Note: This entry is part of a series of written Q&As with judicial candidates who will be on the ballot in Harris County. I am also doing recorded interviews with non-judicial candidates.
1. Who are you, and what are you running for?
I am Judge Steven Kirkland and I am a candidate for the 215th District Court.
I grew up in West Texas. I moved to Houston to attend Rice University where I graduated in 1982. While at school, I got involved in Houston politics and have been involved ever since. I worked my way through law school as a paralegal at Texaco and attended school at night. In 1990, I earned a position litigating environmental cases for the company. In 1998, I left Texaco and represented residents of East Houston and Harris County in their lawsuit against the ship channel industries to clean up our air. I have also worked with Avenue Community Development Corporation to develop affordable housing. In 2001, Mayor Brown appointed me to serve as Municipal Court Judge which is what I do now.
You can learn more at www.kirklandforjudge.com.
While I am legally single, my life partner and I just celebrated 21 years together.
2. What kind of cases does this court hear?
The 215th District court is a civil court hearing cases involving personal injury, property damages, contract disputes and other civil complaints.
3. Why are you running for this particular bench?
The Judge on this bench is a republican appointed by W when he was still governor and while I don't have any particular beef with him, I know plenty who do. I do have a problem with a Courthouse dominated by one party that hasn't been challenged for a while. This lack of competition has created an atmosphere where the people get lost in the shuffle and justice falls short. Judges forget that they serve the people and rather than use their powers to make sure cases are heard, they use their powers to shut down the process. The most dramatic example of that is when the Court of Criminal Appeals closed its doors at five o'clock preventing the filing an expected application for stay of execution, but it happens in smaller ways on regular basis in all the courts.
4. What are your qualifications for this job?
I have seven years judicial experience, eighteen years legal experience, both as plaintiff and defendant. I've seen the courtroom from all sides which gives me the unique perspective to be a balanced fair and excellent jurist at the start. As Judge I have presided over more than 600 jury trials.
I also have twenty-eight years experience of activism and accomplishments in the community and the party, working on diversity of representation, affordable housing, historic preservation, homelessness and many other issues. This is a solid track record to show where my heart lies and how I will l serve you as a judge.
I have been recognized with the Government Friend of the Homeless Award by the Coalition for the Homeless for my work in creating Houston Homeless Recovery Court. This is a Court where folks who are working their way out of homelessness at a shelter or rehab program come to the Court to convert their outstanding warrants to community service orders. This allows them to continue their progress without being placed in jail to clear up the old warrants. While I will not be able to implement a homeless court as a Civil District Judge, I point out the award as an example of how I think and how I seek to make government and the Courts more accessible and meaningful to everyone.
5. Why is this race important?
Our Democratic Campaign for the Courthouse is critical to Justice in Harris County. The Courthouse has become an echo chamber with partisans trying to out do each other in appealing to the far right base of the Republican Party. It is time to restore balance, and Democrats need to turn out in great numbers to make that happen.
My candidacy itself is important to folks who value diversity as it will be the first opportunity to elect an openly gay man to a county-wide office in Harris County.
6. Why should people vote for you in Novmeber?
I have a passion for justice. This passion directs my politics, career and community choices and activities. All my life I have stood up for what is right and spoke out against and tried to change what is wrong.
Dion Ramos, 55th Civil Judicial District Court.
Shawna Reagin, 176th District Criminal Court.
Al Bennett, 61st Civil Judicial District Court.
Judge Jim Jordan, Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court.
Mike Miller, 11th Civil Judicial District Court.
Andres Pereira, 190th Civil Judicial District Court.