Judicial Q&A: Veronica Monique Nelson

(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.

Veronica Monique Nelson

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

My name is Veronica Monique Nelson and I am running to be the first elected Judge of the 482nd Criminal District Court in Harris County, Texas

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 482nd Criminal District Court hears felony offenses ranging from State Jail to 1st Degree offenses within Harris County, Texas. The Court handles all pre-trial and trial procedures including pre-trial release, bail hearings, pre-trial motions, docket settings, bench and jury trials, motions to adjudicate and revoke probation hearings, post-conviction writ hearings, Pre-Sentencing Investigation hearings, issuances of orders and findings of fact and conclusions of law, assignment of attorneys for indigent clients, overall docket management and the courts’ Local Rules.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

The 482nd is a brand new District Court bench created by legislators to begin having dockets in September 2021. When the 482 nd District Court bench became available, I was approached by numerous judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys encouraging me to run for the open bench due to my experience and current position as being an ideal person to bring integrity and knowledge to this position. After careful thought and consideration, I believed I would be the best person to serve on this bench as I have the most judicial experience and temperament. My goal would be to bring new programs and ideas to the felony court that have already proven to work well in both our misdemeanor courts and other jurisdictions, in addition to handling the case back log that currently is clogging all courts in Harris County.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Legal Studies major where I studied both Domestic and International legal systems including best practices in sentencing, drug rehabilitation versus extended drug sentencings, and mental health crisis within the judicial system. After graduation I attended Law School at the University Of Alabama School Of Law where I received best paper in Sentencing Guidelines, Family Law and Criminal Law.

I have been practicing criminal law for over sixteen years (2 years at a Public Defender’s Office as an intern and 14+ years in Harris County) and have extensive trial experience ranging from class C speeding tickets to non-death Capital Murders. I have been a Chief Prosecutor in both misdemeanor and felony District Courts, which means I have supervised junior attorneys while also maintain my own caseload and handling daily dockets. While District Court Chief in the 182nd and 180th , I was able to have over 100% clearance rate due to the reasonableness of my recommendations. While at the District Attorney’s Office, I was a senior prosecutor in the Juvenile, Intake, Trial Bureau and Mental Health divisions. So I have experience dealing with youthful offenders and those with mental health issues. In addition I have taught prosecutors, law students, officers, and judicial officers, on various topics ranging from probable cause, search warrants, mental health orders, juvenile magistration, and case filings.

In 2019, I was selected by the current county court judges to be the first African American Staff Attorney for the Harris County Courts. In that position, I am able to continue my studies of best practices all while guiding/training the judges on various topics ranging from Pre and Post-conviction Writs, Judicial Canons, O’Donnell Consent Decree and Bail, Mental Health orders, any new Legislative Updates, Docket Management, and Managed Assigned Counsel.

5. Why is this race important?

This race will set a foundation with a unique opportunity for voters to select the first elected Judge to a brand new District Court bench. The elected Judge’s experience, integrity, philosophy and knowledge of the position will be vital to the future of this court within the criminal justice system. Harris County judicial system has made great progress in that past three or four years but there is still work that needs to be done to ensure “justice for all” isn’t a catchy phrase but a reality. A reality that is backed by the confidence and support of the community served.  Now more than ever, voters understand how important it is to have judges who are fair, competent, unbiased, and uphold the integrity of the office. In order to have a strong foundation for the 482nd , the Judge should be well versed in the job and the upcoming matters both in and out of the courtroom.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

First, my legal education, courtroom experience and knowledge, along with my current position, uniquely qualify me as the best candidate for this position.  I would be able to make an immediate impact both on and off the bench. Second, my commitment to working for the community as a public servant and through community service.  As mentioned above, I have been a public servant since 2005 both as a law student and lawyer.  In law school, I was awarded the Order of the Samaritan which is the highest public service award bestowed by the University of Alabama School of Law. To earn this award, a student must complete at least 90 hours of volunteer work, with at least 50 of those hours spent doing pro bono/law-related service.  My community service has also continued through sports, as I volunteered with many travel softball organizations.  Within the last year, I have educated individuals at the Judson Robinson Jr. community center on various legal topics.   I have also had the privilege of serving as a volunteer guest lecturer at TSU Law School. Lastly, my upbringing, as a former collegiate and professional athlete as well as an NCAA Champion.  My background in athletics helped me develop several skills that are important for this position. Playing sports my entire life has taught me to 1. Work with people from diverse backgrounds, 2. Successfully multitask 3. Exhibit the appropriate judicial temperament, treating people with integrity and respect, especially in under pressure situations, and 3. Cultivate successful relationships.  My background has given me the training, knowledge and unique perspective that will allow me to be ready for the bench on the first day.

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