(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 Dennis M. Slate. I am running as a Democrat for Harris County Criminal Court at Law #13. I grew up on the east side of Harris County in the Pasadena area. I went to college at Texas A&M University on the GI Bill after having served 3 years on active duty as a medic in the Army. I attended law school at the University of Houston. Since graduating, I have practiced criminal law, based out of my office in Deer Park, in courts all over Texas.
2. What kind of cases does this court hear?
Harris County Court at Law Number 13 is a criminal misdemeanor bench and a trial court. This court has jurisdiction to hear class A and class B misdemeanor cases. The most common of these are:
- D.W.I. (first and second offenses)
- Thefts (value of $50 or more but less than $1500)
- Criminal Trespass
- Criminal Mischief (damage of $50 or more but less than $1500)
- Resisting and Evading Arrest (not in a vehicle)
- Possession of Marijuana (less than 4 ounces) and some dangerous drugs
- Failure to Identify (oneself to a police officer)
In addition to hearing these types of cases, the court monitors probationers, sets the conditions for probation, and determines when those conditions have been violated and what the appropriate punishment is for the violation. The court also is tasked with granting occupational licenses and ordering conditions for those licenses.
3. Why are you running for this particular bench?
The Harris County Democratic Party selected me to run for this bench after screening myself and dozens of other candidates. I decided to run for judge because public service has been something I have taken great pride in since I enlisted in the Army at age 18. I have continued my service to this Country for over 18 years, even being activated in support of the Global War on Terror. I also currently serve the citizens of Houston and Pearland as a Municipal Judge. I feel that at this point in my career I have practiced law long enough to have the appropriate perspective and experience to make me a Judge that can listen and evaluate each case on its individual merits and provide a just and fair court to the citizens of Harris County.
4. What are your qualifications for this job?
I have practiced criminal law in courts throughout Texas for going on 9 years now. I have practiced in front of good, fair-minded judges and some not so fair minded. I was nominated by Mayor Tom Reid of Pearland and Mayor Bill White of Houston and confirmed by both city councils to sit as an Associate Judge for those cities. I have presided over bench and jury trials, set bonds, magistrated defendants, presided over dispositive motion hearings, conducted arraignments, and I volunteer as an on-call judge for no refusal weekends to sign blood warrants in DWI cases. I have served the United States as an Army Reserve Officer for over 18 years. I currently manage the Houston Selective Service draft boards. I have the legal, judicial, and life experience to make me a fair, ethical, and qualified judge.
5. Why is this race important?
As Associate Judge for Houston and Pearland Municipal Courts, I can appreciate that many people would prefer not to deal with the legal system altogether. However, when it is you or your loved one that has a legal issue, suddenly the court system becomes very important. In the courtroom, you can only hope your judge is competent in understanding the law and committed to applying it fairly based on the facts of each individual case. In addition, you want the judge you stand before to be experienced and fair. As an American, you have the right to have your case heard in court without fear of ridicule. You have the right to a fair trial, to have your case before a judge that listens to you and embodies the principles of respect, fairness, and integrity.
6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?
I am the only candidate in my race that was screened by the Democratic Party and selected to run for this bench. I have been a sustaining member of the Harris County Democratic Party for 5 years. I am member in good standing of the Harris County Democratic Party’s Coordinated Judicial Campaign. I am the only candidate in this race that has judicial experience, after having my qualifications vetted by two different city councils. I have been named as a top lawyer in Houston twice by H Texas magazine, and was named as a Houston rising star lawyer this past year by Texas Monthly.
I am a member of the Harris County Dems, Meyerland Dems, GLBT Political Caucus, Spring Branch Dems, the Tejano Dems, Democracy for Houston, and Houston Black American Dems.
I have been endorsed by the Coalition of Harris County Democratic Elected Officials.
You can reach me at [email protected]