Election 'Blue Wave' gives many Bexar County courtrooms new look

GOP judges seeking re-election swept out of office

By Paul Venema - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Judge Melisa Skinner, who has served as 290th District Court judge for eight years, is among six incumbent Republican district court judges in Bexar County who lost in Tuesday's election.

Skinner lost to attorney Jennifer Pena, the Democratic candidate.

Although Skinner is disappointed about the election outcome, she took the high road Thursday as she reflected on the outcome.

"It was such an honor to serve in this position; I absolutely loved this job," she said.

Skinner said her record reflects her passion as a jurist on the bench. She presided over 159 jury trials, which included capital murder cases that place Skinner among the most judicially efficient judges to serve in Bexar County.

"If that's the legacy I've left in the eight years I've been on the bench, then I've left a wonderful legacy, and that was my goal," she said.

Local rules allow Skinner and other outgoing judges to continue to serve as a visiting judge in the future.

"To the extent that I can still be dedicated to justice in Bexar County for the rest of my life, I will be," Skinner said.

In Texas, state district court judges run as political party candidates, which traditionally has resulted in sweeps similar to Tuesday's election.

District Judge Frank Castro was elected to the 399th District Court two years ago in a sweep similar to Tuesday's election.

"That's the system we have, and I don't think it's going to change anytime soon," Castro said. "The voters spoke, and we have to respect their decision."

Unless the state legislature changes the rules, the system will not change.  

The issue comes up during almost every legislative session, but it hasn't been able to gain significant traction in the past.

The qualifications to serve as a state district court judge are relatively simple and require only two things from a candidate -- they must have had a law license for at least five years and pay a $2,500 filing fee.

No trial experience is necessary.

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