(Note: I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. There are a lot of judicial races on the ballot in Harris County this election, and so 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. I will also be conducting some in-person interviews of candidates who will be involved in contested primaries for non-judicial offices. Please see my 2010 Election page for a full list of Q&As and interviews.)
1. Who are you and what are you running for?
My name is Damiann Curvey Banieh (both Curvey and Banieh rhyme with “ok”), a native Houstonian, who prides herself on being a wife, mother, business owner, and mentor to younger attorneys who wish to practice family law. I am running for Judge, 311th Family District Court, Harris County, Texas.
2. What kind of cases does this court hear?
The 311th has the jurisdiction to hear any Harris County case involving Divorce, Child Support (establishment and enforcement), Custody Issues, Grandparents Rights/Access, Child Protective Services (CPS) cases, Adoptions, Parental Terminations, and Name Changes.
3. Why are you running for this particular bench?
I did not choose to run based upon the particular bench I selected. The seat is currently held by Judge Doug Warne who is not running for reelection. I plan to continue Judge Warne’s practice of running a respectful and efficient court where cases are heard and disposed of in a timely manner. I also plan to enhance the court by ensuring that all citizens of Harris County who wish to represent themselves have equal access to the courts without language barriers to stifle their efforts.
4. What are your qualifications for this job?
I liken my career as a family law attorney to that of a social worker with better hours. In order to be an effective Family Court Judge, one’s qualifications must begin with a thorough understanding of families and how they work.
I worked as an Adoption Recruiter for DePelchin Children’s Center for over three years where I was responsible for recruiting and training families who wished to adopt special needs children who had been labeled “unadoptable”. My years with the agency in this capacity gave me an intimate understanding of the importance of the entire CPS process and its handling of the children in their system.
From there, I taught English in Aldine Independent School District and Houston Independent School District for six years. This experience allowed me to see how the court orders a judge signs affects children. I witnessed the turmoil that families endured in attempting to navigate the visitation schedule and even stepped in to counsel families and help them to resolve their issues.
I am a licensed attorney who devotes over 80 percent of my practice to Family Law cases. In fact, I volunteered my services to represent a child taken by CPS from the FLDS religious sect in Abilene, Texas. In my practice, I have accumulated more than 10,000 hours of courtroom litigation experience and regularly donate numerous hours of service to the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Association to assist indigent litigants with divorce and custody issues.
5. Why is this race important?
The Family Court race, in my opinion, is the most important race on the March, 2010 Primary Ballot. When litigants face opposing parties in criminal and civil cases, after the verdict is rendered, they never have to interact with one another again. However, in Family Law cases, when parties complete their court litigation, they still have to maintain a relationship with one another because they are still family. The citizens of Harris County deserve a judge who understands and respects the familial relationship that has to continue long after they leave the courtroom. If they fail to elect a judge who possesses the requisite qualities that I have expounded upon earlier, they place their families in jeopardy of facing a judge who is ill-equipped to decisively rule while working to preserve the family relationship that must endure for the family to survive.
6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?
The people of Harris County should vote for me because I am the only currently litigating attorney in this race, which means I have my finger on the pulse of the trends and happenings in the Family Courts. Moreover, my daily practice in the Family Courts gives me a heightened sense of respect for the time that the litigants take from work to make appearances in the courtroom. My extensive experience with adoptions/CPS cases and with children and their families place me in a better position than my opponents, as it gives me real world experience with the types of people my judgments will affect. If the people of Harris County want a judge who has the legal tenacity, personal integrity, and real world experience to lead, I am the only choice on the ballot for the 311th Family District Court.