Judicial Q&A: Cheryl Elliott Thornton

(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?

I am Cheryl Elliott Thornton, a native Houstonian who has practiced law for over 23 years. I graduated from Lamar High School in Houston, Trinity University (BA), St. Mary’s University in San Antonio (MA) and Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston, Texas. I am married to Peter Thornton, a professor at Texas Southern University. I am running for Judge, Harris County Civil Court at Law No. 2.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court hears cases in which damages range from $500 to $100,000; appeals from the justice of the peace court and Texas Worker’s Compensation; cases pertaining to defamation or slander; title to real or personal property; enforcement or recovery of real property; eminent domain and writs.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for a county civil court bench because this bench, jurisdictionally, outside of justice of the peace benches which are elected to district-wide, is the court closest to “the people” in terms of access. I am running for this particular bench because the current judge, who has been there since 2008, reportedly has not performed in the most judicious manner and, thus, this court should be changed while the administration is still young. I believe I can offer the lawyers and the public at large, a more judicious and/or respectful handling of the cases that come before it.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have been a practicing attorney for over 23 years, primarily in the area of civil law. I have served as an administrative law judge for two State of Texas agencies. Further, I have the administrative capabilities necessary to run a court as evidenced by my experience as General Counsel for a university and as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Texas. I have also been certified as an Ad Litem by the State Bar of Texas and have received legal training at Harvard University through the National Association of College and University Attorneys.

Further, in my community, I have served as chair of the Police Advisory Committee, chair of the Museum of Fine Arts Advisory Committee, Executive Board Member of the World Youth Foundation, member NAACP, Houston Bar Association, Houston Lawyer’s Association, National Bar Association and Interfaith Ministries.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important, as are all judicial races, because Harris County needs good judges. I define good judges as those that do not make decisions based upon how a party looks, what a party’s net worth is, what is the color of their skin or what firm is representing them. Society needs judges who are fair and impartial, at the same time aware of the gravity of the cases before them. This race is important because society is crying out for judges who believe in fairness and judicial equality for all.

6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?

I not only have the needed legal experience as noted above, but I also have the most practical experience as evidenced by my involvement in community affairs. Unfortunately, the judicial system is overwhelmed with judges who have limited community involvement and limited broad-based experience. These types of limitations are why the courts are perceived as unapproachable and biased toward most of the people it serves. All of my experience is what is necessary to be able to fairly adjudicate the issues and people brought before this bench. The people need something more than just a litigator—they need a person involved in Harris County, a diversified practioner of the law, and a person experienced with all types of people in order to properly and equitably serve the people who come before the court. They need me, a person with 23 plus years of legal and community experience who has the judicial temperament to be the Judge of Harris County Civil Court No. 2. They need the best choice for that position–CHERYL ELLIOTT THORNTON.

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