Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, who lives in San Antonio, plans to step down from his position this Fall. Jefferson is the first African-American to serve as the State of Texas’ top judge.
Jefferson has held the spot for the last 12 years and said he is leaving his post Oct. 1. He said his decision centered on family and finances:
"You know, when do you stay and when do you go? And in discussions with my family this just seemed to be the appropriate time," Jefferson said. "I’ve got a son who is in college his second year, I’ve got a senior in high school and then an eighth grader -- all boys -- and it just seemed prudent financially to leave."
The Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court makes about $152,000 per year. The legislature considered giving Texas judges a 21 percent increase in pay but later changed that amount to a 12 percent raise.
Jefferson said he accomplished much of what he set out to do in his time on the court, and pointed to changes in public school juvenile justice as just one example.
"The kind of thing that would land us in the principal’s office when we were in school in the last few decades has resulted in tickets given to kids. Well, that is gone for the most part," he said.
Jefferson said another area of judicial improvement is making sure that everyone has equal legal representation.
On the subject of wrongful convictions, where Texas still leads the nation, he said the Supreme Court continues to work to change the state’s policies of retaining DNA evidence before a conviction can happen.
Gov. Rick Perry will immediately begin the process of appointing Jefferson’s replacement, that appointee will then have to run for election in 2014.
Gov. Perry statement on the chief justice's resignation (2:05 p.m.):
"Wallace Jefferson justly and faithfully guided our state’s highest court during a decade of change and prosperity, and he will be remembered for his strong character and unwavering commitment to the rule of law. I was proud to appoint him as the court's first African-American justice and chief justice. He was and shall remain an inspiration to an entire generation of young men and women across our state. On behalf of all Texans, I thank him for his fine record of service, and wish him success and happiness in his future."