Objection to An Assignment of a Judge In Texas

Section 74.056 of the Texas Government Code allows a presiding judge to assign judges of the administrative region to hold special or regular terms of court to try cases and dispose of accumulated business. TEX. GOVT. CODE ANN. 75.056(a) (Vernon 1998). Under section 74.053, the presiding judge must give notice of the assignment to each attorney representing a party in the case if it is reasonable and practicable and time permits. Id. at 74.053(a). A party may object to the assignment of a judge. Id. at 74.053(b). "The objection, which may be made without cause or reason, automatically disqualifies the assigned judge." In re Houston Lighting & Power Co., 976 S.W.2d 671, 672 (Tex. 1998). Unless the case is assigned to a former judge or justice who was not a retired judge, each party is only entitled to one objection to the assignment. TEX. GOVT. CODE ANN. 75.056 (b), (d) (Vernon 1998). The statute requires an objection to be filed before the first hearing or trial, including pretrial hearings, over which the assigned judge is to preside. Id. at 74.053 (b). Once a timely objection is made, disqualification is automatic, and mandamus is available if the assigned judge overrules the timely objection to having him or her preside over the case. See Mitchell Energy Corp. v. Ashworth, 943 S.W.2d 436, 437, 440-41 (Tex. 1997). Any subsequent orders made by that judge are void. Id. at 437. However, the right to object under section 74.053 may be waived. Texas Employment Commission v. Alvarez, 915 S.W.2d 161, 164-65 (Tex. App.--Corpus Christi 1996, no writ); See also Chandler v. Chandler, 991 S.W.2d 367, 383-84 (Tex. App.--El Paso 1999, pet. denied) (holding that party waived objection although written objection timely filed where party did not present and obtain a ruling before judge conducted hearings on other matters in the case). The objection must be the first matter presented to the visiting judge for a ruling. Chandler, 991 S.W.2d at 383; Morris v. Short, 902 S.W.2d 566, 569 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1995, writ denied). This requirement imposes an obligation on the complaining litigant to urge the objection at the commencement of the first hearing if it has not already been determined by the visiting judge stepping aside or by the administrative presiding judge directing the visiting judge to step aside. Chandler, 991 S.W.2d at 383. The objection must be presented to the assigned judge and ruled upon as a preliminary matter before the visiting judge is prohibited from hearing the case. Id.