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January 13th, 2022:

Interview with Lesley Briones

Lesley Briones

Next up for Harris County Commissioner Precinct 4 is Lesley Briones. Briones was appointed to be the Judge of County Civil Court at Law #4 in 2019 following the Bill McLeod accidental resignation saga; while she resigned her bench upon announcing her candidacy, she remains in place pending the appointment of a new judge, which should happen in January. A South Texas native and graduate of Harvard University, Briones worked at Vinson & Elkins and was General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer of the Laura & John Arnold Foundation prior to her appointment to the bench. Here’s what we talked about:

As with the judicial Q&A’s, more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. I will periodically round up the links to these posts as well.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Andrew Wright

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote in March. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Judge Andrew Wright

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

My name is Andrew A. Wright, I am the Judge of Harris County Criminal Court at Law Number Seven (#7).

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This Court is one of 16 Misdemeanor Criminal Courts in Harris County. This court handles primarily Class B and Class A Misdemeanors. The duties are to handle various criminal cases, typical in this court are Driving While Intoxicated cases, Burglary of Motor Vehicle cases, Thefts, Assault cases and various other cases. In addition to this, sometimes these Courts hear Class C (JP and Municipal Court) appeals. In addition to the above, there are various administrative duties of the position. This court can also hear Chapter 33 bypass hearings.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

My main accomplishment was when myself and my colleagues implemented misdemeanor bail reform in the County Criminal Courts at Law. We helped create the presumption of a pr bond in the vast majority of non-violent misdemeanor cases. In addition to this we created the Office of Managed Assigned Counsel to make sure that misdemeanor criminal appointments are done free from the Judge’s involvement. We want to make sure the Court Appointment system is raised to a higher bar than ever before, yet free from Judicial involvement.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

One of the things I hope to accomplish moving forward is to create a system of guidelines to keep cases from just laying stagnant for a long period of time. Something like a Docket Control Order, or scheduling order is one method I am contemplating for doing so. This will create clear and defined expectations to which all parties are aware of. There is a great deal of cases that cannot move forward because of issues that prolong this case without any clear expectations.

5. Why is this race important?

What happens in misdemeanor court affects peoples lives. I know plenty of people just look at it and thinks “its just a misdemeanor” or gives it less importance due to not being a felony court. But what we do each and every day in Court 7 affects many people’s lives. This race is important because those people need to have a judge that fairly, accurately and competently administers justice in their case. The judge needs to know what they are doing and knows the relevant law applicable to their case. The person on the bench needs to be able to step forward on January 2, 2023 and administer justice and not have a “on the job training.”

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

As above, this race is important as it affects people’s lives. The judge in this race needs to be able to have the relevant experience, knowledge and skill to effectively administer justice in a fair and non-biased way. I am that candidate. I have been a practicing attorney for 14 years and have tried many criminal cases. I am board certified in Criminal Law. I have the relevant experience, knowledge and knowhow to make sure that what happens in Criminal Court 7 is the right thing according to the laws of the State of Texas. This bench is a trial court bench, we try cases. Since taking the bench I have been at the top, if not the top of judges in trial. We do not have the time for this bench to be a learning curve or on the job training for a candidate that does not have the necessary experience to gain. I am the best and most qualified candidate for Harris County Criminal Court at Law Number Seven and I hope to continue to serve in that capacity. Thank you for your time and consideration.

We are so screwed if there’s a real cold front

[bangs head on desk].

During Texas’ first strong cold front of the winter this past weekend, natural gas production in the state’s top energy-producing region dropped by about 25%, according to a report from S&P Global. And while the lights largely stayed on across the state, the gas system’s performance during a brief cold snap raised more questions about the grid’s ability to handle extreme winter weather.

A separate Bloomberg report said gas production in the Permian Basin region of West Texas plunged to its lowest levels since last February’s deadly winter storm.

A number of natural gas companies reported to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that they had to unexpectedly flare off gas last weekend because their equipment froze.

Meanwhile, the Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry, said it didn’t know anything about the sudden drop in gas production. An agency spokesperson said the commission is “currently evaluating available data on natural gas production during the weekend of Jan. 1 and 2.”

Natural gas fuels a majority of power generation in Texas, and some power generators reported disruptions to their gas supply — but they said it was not enough to impact generators’ ability to produce electricity. Gov. Greg Abbott said the state’s main power grid operator was prepared with extra power supply online.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the grid operator, said there were no significant power outages around the state.

But the disruptions to the natural gas supply during a typical Texas cold front calls into question whether the state’s gas companies are ready for extreme winter weather, a concern energy experts and power company executives have expressed in recent months after lawmakers didn’t require gas companies to immediately prepare their equipment for extreme cold.

“I think it means the gas system’s not ready for another cold snap,” said Michael Webber, an energy resources professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “It wasn’t even really cold. It was cold, but nothing close to Winter Storm Uri [in February].”

Who are you gonna believe, Greg Abbott or your lying eyes? At this point, all I can say is it would be best to prepare for winter like you prepare for hurricane season. Assume a disaster is coming, and act accordingly. Abbott doesn’t care if you live or die, so it’s everyone for themselves. Godspeed and good luck.

Texas blog roundup for the week of January 10

The Texas Progressive Alliance would like to see a whole lot more people get held accountable for January 6 as it brings you this week’s roundup.


Why your recycling hasn’t been picked up yet

Short answer: Staffing shortages, exacerbated by COVID.

A staffing shortage in Houston’s solid waste management department is causing delayed and missed recycling pickups across the city, the agency confirmed.

The Solid Waste Management Department is trying to fill 45 vacancies for waste collectors, said department director Mark Wilfalk.

Wilfalk, who assumed the position two months ago, said he’s reevaluating staffing needs based on the city’s population growth and demand for services like recycling.

“I don’t know what that magic number is just yet,” he said.

In the meantime, the solid waste department has been skipping some recycling pickups to make up the difference from staffing shortages.

Recycling is skipped first. Then, yard waste is skipped if necessary. Garbage collection is prioritized for health and safety reasons, Wilfalk said.


In addition to the 45 driver vacancies that haven’t been filled, [Mayor Turner] said current municipal waste collectors are being recruited by private companies that offer higher pay for fewer hours of work. Houston waste collectors sometimes work six or seven days a week.

COVID-19 has also led to fewer drivers available to pick up waste. Turner said 370 or more solid waste management employees were out due to the virus on Monday.

“That number is increasing every day,” the mayor said.

The city is paying additional vendors to supplement solid waste operations. Turner said they’re offering overtime pay and retention bonuses in an effort to keep current employees. Waste collection was also put on a holiday schedule the last two weeks of December to give collectors some time off.

Ours was not picked up two weeks ago; it’s the second time in the last few months we’ve been skipped. I’m hopeful for today or tomorrow – where recycling was usually picked up on the same day as garbage, lately it’s been collected a day or two after. It is what it is.