(Note: I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates on the November ballot. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. These Q&As are primarily intended for candidates who were not in contested primaries. You can see those earlier Q&As, as well as all the ones in this series and all my recorded interviews for this cycle, on my 2010 Elections page.)
1. Who are you, and what are you running for?
I am Donna Roth. I am running for Judge of the 281st Civil District Court, Harris County, Texas.
2. What kind of cases does this court hear?
The 281st is a civil court of general jurisdiction. It is a district court which handles civil cases with amounts in controversy from $500 to any dollar amount. The court also has equity power to impose injunctions, restraining orders and declaratory judgments (a judgment that declares the rights of the parties). The court hears a wide variety of matters including but not limited to breach of contract, commercial disputes, personal injury cases, employment disputes, malpractice cases, death cases, insurance disputes, corporate disputes, partnership/corporate dissolutions, property disputes, debt collection cases, bank foreclosures, attorney disbarment, discipline cases and Harris County property tax collection cases. The civil courts have also begun to hear family trials. The family courts have been so overwhelmed that many of the civil judges, when agreed by the parties, have begun trying jury trials for the family court judges including divorces, child custody and modifications.
3. Why are you running for this particular bench?
The 281st Civil District Court is a civil trial bench. I have spent my professional career in the civil trial courts representing the people of Harris County, Texas. This bench is one where I can utilize my education, experience and life lessons to serve all the people of Harris County in a fair and equitable matter. Justice should be served with integrity, accountability and equality. I am running for the 281st to do just that!
4. What are your qualifications for this job?
I am a 1987 cum laude graduate from South Texas College of Law. Since then I have practiced civil trial law. I have extensive first chair jury trial experience, have litigated almost every type of case that could come before the court, have extensive trials before the bench and have mentored any number of younger lawyers by sitting second chair and assisting and advising. I currently serve on the board of directors for the Houston Trial Lawyers Association (HTLA) and I am a member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association. In 2009 I was the sole recipient of the HTLA Leadership and Service Award.
I have the patience and poise to listen to everyone who comes to the court seeking justice. I will serve justice with integrity, accountability and equality.
4. Why is this race important?
Many, if not most people, will someday be required to come before a judge. Whether it be a civil judge, a family judge, a probate judge, a juvenile judge or a criminal judge, most people will find themselves before a court.
If you have been fired and have to sue your employer for wrongful discharge or employment discrimination, or if you have been seriously injured or lost a family member because of another’s negligence, or if you have lost a limb or organ because of a medical facilities’ negligence, you would file such a lawsuit in a civil district court. If you have a property boundary dispute, a dispute with your homeowners’ association, or a disagreement with Harris County Appraisal District over the value of your property, you would file such a lawsuit in a civil district court.
Presiding over the determination of fair and adequate compensation for the loss of a loved one because of another’s negligence, whether one’s livelihood has been taken away without just cause, the value of one’s home, a contract or business dispute, or whether an insurance company should be required to reimburse you for the loss of a limb or organ are important matters that make this race and the determination of who the next judge in this court will be an important matter.
6. Why should people vote for you in November?
The 281st Civil District Court is a civil trial bench. Because the role of the judge is to fairly and impartially try cases, trial experience is the most important qualification for voters to choose a candidate. As indicated by my qualifications, I can start working the day I am elected. I am also the candidate in this race that has received the endorsement of each and every one of the legal organizations who has screened and endorsed. In recognition of my experience and temperament these organizations in endorsing my candidacy have said that I am the candidate qualified to sit as the next Judge of this court.
I came to Houston in 1985. I graduated from South Texas College of Law in 1987 and have practiced law here in Houston since that time. I have raised my daughter, mostly as a single mom, here in Houston. I have learned patience from being a mom which will allow me to exercise the judicial temperament necessary to be a judge.
I maintain on my docket at least one pro bono case where I represent a woman in need of either a divorce, child support, child custody or a protective order. I volunteered after Hurricane Ike and provided legal services through the Houston Bar Association at the hurricane victim’s assistance centers. I often volunteered at my daughter’s high school having coordinated a mock trial event with the senior class. I volunteered for the Children’s Assessment Center and assisted participants at a skeet shoot. My favorite activity, however, is serving as a “judge” at South Texas School of Law for the mock trial program. This I do approximately twice a year and have done since I graduated law school in 1987. I feel that I have been fortunate in life to have obtained the education that I have received and to practice a profession I could only have dreamed about as a child. I want to share that with as many people as I can who cannot otherwise afford an attorney or someone to help them.
Justice for All:
It is important that we elect Judges who are fair and impartial, who do not have a preconceived notion about who should win before they hear any testimony or evidence. I have a passion for justice that has grown through my years of practice. I believe in the rule of law, I believe that each litigant that comes before the court, whether poor or rich, educated or not, whether represented by counsel or not, deserves a fair and impartial judge. Backed by my belief that justice and fair play are the fundamental values of the United States and Texas Constitutions, I am running for Judge of the 281st Civil District Court. My name is Donna Roth and I would consider it an honor and a privilege to serve as your next judge of the 281st Civil District Court in Harris County, Texas and I am, therefore, asking for your vote on November 2, 2010.