As reported by the Dallas News – Business, Texas Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson plans to retire effective October 1.
As the website puts it:
But . . . legal insiders say Jefferson’s resignation is a significant blow to those who advocate for improvements in the administration of justice.
During the past four years, Jefferson has worked with state legislators to increase legal aid assistance for the poor and middle class. He has also advocated innovative juvenile justice reforms designed to keep at-risk children in school and out of jail.
He also dramatically improved transparency of the court system in Texas. He pushed to make most court documents available to the public through the Internet. He also moved to put cameras in the state Supreme Court so that people could watch every oral argument.
“The civil justice system is simply unaffordable for the poor and middle class today,” he said Monday. “We implemented real reforms that have a direct and positive impact on people’s lives. I’m very proud of the court for that.”
Jefferson’s achievements in administration of justice reforms gained him national acclaim. He was elected president of the Conference of Chief Justices. And he serves on the council for the influential American Law Institute, a century-old progressive legal organization that focuses on simplifying complex legal standards.
“He is one of the greatest chief justices in our state’s history,” said Harry Reasoner, a partner at Vinson & Elkins and chair of Texas Access to Justice, which administers legal aid programs throughout the state.
“Jefferson’s national prestige has no match in our state’s history,” he said.
All true. Readers of this blog will particularly remember his role in ensuring, following appropriate procedures, that simple and easy to use court forms are available for those who need them in Texas. They are also probably aware that he has played a major role in ensuring that the Texas Access Commission is one of the most innovative, energetic, and strategic in the country. His philosophy is summed up by the following, from the letter written in response to the bar anxiety on the forms issue:
The Constitution requires the Court to administer justice. This occurs not only by deciding cases but by establishing a judicial climate in which people who lack money to hire a lawyer have a reasonable chance to vindicate their rights in a court of law.
The Chief Justice has been unfailingly helpful to people working for access on the national level. He has been a beacon to other Chief Justices, and a clear strong, and principled voice. While we will miss him dearly in his current role, I feel great confidence that he will continue to contribute his vision and energy to the creation of a better world. Thanks again Chief.