Texas Supreme Court justice stepping down


Add bDIANA HEIDGERD, Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) — Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, the first black member of the state’s highest civil court, said Tuesday that he plans to step down next month.

Jefferson, 50, said it’s the right time to leave as he looks forward to new challenges and spending more time with his family.

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“After over 12 years of service I think it’s time,” Jefferson told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

His resignation will be effective Oct. 1. Jefferson first revealed his plans to step down in an interview Monday with The Texas Lawbook.

Jefferson, who earns $170,000 annually, said he does not have another job lined up but hopes to continue working on judicial policy in a way that helps Texas residents.

“I want to remain open to possibilities, work that is challenging, that is meaningful, that will give me time to continue to serve the public in some fashion as a private citizen,” he said.

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Gov. Rick Perry appointed Perry to the high court in 2001, when former Justice Alberto Gonzales stepped down to become White House counsel to President George W. Bush. Jefferson won election in November 2002. Perry selected him as chief justice in 2004, and he was elected to the lead the court in Austin in 2006 and 2008. His current term runs through 2014.

Perry’s office did not immediately comment Tuesday about a possible replacement. Jefferson, who is married with three sons in college, high school and middle school, said he told Perry of his plans to step down last week.

During his tenure, Jefferson has pushed for making courts more public with documents available online.

Jefferson, who formerly was in private practice in San Antonio, said he hopes that the state’s courts get more direct public funding for legal aid and continuing juvenile justice reforms. He also said he hopes judges and justices stay engaged in issues affecting the state.

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“For the court as a whole and future courts, I would just recommend that they remain engaged, not only in the actual controversies that they are deciding, but take a bigger look at whether justice is prevailing throughout the state,” Jefferson said.