95th District Court Judge Ken Molberg
95th District Court Judge Ken Molberg ()

While Dallas County Democrats occupy every single trial bench in solidly blue Dallas County, they have yet to capture a seat on Dallas’ Fifth Court of Appeals, which has been all-Republican since the 1990s.

Darlene Ewing, chairwoman of the Dallas County Democratic Party, said they hope to change that. The party’s executive committee chose one of their sitting civil judges, 95th District Court Judge Ken Molberg, to run for a Fifth Court seat being vacated by retired Justice Jim Moseley, who left the bench yesterday to join Gray Reed & McGraw.

Molberg filed his paperwork at the Texas secretary of state’s office today to run for the intermediate appellate court, which is based in Dallas but serves five other counties that are solidly Republican.

Because Moseley left the bench after the March 2014 primary elections but before the November 2014 general election, his seat goes on the November ballot. But because voters in their respective political parties did not have a chance to choose a candidate in March, a committee composed of court chairs from all six counties served by the Fifth Court chose candidates that will appear on the ballot. [See " Party Committees Choose Candidates for Justice," Texas Lawyer, Aug. 14, 2014, page 4.]

The Democratic executive committee chose Molberg, who’s been on the trial bench since 2008, because they felt he has the best chance of winning the race, and he already has a well-stocked campaign account, Ewing said. Molberg also does not have to resign his trial bench to run for the court of appeals, according to Texas election law, said Ewing, a Dallas solo.

“I didn’t want to lose a district judge,” Ewing said. “This way I get the best of both worlds: I get a shot at the court of appeals, and I don’t lose a district judge— a very good district judge.”

Molberg, who said he has about $100,000 in his campaign account, will face Craig Stoddart, the first assistant district attorney in Rockwall County, who was chosen by the Dallas County Republican Party’s executive committee as the GOP’s candidate for the Fifth Court earlier this month.

“I have three fundraisers already lined up,” said Molberg, for a race he concedes will be difficult.

Molberg served as Dallas County Democratic chair from 1990 until 1995, when the court became dominated by Republican justices powered by votes in GOP-leaning counties surrounding Dallas. But Molberg believes that the votes in some of those red counties may be shifting.

“I understand that it’s an uphill battle,” Molberg said. “But I think we can do it, and I think the time is right to do it.”