O'Neill to leave Texas Supreme Court next month

By Chris Rizo | May 12, 2010

Harriet O'Neill (R)

AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline)-Texas Supreme Court Justice Harriet O'Neill has announced she will be leaving the high court next month.

O'Neill, who announced previously she would not seek reelection, will step down June 20, a statement said.

"After careful consideration, I timed my departure to cause the least disruption to the Court's docket," said O'Neill, who has not disclosed any future plans she might have.

Her resignation gives Republican Gov. Rick Perry the opportunity to appoint an interim replacement to serve through the November general election. Perry is widely expected to name the GOP nominee for the seat, Debra Lehrmann, to fill out the six months left of O'Neill's six-year term.

Lehrmann will face Democrat Jim Sharp, a justice on Houston's 1st Court of Appeals, in November. But history is on Lehrmann's side: Texas hasn't elected a Democrat to the state Supreme Court since 1994.

O'Neill was elected to the Texas Supreme Court in 1998 and reelected in 2004. Her judicial career began in 1992, after election to the 152nd District Court in Houston. In 1995, then-Gov. George W. Bush, a Republican, appointed her to the 14th Court of Appeals.

When she leaves, O'Neill will have been the longest-serving woman justice in the court's history.

"I am deeply grateful for the unique opportunity to have served the people of this great state during my nearly 18-year tenure on the district court, the court of appeals and the Supreme Court of Texas," O'Neill said. "It has been an honor to serve with men and women of the highest integrity. I hope that my service has justified the confidence that the voters have placed in me."

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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