Waco Trib by Tommy Witherspoon 1/5/2019
As the dust settles from the 2018 midterm elections, a potential shake-up of unprecedented proportions is brewing quietly around the historically stable McLennan County judiciary.
Traditionally, once McLennan County judges get into office, many remain for decades and rarely are challenged for re-election. But a number of domino-effect changes to that equation in coming years could project the current slate of local judges onto a turnover carousel and result in a dramatically different roster.
Aside from possible changes at the McLennan County Courthouse, U.S. District Judge Alan Albright started the process of replacing a longstanding judge when he was sworn into office in September to replace disgraced U.S. District Judge Walter Smith Jr.
Smith, Wacoâ€™s first and only full-time federal judge, served 32 years. He retired after being sanctioned by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which concluded Smith made unwanted sexual advances against a female court employee in his chambers in 1998 and lied to investigators about it.
The first domino that fell recently at the McLennan County Courthouse started at the top, the fourth-floor home of the 10th Court of Appeals.
Justice Al Scoggins, 63, left office at the beginning of the month with four years remaining on his six-year term. Scoggins, who defeated Justice Felipe Reyna in 2010, was the first person from Ellis County elected to the court.
Scoggins, who did not move to Waco, said he decided to leave office because he grew tired of driving back and forth from Ellis County.
Gov. Greg Abbott will name Scogginsâ€™ successor, and at least four candidates, including 414th State District Judge Vicki Menard, are seeking the appointment.
Menard became the first woman to serve as a state district judge in McLennan County when former Gov. Rick Perry appointed her the first judge of the court when it was created in 2005.