(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 Mary Kay Green and, as a candidate for the 247th Family District Court in the Democratic Party Primary, I bring 22 years of litigation experience in the family courts.
2. What kind of cases does this court hear?
In Harris County, there are nine family courts that hear cases involving adoptions, child custody, child support, divorces, suits to establish a parent-child relationship where there is no marriage, and petitions brought by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Until recently these courts also heard emergency protective orders involving children and adults, but that is no longer the case as these are now brought to the 280th District Court. The IV-D courts, which are supervised by the nine family courts, hear child support and the accompanying custody decisions, brought through the Office of the Attorney General.
3. Why are you running for this particular bench?
I am running for this bench because I have handled all of these matters, in either bench or jury trials, as counsel, attorney ad litem or once as court master, from Galveston to Midland-Odessa and points in between, and have the experience, compassion and temperament to bring a change to this court.
4. What are your qualifications for this job?
I have been licensed since 1987, practicing primarily family law, with some general civil matters not related to family court, and criminal and probate matters. Clients going through the court process, often for the first time, are undergoing some of the most stressful events of their lives. It takes someone who can listen with compassion and experience, without rushing to judgment until knowing all the facts, and then deciding with the client what avenue they want to take in resolving their issues, hopefully in cooperation with the other side.
The Texas Family Code is gender neutral and so is my practice. I have represented differing economic levels and demographic groups, in adoptions, child custody, child support, divorces, suits to establish a parent-child relationship, as both counsel for the proponent and the responding party or as an ad litem attorney for a party needing representation and individuals against whom petitions have been brought by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS). Since only about 2% of the cases are heard before a jury in the family courts, virtually all cases are tried to the judge sitting as the sole trier of fact.
I have handled hundreds of cases throughout my practice, in the district, county, justice of the peace and municipal courts throughout the state but primarily in Harris and the surrounding counties. At this point about 90% of my practice is in the family courts. I know what is required, what is mandatory and discretionary and have attended the Advanced Family seminars that are held on an annual basis by the State Bar of Texas to keep me up to date, as well as other related seminars put on by the Houston Bar Association Family Law Section and other related groups dealing with family law issues. I am a member of the Family Law, General Practice and Probate Sections of the State Bar of Texas and member of the Family Law Section of the Houston Bar Association and licensed in the Southern District of Texas Federal Courts. I have received the Yellow Rose Award from La Rosa for volunteer work and have done volunteer work through the Houston Bar Association.
5. Why is this race important?
While all of the courts may touch on the lives of individuals, the family courts can have such a profound effect on the lives of those coming before them, the person hearing these cases must have the current knowledge and experience to be able to reach an appropriate decision. It is important for the voters to know something about the dedication, passion and ability of someone who chooses to practice family law throughout his or her career, who run for these benches.
6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?
I live and breathe the practice of family law. I have the understanding of the effect that decisions made in the criminal and probate courts can have when reaching decisions in the family courts and have experience in all three areas.
All of us view our lives through our own filters and what is important to someone in one case may have no meaning for someone in another. I have represented people who have lived in abject poverty to those who are more comfortably well off, and those whose partner may have psychological issues and/or drug or violence issues or suffer those problems themselves. I have had to deal with the realization that, as with every other workplace, that there are caseworkers who do a marvelous and conscientious job in the different agencies that appear in the family courts and those who would appear to be more concerned about justifying their own actions who have violated individuals’ rights. I have experienced appropriate and inappropriate behavior in the clients, counsel and judges with whom I have interacted these past 23 years and bring all of this experience to the bench. I have handled all aspects of my cases, from interview with the client, preparation and fiilng of pleadings, mediation and then trial.
I would ask the voter to consider voting for me in the Democratic Party Primary for my qualifications as a family law practitioner, but also because I have been a precinct chair from 1986 – 2000, interim Senate District Chair in SD 15 and then 6, and attended the state convention from 1982-2008 and national conventions in 1988 and 2004. I am a deputy voter registrar as well.
I am asking for your votes to enable me to continue the job that I started when I began working in the family courts. I invite you to visit my website at marykaygreenforjudge.com to learn more about me, contact me or contribute to the campaign. I am grateful for all the help I have had along the way and would be grateful for your support to carry me through the primary and on to November.