January 08, 2008
Candidate Q&A: Jim Wrotenbery

Note: I am doing a series of written Q&As with judicial candidates, and recorded interviews with non-judicial candidates, in contested Democratic primaries. This is the first such entry in the judicial candidate series. The reason for this format in these races is that judicial candidates are limited in what types of questions they can answer. I hope you find these posts useful.

1. Who are you and what are you running for?

My name is Jim Wrotenbery and I am running to be the Judge of the 125th Judicial District Court of Harris County Texas, which is a civil court.

I am a born and raised Texan. I grew up in Grand Prairie, Texas and graduated from Grand Prairie High School. I began my relationship with Houston when I was given the opportunity to attend Rice University as an undergraduate. I have worked hard all my life. I worked while attending Rice University and the University of Texas Law School to help pay for my education with the loving support of my parents. I have had a very successful legal career which I believe has made me well prepared for this service opportunity. In 2008, I celebrate my 25th year of being licensed to practice law in Texas. I have an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell which is the highest possible rating you can receive from your peer group.

At this stage in my life, I want to follow the service example of my father. While I was growing up he served on the City Council as well as the local Hospital Board among other things. I want to contribute to the effort to eliminate a one party situation that has existed in Harris County for well over a decade now.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

There is a long answer and a short answer to this question. I will give you a reference and then the short answer.

District Courts are courts of general jurisdiction. Article V Section 8 of the Texas Constitution extends a district court's potential jurisdiction to "all actions" but makes such jurisdiction relative by excluding any matters in which exclusive, appellate, or original jurisdiction is conferred by the law upon some other court. In other words the jurisdiction of district courts is potentially very broad.

However, in very large counties such as Harris County, there is a tendency for the courts to specialize in civil, criminal, probate or family law matters. Thus the 125th is a civil district court. A great deal of the cases filed in civil court are personal injury lawsuits.

The district courts also have jurisdiction in civil matters with a minimum monetary limit but no maximum limit. In those counties having statutory county courts, such as Harris County, the district courts generally have exclusive jurisdiction in civil cases where the amount in controversy is $100,000 or more, and concurrent jurisdiction with the statutory county courts in cases where the amount in controversy exceeds $500 but is less than $100,000.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

Overall, I think it is crucial that we attempt to reestablish some balance in Harris County leadership, and in particular the judiciary. I believe that a feeling of immunity from real challenge has caused many to lose their work ethic, impartiality and to be accountable to those that they serve.

It is my opinion that the current judge of the 125th is a good example of this. The current judge is John Coselli. He was originally appointed, not elected, to this bench by George Bush in 1999. Therefore, he has not had a real contested election since being on the bench. According to the most recent 2006 Houston Bar Association poll, he has not been doing a very good job. This is consistent with what I hear from colleagues and my own personal experience. The biggest complaint is that he wastes attorneys' time. Of course, this costs their clients a great deal of money. Also, 30% rated him poor at ruling decisively and timely. About 20% rated him poor at working hard. Over 56% said he was only acceptable or poor in following the law. Right at 20% rated him poor overall and over 55% said he was only doing an acceptable job. These are not good numbers from the normally generous bar association.

I have the qualifications, background and reputation to attract necessary cross over support if I can win the primary contest.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

Rice University/ B.A. 1980, Magna Cum Laude, Board of Governors Scholar, Dean's list, Directed Honors Research, Hanzen College Senior Advisor.

University of Texas School of Law/J.D. 1983; Legislative Aide/Texas House of Representatives/1980-1983 for Democrat C. Smith.

Unique combination of civil trial and appellate experience for past 25 years.

Approximately 150 civil jury trials to verdict in both state and federal courts throughout the State of Texas.

Approximately 100 published appellate decisions in majority of Texas Courts of Appeal, Texas Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Partner and management responsibilities including supervision and mentoring of associate attorneys in law firms since 1990.

Certified Arbitrator/Neutral

Certified Mediator

Martindale Hubbell AV rating. Highest by peer group.

Named Fellow State Bar of Texas 1995.

Admitted to practice in all Federal Districts of Texas.

Member Fifth Circuit Bar Association.

Member State Bar of Texas and Houston Bar Association.

Numerous articles and publications for seminars sponsored by State Bar and Univ. of Houston Law Foundation.

5. Why is this race important?

First, please see my response to question 3.

In addition, it is my opinion that we need to field the best qualified group of candidates that we can. We need to lay a foundation for 2010 by showing the legal community and citizens of Harris County that the Democrats can put forward men and women who will be outstanding judges. I believe that this will encourage additional well qualified people to step up and know that with their hard work and the support of members of the Democratic Party they have a fighting chance to succeed.

We need to restore some balance and accountability in the Harris County judiciary. The Republicans should no longer believe that there is no possibility of losing their job.

In my particular primary race we need to show that we take these matters seriously by electing the best qualified and most experienced person for the job.

6. Why should people vote for you in the Democratic primary?

In my opinion, I am the best qualified candidate to be the judge of the 125th. I have the most cross-over appeal of the two candidates in this primary. In my opinion, the Republican candidate will easily attack the lack of experience of my opponent should he win the primary in March. I am ready, willing and very able to serve the citizens of Harris County. I believe we need to work together to seize this terrific opportunity.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 08, 2008 to Election 2008

Jim seems to be a great candidate for the 125th. His website is down this morning. Hope it will be up soon so we can read more about him.

Posted by: Jeff N. on January 8, 2008 10:14 AM