(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 Shawn Nicole Thierry. I am a native Houstonian and have lived in the Westbury and Northfield areas of town for most of my life. I am a graduate of Westbury High School in Houston, and I attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. I obtained my law degree from the Thurgood Marshall School Of Law in Houston, Texas in 1996. I have been a licensed, practicing attorney for over thirteen years. Over the course of my broad legal career, I have represented individual clients, both poor and wealthy, and businesses, both small and large. I have been very active in democratic politics for a number of years and have served the community as well. I respect the law and have always been a champion for justice. Barbara Jordan was my role-model as a child, and I was affectionately called by her name whenever I stood up for others who were not being treated fairly. I am seeking the position of Judge of the 157th Civil District Court and am running to lead. Leadership in the judicial system starts with judges since they have broad powers and broad discretion. My goal is to lead with courage and conviction by first listening to all voices and sides and then ruling impartially.
2. What kind of cases does this court hear?
The types of cases which come before this court are wide-ranging, and include, but are not limited to, matters such as: contractual disputes, pharmaceutical and general products liability, toxic tort, premises liability, medical malpractice, employment and labor issues, real estate and property matters, insurance coverage cases, first amendment cases involving defamation and libel actions, wrongful death, and a high volume of other personal injury cases. District Courts are trial courts of general jurisdiction in law and equity. The district courts generally have exclusive jurisdiction in civil cases where the amount in controversy is $100,000 or greater and also have concurrent jurisdiction with the statutory county courts in cases where the amount in controversy is greater than $500.00 but is less than $100,000. This court may also handle multi-district litigation (MDL) for cases such as those involving mass tort claims and/or securities litigation. The MDL court is assigned by a judiciary panel, which is comprised of appellant court justices. As evidenced by this abbreviated list, the civil district court hears matters that could potentially affect most any individual and/or business.
3. Why are you running for this particular bench?
This particular judicial bench has not been subject to a contested election for many years. Specifically, in 2003, the incumbent judge obtained the bench through the appointment of Governor Rick Perry to complete the term of yet another departing republican judge who was also appointed to this bench by Governor Perry in 2001. The judiciary should reflect a balance of differing views and experiences and not be subject to “group think” or concurrent appointments by the republican party. This year, the citizens will finally have an opportunity to participate in the democratic process for this court. I am the only candidate in this race who has been running for 157th civil bench since the election cycle began in 2009 and have never shopped benches or switched races during the primary. I remain focused and committed to the 157th, because I truly believe that this is a bench that needs a change in leadership and a fresh perspective.
4. What are your qualifications for this job?
I have diverse legal experience. For over thirteen years, I have protected and championed the legal rights of individual citizens, as well as represented and defended small businesses and large corporations. I have successfully handled cases varying from commercial disputes, personal injury, product defects, deceptive trade practices and other civil litigation matters. My legal career has also afforded me the valuable experience of clerking for the Houston Court of Appeals First District. I also worked as a civil litigator for two renowned Texas commercial litigation firms. I gained invaluable experience at these respected firms. I later opened my own successful law practice where I represented individual clients and consumers in precisely the types of cases that will come before the 157th Civil District Court. I have an extensive background in civil procedure, rules of evidence, drafting and arguing trial motions, oral hearings, settlement of complex claims and cases, and other trial related matters. As a result, I have the broad experience necessary to view the lens objectively.
Second, I also have diverse life experience. Growing up, I was typically one of a few African-American children in my class, and/or or social activities such as girl scouts, camp, etc. While some would think this was difficult, it afforded me the opportunity to form deep friendships with a variety of people from different backgrounds. Although there were some instances where I was on the receiving end of injustice, those experiences merely made me want to work harder to stand up for what was fair and right. I was also the first African-American woman to be hired at the law firm which recruited me from law school. Throughout my life, both personally and professionally, I have always been the type of person that has helped my peers to keep an open mind on issues and express differences of opinions through patience and respectful dialogue. These unique life experiences have helped to develop the type of character and even temperament that will serve me well, if elected to the bench. My judicial philosophy also mirrors my life philosophy, which is, all people should be treated equally and without bias to religion, gender, race, financial status, sexual orientation, and/or age. I believe that my both my legal and life experiences are of importance to my qualifications. I am uniquely qualified to not only understand the complexities and intricacies of the law, but also to balance and apply it so that justice is truly achieved.
5. Why is this race important?
The voters in this Democratic primary are obviously counting on their candidate to win in the November general election. Therefore, the Democratic primary candidate for the 157th Civil District Court must be able to run a strong campaign against the republican incumbent on the bench. Strong community support and strong financial support will be necessary to remain competitive against the well-established incumbent. I have raised significant financial contributions from a large base of Democratic voters; whereas my opponent’s finance report indicates campaign contributions of less than $500.00. This is important because a self-funded candidate is typically not able to energize a diverse base of the party, nor remain financially viable throughout the length of the general election. Also, my candidacy has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO, Area V Pasadena Democrats, Tejano Democrats, Houston Black American Democrats, South Union Civic Association, and the Coalition of Harris County Democratic Elected Officials. Strong endorsements, combined with an ability to secure contributions from Democratic donors, will help ensure that I will be a viable candidate who can go the distance against the incumbent in November.
6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?
I have the most diversified legal experience in this primary. I have practiced law for both sides of the bar representing both plaintiffs and defendants. My opponent has dedicated his career to defending large companies and, unfortunately, has not had much experience representing everyday citizens. I will be able to better balance the competing interests in each case fairly and impartially. Equal access will be available to all those seeking legal redress and relief if I am elected as judge of the 157th Civil District Court. I have the qualifications needed for this important and honorable job. I will apply the rule of law with intelligence, insight and integrity. I am committed to the 157th Civil District Court race and to the voters of Harris County. For all of the reasons previously stated herein, I am sincerely seeking support from the voters to elect me as the democratic primary candidate and, ultimately, as Judge of the 157th Civil District Court. Please feel free to visit my website: ShawnThierry4Judge.com to learn more about me and the judicial campaign.