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Judicial Q&A: Jim Wrotenbery

(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?

Jim Wrotenbery. I am running for the 190th Civil District Court. I am a native Texan. I began my love affair with Houston when I came here to attend Rice in the late 70’s. After completing law school at UT-Austin, I returned to Houston to make it my home in the mid 80’s. I have had a long and distinguished legal career in civil litigation. In addition, I have a lifelong history of community service consistent with my personal values and those of the Democratic Party. I am a musician and have a passion for the mountains and nature. I share this personal information because I believe that we all should strive to fully explore and use our individual gifts and talents. My web site is www.jimforjudge.com

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The Civil District Courts in Harris County have very broad jurisdiction over a wide variety of cases from simple to complex. Much of the case load is personal injury, contractual disputes and employment to name a few important areas. They do not preside over probate, juvenile and criminal cases.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

After a long and successful career as a civil litigator on both the trial and appellate level, I want to give back to the citizens of Harris County and my colleagues in the legal community who I have worked with for over 25 years. At this stage in my life, I am best suited to be a fair, impartial and balanced referee. The people of Harris County deserve experienced, hard working, open-minded judges who fully understand the lack of equal protection and discrimination that too often continues to occur in our courts.

Many years ago I became increasingly troubled by the Republican Party domination of the Harris County judiciary. This court is no exception. The most recent occupant of the 190th was appointed by Republican Governor Perry in December 2007. 38% of those responding to a 2009 bar poll found the performance in this court only acceptable or poor. I can do better.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

It is my belief that to be an outstanding judge, one needs not only an excellent legal resume but also a history of service and life experience indicative of a person who cares about people and can be truly fair and impartial. I have an excellent resume. I am an honors graduate of Rice and UT-Austin Law School. I have an AV rating from the legal community. This is the highest rating for both quality of work and professional ethics. I have a very unique combination of civil trial and appellate work. I have tried over 150 cases to jury verdict in State and Federal Courts all over the State of Texas. I have argued at every appellate level. I have represented individuals and companies from all walks of life and areas of our society on both sides of the docket. A portion of my work has always been on a pro bono basis.

Since 1990, I have had partner and management responsibilities including supervision and mentoring of associate attorneys in law firms. The judge must have the technical ability as well as management experience to supervise a large court staff and to run a docket successfully and efficiently.

As important, I have a community service history reflective of my personal beliefs and the values the Democratic Party stands for. We strive to eliminate the blight of poverty. One way I support this principle is my volunteer work at the Beacon, a facility in downtown Houston which supports the homeless community. I have also been active with Habitat for Humanity for many years. Over the past few years, I trained for and became a court appointed guardian ad litem for children in protective custody. I do this work as a volunteer with Child Advocates, Inc. I also mentor in after school programs. Since the HIV/AIDS crises in the 1980’s I have supported various organizations that help those with HIV/AIDS.

5. Why is this race important?

In my opinion, all judicial races are important. A judge has a great deal of discretion and authority and makes decisions that have serious and long-term ramifications in the lives of people who come before the court.

The citizens who serve as jurors sacrifice their time and resources as part of their civic duty. They are crucial to our goal of fair trials with juries reflective of our diverse community. In return for this public service, they deserve highly qualified, hard working, efficient and compassionate judges who will fully respect them and their time and who also reflect our diverse community.

The attorneys who zealously represent their clients deserve, knowledgeable, consistent, efficient judges who can find practical and cost efficient solutions to disputes. They deserve judges who are available and who fully understand and will never forget what it is like to stand on the other side of the bench.

There is a great deal at stake in these courts. All parties deserve a fair and impartial judge who knows and understands the law and who will apply it with compassion.

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

I am highly qualified with a unique combination of civil trial and appellate experience. My lifelong community service is consistent with my personal values and those of the Democratic Party. Since I became eligible to vote, I have worked for and supported the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates. I worked as a legislative aide for my Democratic State Representative from my hometown when I was in law school. More recently, in 2008 I stepped forward and ran as a Democratic candidate for judge and was honored by the support I received. Although I personally came up short in 2008, I continued to work for my friends now serving on the bench and the coordinated campaign. I also worked in New Mexico for two weeks on the campaign of President Obama and to help turn that state blue. I personally will not give up the fight and we in the Democratic Party must keep fighting for candidates who uphold the ideals and values we share. If elected in the primary, I promise you a candidate who will represent the Democratic Party with great energy and integrity. You will have a representative who is well qualified and deeply understands equal protection under the law for everyone.

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