Judge Molberg Receives DMN Recommendation for Court of Appeals

Published Sunday, September 28, 2014

DALLAS (Sept. 28, 2014) - The Dallas Morning News has recommended Judge Ken Molberg for Justice of the Fifth District Court of Appeals, Place 5. Below is the recommendation article, published today:

The Fifth District Court of Appeals can slip between the cracks of public attention, which masks its vital role in Texas’ judicial system.

And with an unexpected vacancy, it could use a justice like Ken Molberg, judge of Dallas County’s 95th District Court since 2009. Molberg would succeed Justice Jim Moseley, who retired from the appeals court this summer. Gov. Rick Perry appointed Craig Stoddart to fill Moseley’s Place 5 seat until the election.

The 13-justice Fifth District court handles all civil and criminal appeals from trial courts over six counties: Dallas, Collin, Grayson, Hunt, Kaufman and Rockwall. It’s the busiest of Texas’ 14 such courts and effectively the only judicial step between trial courts and the state’s two highest appeals courts. Some lawyers have criticized the Fifth for inconsistent rulings and too much reliance on staff attorneys; as Molberg suggests, it may be time for the Legislature to consider splitting it into smaller pieces for efficiency.

Stoddart, formerly first assistant in the Rockwall County district attorney’s office, offers an impressive résumé that includes 22 years of appellate prosecution. He gives voters a close call as the Republican nominee, but this newspaper tips slightly to the Democrat because of the underrepresented experience he’d bring to the court.

Molberg, 62, has proved himself a top-flight trial court judge in the 95th, with consistently solid ratings in the Dallas Bar Association survey of attorneys. Peer judges have twice elected him presiding judge.

The former county Democratic Party chairman also has lived up to his promise that partisanship would have no place in his courtroom. We are particularly swayed by the argument that the Fifth needs more justices with civil trial bench experience who would bring a judge’s eye to evaluating appeals.

Other than that omission, Stoddart, 50, is well-qualified. He has prosecuted more than 125 appeals and argued more than 30 cases to appeals courts.

However, Molberg’s judicial background and extensive experience in major areas of complicated civil law make him the better of two good options for Fifth District voters.