After reading Combs v. Kaufman County, I can’t help but wonder if there is something missing from the Court’s opinion or if the opinion contains an error.  Nontheless, I was surprised to learn about a rarely-invoked provision of the Texas Constitution that allows parties to a suit to pick their own judge.

Article V, Section 16 of the Texas Constitution  provides that when the judge of a county court is disqualified, "the parties interested may, by consent, appoint a proper person to try said case."  In Combs, the presiding judge of the Kaufman County Constitutional Court apparently disqualified herself from hearing a guardianship for Wallace Darst.  [Note, the opinion uses the term "recused," which has a different legal meaning, but from the facts, it appears the Court meant to use the term "disqualified"].   The parties subsequently asked Judge Glen Ashworth, who was then district judge for the 86th Judicial District Court, to preside over the guardianship.  Here, the opinion is somewhat confusing or inconsistent as to whether Judge Ashworth merely presided as judge for the constitutional county court or whether the case was treated as having been transferred to the 86th District Court, with Judge Ashworth presiding as judge of that court.  Judge Ashworth subsequently awarded the guardian (Combs) a fee of $143,168.95 and that order was not appealed.Continue Reading Subject-matter Jurisdiction and Consent