Judicial Q&A: Judge Abigail Anastasio

(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 Abigail Anastasio

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

I am Judge Abigail Anastasio, presiding of Judge of the 184 th District Court. I have nearly 20 years of experience in public service as a Judge, teacher,
defender, and prosecutor. You can find out more at JUDGEANASTASIO.COM.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court handles all felony prosecutions ranging from Capital Murders to state jail felonies. I have handled thousands of cases during my time on the bench, including charges of capital murder, child abuse, sex abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, weapons offenses, animal cruelty, and various financial crimes.

Felony courts also handle special misdemeanors that deal with official oppression. I handle post conviction writs and some appellate matters. Probation revocations, adjudications, and administrative law are also included within my jurisdiction.

The District Court Judges also handle extensive administrative duties. I am the Chair of both the Docket Management and Justice Technology Committees. I also serve in many capacities including development and staffing of backlog trial courts and developing procedures to aid other judges in running their dockets more efficiently. Under my leadership, the court clearance rates increased significantly to rates higher than those even prior to Hurricane Harvey. I also serve on the Special Projects Committee, Standing Committee, and Bail Bond Committee.

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

I have accomplished many things during my time on the bench including the following: efficient court procedures leading to lowest backlog, lowest age of case, one the highest number of jury trials conducted, one of the highest successful probation completion rates, advancement of rehabilitative programs, creation of more courts… among many other things. I have been operating under emergency conditions the entirety of my time on the bench and have still been able to improve the court and successfully hold trials.

Additionally, and as simple as this may sound, the current felony court Judges had one guiding principle coming in: to ensure the law was followed. We have done that.

Many of my accomplishments are tangible. I (more often than not) have the lowest felony docket and backlog. I inherited a docket in the middle of then pack, but I worked hard to improve those numbers and to make things run efficiently despite Harvey and COVID-19.

My efficiency has led to the 184th having the lowest average age of case and one of the courts with the lowest number of individuals detained pretrial and on bond. The 184th also takes less actual number of court settings/appearances to resolve cases than nearly any of the Criminal District Courts.

I have presided over, to date, the most felony trials during the pandemic and have one of the highest number of felony cases tried during my 3 years on the bench. I was one of the first judges in Texas to implement safety procedures and try a felony case during the pandemic.

The key to public safety, overpopulation in jails, and access to justice for victims and the accused alike, is timely disposition (resolution) of cases. And you can do all of this while being fair and balanced. It takes a lot of hours and hard work, but, as I have proven over the past 3 years, it can be done.

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

We hope to stay on the same trajectory, disposing of cases timely and getting people their day in court as quickly as possible. I’d like to continue to work with the other Judges to improve the efficiency of our dockets and create new courts. We would also like to focus on creating more therapeutic and rehabilitative programs to those suffering from addiction and for those without support systems. I would like to see a reduction in recidivism, which can only come by providing these services.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because it is essential that good, fair, qualified judges who have proven themselves remain on the bench. Consistency and knowledge of the cases is key. Now that we have experienced judges on the bench, it’s important to keep them there if they are doing a good job. I have extensive experience in my field and have kept the court functioning properly even during the seemingly impossible challenges of Covid. I encourage the voters to compare the experience levels, qualifications, and accomplishments of each candidate. I feel assured that the people will see that I am the right candidate to remain in this position.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I have kept my promises to the electorate and beyond.

Always a champion of the people, I dedicated my life to public service in Harris County early in my career. I have served close to twenty years as Judge, assistant district attorney, teacher, and defender for the indigent. I taught English at Cesar Chavez High School in Southeast Houston for seven years.

I spent most of my childhood overseas, mainly in the Middle East, with much travel through Europe and Northern Africa. This left a lasting appreciation for diverse communities and an affinity for the cultural and demographic wonder of Harris County.

I am a fighter and understand the value and necessity of hard work.

In 2004, I was diagnosed with cancer, specifically Hodgkins Lymphoma. I underwent chemotherapy and radiation, and beat it, going on to become a licensed white-water rafting guide on the Kennebec River in Maine, and eventually completing the Ironman race subsequent to my battle and recovery. I remain cancer free 18 years later.

While working full time, I graduated from the University of Houston, and while working as a teacher in HISD attended night classes part-time to earn my law degree from South Texas College of Law.

After graduating law school and passing the bar exam, I served as an Assistant District Attorney for Harris County, prosecuting thousands of cases at that post. I always held that helping everyone was key: both victims of crime as well as those deserving of a second chance.

With that noble mission in mind, I left the DAs office to work complex defense cases, representing with fervor and integrity the indigent and others who stood accused of crimes. I quickly made a name for myself in my practice, being chosen as a Texas Super Lawyers Rising Star in 2017 and 2018.

Serving from both sides of the aisle, and now on the bench, has given me a unique perspective as both prosecution and defense; attorney and judge. This gives me a paramount ability to be fair, balanced, and impartial when compared to those who have only served on the side prosecuting those who are innocent unless proven guilty.

I have served years on the bench; years representing the accused; and years advocating for those seeking justice.

Collectively, I have tried close to 100 jury trials and handled thousands of cases, including charges of capital murder, child abuse, sex abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, weapons offenses, animal cruelty, and various financial crimes.

Of all the Criminal District Courts in Harris County, the 184th District Court, under my leadership, has the smallest backlog of cases. The court has one of the shortest dockets of individuals awaiting trial, and one of the shortest lists of people on bond. I consistently have one of the highest case clearance rates of all the Criminal District Courts (as of 12/20/2021) and have maintained the highest case clearance rate in over a decade for the 184th District Court. 

I treat every case individually and effectively and don’t waste your valuable tax dollars. My no-nonsense professionalism and efficient approach to case processing leads to wider access to justice for all, ensuring Harris County communities stay safer.

You, and those you love, can have faith that someone experienced and accountable is working swiftly to administer fair and unbiased justice on your behalf, all the while making sure due process and the rule of law remain.

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