Partisan Election of Judges + Death Penalty = Bad Idea

On November 6th, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Sharon Keller was re-elected despite previously facing removal from the bench over a case in which she refused an after-hours appeal by a death row inmate who was executed later that night.

The election of judges based on popular vote is not unique to Texas, though it is one of only 8 states that choose judges for its highest courts with partisan elections.


Calderón and Obama: A Lot More to Discuss Than Drugs

US President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon in the Rose Garden last May. (TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Today President Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderón will meet at the White House.

While there are many issues to discuss, including the latest round of WikiLeaks documents regarding Mexico, violence on the border, and the ICE agents just murdered, we hope human rights makes it to the top of the agenda because they are integral to all issues of concern to both countries.

Amnesty USA Executive Director Larry Cox wrote an open letter yesterday to President Obama highlighting Amnesty International’s concerns and recommendations for Mexico, including concerns about the ongoing impunity given to perpetrators of violence against women and President Calderón’s proposal to the Mexican Congress to reform the military code of justice.

Amnesty International is urging the US to work with Mexico to ensure that:

  • Effective measures are implemented to prevent and punish violence against women;
  • Comprehensive measures are passed to fully protect human rights defenders and irregular migrants; and
  • Legislation is passed in Mexico that would require military personnel implicated in human rights violations to be held accountable by civilian courts.

President Calderon’s recent attempt to reform the military code of justice are not sufficient.  These reforms are inconsistent with international human rights standards, are not in line with recent binding judgments made by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and are not consistent with the Merida Initiative requirements. We don’t want to speculate about why the Calderón administration seems to be making such a half-hearted effort at improving human rights, but it’s clear that more needs to be done.

Members of the US Congress are also interested in placing human rights in Mexico at the top of the Obama administration’s agenda, as is evident by a Dear Colleague sent yesterday by Congresswoman Lee, Congressman Grijalva and 22 other Members to Secretary of State Clinton.

We certainly hope that President Obama and President Calderon decide to put human rights issues at the top of their priority list and we look forward to working with both administrations to ensure that human rights are enjoyed by all on both sides of the US-Mexico border.