Gov. Rick Perry has announced a successor to lead the Texas Supreme Court following the resignation of Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson.
Perry has appointed Justice Nathan Hecht to replace Jefferson, who announced his departure starting Oct. 1. Hecht has become known as a champion of indigent defense ensuring that everyone has access to legal aid.
"The civil justice system has got to be there for everybody," Hecht said, "and there are over 6 million Texans that qualify for legal aid. We have to do all we can to encourage policy makers to ensure that we have funding for legal services programs, it’s just critical to all we do.
Jefferson cited financial reason for leaving the bench, and when asked about judicial salaries, Hecht said for most judges it is a sacrifice to serve, but that a salary restructure may be necessary.
"I think that judges understand that public services requires some sacrifice, but I think the public needs to understand that to get and keep our best talent in the justice system we need to look at salary levels," he said.
During the regular legislative session lawmakers approved a 12 percent raise for all state judges after first considering much larger increases. One of the cases Hecht will serve as chief justice for involves three same-sex married couples that are requesting a divorce by the State of Texas.
Hecht’s term as chief justice becomes effective Oct. 1 and will run until the 2014 State Election. If voters decide to continue Hecht’s term as Chief Justice he will be the longest serving judge on the Texas Supreme Court.