Austin lawyer Keith Hampton, a Democrat running for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, says the court "needs a new day."And he's right.Hampton, who is well experienced in criminal defense and all the many convoluted stages of death-penalty cases, would bring to the court knowledge and perspective it doesn't have. More important, though, is that he is running for presiding judge of that court and could provide the kind of leadership that Sharon Keller hasn't.Besides defending clients, including those who are indigent, Hampton, 51, has experience working with legislators to expand DNA testing and improve witness-identification procedures.As presiding judge, he said, he would ask lawmakers to require that all briefs in death penalty cases be filed with the court at least 60 days before a scheduled execution date. That would limit the chaos of last-minute appeals and ensure that the judges are familiar with a case if something develops as an execution nears.It's a good idea that would improve the justice system for all concerned, and something the top judge on the state's highest criminal court should take the lead on. Appeals in capital cases go straight from the trial level to the Court of Criminal Appeals, unlike other cases that go through an intermediate appellate level.One of the high court's blackest black eyes during Keller's 12-year tenure as presiding judge came in 2007, when she declined to keep the clerk's office open after its regular 5 p.m. closing time so lawyers for a condemned killer could file for a last-minute stay of execution. Those lawyers wanted to raise an issue the U.S. Supreme Court had that morning agreed to review in a separate case.Keller's handling of the situation led to an ethics complaint, charges and a public trial. A special master concluded she shouldn't be sanctioned. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued a public reprimand against her, which an appellate panel threw out.Keller has maintained that she did nothing wrong. And the court subsequently improved its communication procedures.During that episode, Keller asked the state to pay her legal fees. It turned out she had not properly disclosed properties and income worth some $3 million. The Texas Ethics Commission fined her $100,000, and her appeal is pending.Keller, 59, a Republican, was elected to the court in 1994 and has been presiding judge since 2000. She has worked on improved resources for indigent defendants and those with mental health issues. She has been better-qualified than previous challengers, but this time Hampton has more to offer.The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends Keith Hampton for Texas Court of Criminal Appeals presiding judge.