JudicialStatewide NewsGovernor Abbott Appoints McClure to Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Judge Jesse Foster McClure III has been tapped to replace retiring Judge Michael Keasler on Texas' highest criminal court.
December 30, 2020
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Recently, Governor Greg Abbott appointed Judge Jesse Foster McClure III to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to fill the vacancy being left by the constitutionally-required retirement of veteran Judge Michael Keasler.

McClure has about a year of judicial experience, having most recently served as the judge of the 339th District Court, a criminal court in Harris County. He was appointed by Abbott to that post in November 2019. He lost a bid to keep the seat to Democrat opponent Te’iva Bell in November 2020.

Before serving as a criminal court judge, McClure was a prosecutor for the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) prosecuting financial crimes and insurance fraud, an attorney with the Department of Homeland Security, and an assistant district attorney in the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office for 11 years.

McClure ran as a Republican for the 182nd District Court position in 2018 but was defeated by Democrat Danillo Lacayo.  

In 2016, McClure applied for a gubernatorial appointment to fill a vacancy left by Mary Lou Keel in the 232nd District Court when she was elected to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. However, he did not receive that appointment.

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McClure was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1999 after graduating from the University of Texas School of Law.

In 1994, he interned for three months in the Clinton White House. 

On a recent podcast, McClure discussed a number of issues related to society and being a judge. 

Regarding police, he said, “We want good, fair police officers. And I don’t think anyone wants to live in a society where we don’t have any police at all, and you’re just kind of at the mercy of the biggest, baddest person on the street.”

In discussing drug addiction, McClure said, “Part of treatment is recognizing that there’s consequences to your actions, but part of treatment is also treating you like this is a disease. It’s not a moral failing. And we need to find ways to heal these people, and that’s hard and it’s frustrating, but it’s also rewarding.” 

He also discussed the weightiness of being a judge saying, “[T]hose decisions are very — they weigh on you. They stay with you. And I haven’t been a judge that long. I’ve only been a judge eight months, but every one of those [are] very serious, you know, I still think about them all the time. It’s a weighty thing to decide.”

When asked about the judicial process delays during a pandemic, McClure said, “[Y]ou need to be ready to go to trial when we’re ready to go to trial, so we don’t have any more unnecessary delays. Because again, the first trials that are going to be going in front of juries are going to be very serious and, unfortunately, pretty old criminal trials. And we need to be ready to go, for everybody’s sake.”

Vacancy Occurred

Keasler has served on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals since 1999. His current six-year term was set to expire at the end of 2022. However, a provision in Article V of the Texas Constitution requires judges to retire at age 75, but allows a judge to serve four years of the term in which the judge reaches age 75 before resigning. Keasler, who is now 78, was re-elected to a six-year term in 2016 so could serve until the end of 2020.

In Texas, when a mid-term vacancy occurs, the governor fills the appointment until the next general election occurs, which would be in 2022. 

According to the Texas Tribune, there was some confusion about whether Keasler’s seat, Place 6 on the Court of Criminal Appeals, would be vacated in time for the 2020 election. However, it was eventually clarified that Keasler need not vacate the seat until December 31, 2020 so the position was not on the ballot in 2020.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is made up of nine judges and serves as the highest criminal court in the state. In Texas, there are dual “courts of last resort” — the Supreme Court of Texas hears civil case appeals and the Court of Criminal Appeals hears criminal case appeals.

Currently, all nine members of the Court of Criminal Appeals are members of the Republican Party.  

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.