One of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of this year was to do as many candidate interviews as I could. I'm off to a pretty good start so far, I think, and I hope to have a few more in the near future.
I'm doing some interviews by email as well. Here's the first of this particular group, with local judicial candidate Bill Connolly:
1. Who are you and what are you running for?
Bill Connolly. I am the Democratic Nominee running for the 315th Juvenile District Court of Harris County, Texas
2. What kind of cases does this court hear?
This court hears cases involving criminal offenses committed by children between the age of 10 and 17 (delinquent conduct), children in need of supervision under the Juvenile Justice Code; cases involving the Department of Family and Protective Services ("CPS"), which include termination of parental rights and conservatorship for abuse and neglect claims; petitions for further action or modifications of previous final family law cases that were originally heard and disposed of in the court, and some adoptions.
3. What are your qualifications for this job?
I am a trial and appellate lawyer with 26 years of experience (23 years in juvenile law). I am Board Certified in Juvenile and Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. I was an Adjunct Professor of Juvenile Law at South Texas College of Law for 4 years. I am a past Officer, Director and Chair of the Juvenile Law Section of the Houston Bar Association and am currently serving on the Council for the Juvenile Law Section of the State Bar of Texas. I am a frequent author and lecturer on Family Law and Juvenile Law. I am on the Advisory Boards of Child Advocates and The Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Houston. I am also an Elder at St. Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston.
4. Why do you believe you would do a better job than the incumbent?
I really like my opponent. I have tried cases with him. He was appointed to the bench effective May 1, 2006 after Judge Kent Ellis decided not to wait until the end of the year to retire and left before the end of his term. Judge Ellis had announced his retirement in 2005 and intended to serve out his term until 12.31.06. My opponent never handled a juvenile case before his appointment to the bench. He had worked for the County Attorney and has dealt a lot with the CPS cases. I have been in practice almost 3 times as long. I believe that he is in his 9th year. I believe that this is an important bench and that my experience is better suited to the needs of the families and children of Harris County. If elected I plan to bring some initiative to the bench in dealing more effectively with the alcohol and drug problems and mental health concerns that play a significant role in the dockets of the Court.
5. Why is this race one we should care about?
It is a court that deals with children and parental rights all day every day. It combines civil law, criminal law and procedure and constitutional law in one place. It is a court that generally deals with those that are less fortunate economically and is one of high profile only when something sensational happens. In truth, something sensational happens in these courts every day. A child is certified to stand trial as an adult or sentenced to many years in prison or the parent-child relationships are severed forever in a termination case. This is heartbreaking for parents and extended families and children in some cases and a happy day for some prospective adoptive parents and children in other cases. How we deal with these children and parents will help us mold the future of these families.
6. What else do we need to know?
This is a Court that a Democrat can win this year. There are no Democratic District Judges in Harris County. This County and the State of Texas need to have a balanced political system from the Courthouse to the Statehouse. Having one political party in complete control is not healthy for a democracy.