the people that can have an incredible amount of control over their lives and their children's lives.

All Judges matter.

Every Judge in Texas matters, but the ones that matter most to you are those within whose jurisdiction you live.

Jurisdiction means power, and when you live in a Judge's jurisdiction, he or she has power over you. You may not often feel it or know that the Judge's decisions affect your life, but they do. The way the Criminal Court Judges handle their cases affects you and the businesses in your area. The way the Civil District Court Judge handles lawsuits that are filed in his or her Court affects how companies operate in your area.

While all Judges matter, however, those that hear Family Law cases matter most of all. That is, who the Judge is tends to matter more in Family Law than in any of the other areas of law.

In a car wreck case, theoretically, the opinions of the Judge regarding right and wrong shouldn't matter a great deal. The same is true in Criminal matters. The same set of facts should lead to similar results in "normal" (non-family law) Civil cases and in Criminal matters. That's not always true, but it should be true, for the most part, most of the time.

In Family Law, though, who the Judge is matters completely and all the time. The identity and personal beliefs of a Family Law Judge matter far more than in non-Family Law cases.

This is because Family Law – Divorce, Custody, Support, Grandparent Rights, etc. – is almost all decided at "the discretion of the Court." In other words, whatever the Judge thinks is right, is right. Whatever the Judge thinks is wrong, is wrong. The appellate courts will not change the Court's decision unless he or she did something "beyond the discretion of the court." "Beyond the discretion" means something so outrageous that "no reasonable Judge" could believe it to be a sound decision or something that the Judge had no power to do.

So, what does all this mean to you? It means that you need to care about who the Family Court Judges are. We all do.

Even if you think you will never be in front of a Family Law Judge, you may. Moreover, your family and friends may. And even if not, members of your community will be.

The decisions that the Family Court Judges make will determine the lives of children living around you. The Judge's decisions can put people into Bankruptcy. They can put people in Jail, and they can do things that are very helpful or harmful to society at large.

If you do end up in front of your Family Law Judge, his or her identity will determine virtually everything about your life moving forward. What he or she thinks is fair will determine just about everything about your financial position in life, if you end up there for a Divorce.

If you have children, what the Judge thinks about going to church, lighting firecrackers, riding on ATV’s, drinking alcohol, and every other activity in life will determine a great deal about your children’s lives.

Now, maybe more than ever, concepts of right and wrong matter. Belief systems matter. Core values matter.

Take a few minutes. Learn who the Family Law Judges are in your area. If you live in a small County, with only one District Judge and one County Court Judge, one or both of those is your Family Law Judge. If you live in a large County, you may have designated Family Law Judges like Dallas and Fort Worth have had for decades. Or, your Judges may be General Jurisdiction. (General Jurisdiction means that the Court hears Criminal, Family Law, and Civil-non-Family Law cases.)

After you learn who the Judge or Judges are, learn about them. Learn who the candidates are. And decide who you want making these life-changing decisions in your community.

Then Vote!!

Happy Independence Day!! Celebrate Freedom!! Vote!!

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