Judicial Q&A: Ashley Mayes Guice

(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.

Ashley Mayes Guice

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

My names is Ashley Mayes Guice and I am running to become the next Judge of Harris County Criminal Court at Law #16, the only one of the sixteen misdemeanor courts on the ballot this election cycle. I’m a native Houstonian who is married to Jonathan Guice, an Army veteran who works for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; we are the parents to two wonderful kids. I hold a BSM from Tulane University in Business Management and Legal Studies in Business. I received my JD and a Graduate Diploma in Comparative Law from Louisiana State University in May 2011.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court primarily hears Class A and Class B misdemeanors like DWI, Assault, and Theft – to name just a few. County Criminal Courts at Law also have appellate jurisdiction in Class C misdemeanor cases appealed from lower courts. Petitions for Occupational Driver’s Licenses and Administrative License Revocation Hearing appeals are also handled in this court.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I have been working with the Harris County Criminal Courts at Law for the past two years – first as a judge, currently as Staff Attorney. I am eager to get back to this County Criminal Court bench to further demonstrate my capabilities of running an efficient docket while ensuring that the law is followed. I am eager to create new programming within the B.A.Y.O.U. Community Court that was established in 2022 as the community outreach arm of the Harris County Criminal Courts at Law. I consider myself a servant-leader and want to do my part to help people on the bench and off the bench. Lastly, as a misdemeanor judge you encounter many people who are experiencing their first brush with the law. I want to be a judge who helps those individuals turn things around in a meaningful way so they avoid any future trips through the criminal justice system.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have practiced criminal law for over 12 years. I started in 2011 as a private criminal defense attorney. In 2013 I became a prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office where I worked my way up to a senior-level felony prosecutor with nearly 30 trials under my belt. In 2019 I returned to my criminal defense roots as a Public Defender in the Felony Trial Division of the Harris County Public Defender’s Office representing indigent defendants charged with anything from state jail felonies up to first degree felonies. I worked there until January 2022, when Harris County Commissioners Court appointed me to serve out the rest of the year as the Presiding Judge of Harris County Criminal Court at Law #3. Due to the timing of my appointment I was not able to run for that bench as an incumbent in 2022. During my 11 months on the bench I presided over 4 jury trials and decreased the docket size by about 20%. At the end of my appointed judicial term the County Court at Law judges voted to hire me as their Staff Attorney, which is my current role. As Staff Attorney I serve as a legal resource to the Harris County Office of Court Management and all 20 of the Harris County Courts at Law judges. In my current position I must draw on the knowledge I gained as a practicing attorney and judge, but the job also requires an understanding of the administrative aspects of supporting the judiciary so that courts function properly.

Given my very diverse background in criminal law, I believe I am uniquely qualified to be the next Judge of Harris County Criminal Court at Law #16. I bring a unique perspective having previously been a judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, and a staff attorney providing legal counsel to judges. I will be more than ready to hit the ground running on day one in Court #16.

5. Why is this race important?

I am out meeting voters and the two issues that they discuss most with me are case backlogs and bail reform. Harris County Criminal Courts at Law are making positive strides on both of those issues. The backlog has been slashed by more than 50% across all courts. The number of defendants being held in pre-trial custody on only a misdemeanor charge is minimal, which is a result of judges following the law on bail not using bail as an instrument of oppression that disproportionately impacts the poor. Voters should be looking to cast their vote for a candidate that understands – and can continue making forward progress on – these issues. I am that candidate.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

When I took the bench in Harris County Criminal Court at Law #3 in February 2022 there were 1,971 cases pending. When my judicial appointment ended in December 2022 there were 1,593 and Court #3 had one of the smallest county criminal dockets. That does not magically happen. That is evidence of my hard work, my ability to run a courtroom efficiently, and my commitment to prioritizing backlogged cases so they can be resolved in a more timely manner.

My opponent has been practicing law longer than I have. However, the quality of my 12+ years of experience should not be dismissed because of the quantity of years my opponent has practiced. I’ve handled and tried misdemeanor and felony cases just like my opponent. But I am the only person in this race that has successfully presided over a court as a judge. I am the only person in this race that possesses a keen familiarity with the administrative processes and procedures that support the daily functioning of the county court system. It is my job to help judges with any of their legal questions. I know what it takes to be a judge and your vote will allow me the honor of returning to the bench to complete the work I started in 2022. Again, I am ready to hit the ground running on day one!

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