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Endorsement watch: Criminal courts

The Chron made its endorsements for the Criminal District Courts over two days. For their first four endorsements, they went with three Republican incumbents and one Democratic challenger:

184th Criminal District Court: Mark Thering

Judge Jan Krocker has been a proud leader of mental health courts in Harris County. However, she wound down that work last year after being ousted from the mental health court that she founded. Some courtroom observers point to political justifications for her removal, others to poor budget management. We’ve endorsed Krocker, a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, in the past because of her dedication to improving mental health treatment in the criminal justice system. Without that on her side, Krocker is a less compelling candidate.

After 20 years on the bench, Krocker has developed a reputation as a judge who preemptively makes up her mind. She didn’t hide this fact in her interview with the editorial board: “My job is to protect the public from dangerous people,” Krocker said. “Same as being a prosecutor.”

No, Judge Krocker, it isn’t. A judge’s job is to remain an unbiased arbiter who ensures that the law is followed, due process guaranteed and justice enforced.

Questions about Krocker’s impartiality are nothing new. Krocker was rated one of Texas’ worst judges back in 2006 after she inappropriately intervened in a death penalty case that dated back to her days as an assistant district attorney.

Voters should go with Krocker’s Democratic opponent, Mark Thering. A graduate of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law, where he graduated third in his class, Thering, 51, is a notable defense attorney who has also worked as a certified probation officer in Harris County.

In Round Two, it was two Ds and two Rs.

248th Criminal District Court: Shawna L. Reagin

Judge Katherine Cabaniss is qualified to serve in our criminal courts, but Harris County needs an experienced jurist like Shawna L. Reagin back on the bench.

Reagin, a graduate of the University of Houston Law Center, has a nearly 20-year career in criminal law, handling thousands of cases at both the trial and appellate level. She was elected in 2008 to the 176th Criminal District Court, where she earned the respect of both prosecutors and defense attorneys. As judge, Reagin streamlined caseflow management and used intensive supervision programs to help keep probationers on track. Despite her exemplary performance, Reagin, 56, lost that seat in 2012. In the 2014 election, voters need to return Reagin to her rightful place as judge.


263rd Criminal District Court: Herb Ritchie

When Democratic challenger Herb Ritchie served one term as judge in the 337th Criminal District Court, he set out to run the court with a philosophy of CPR: courtesy, patience and respect.

A graduate of the University of Texas Law School, Ritchie is the sort of judge who works slowly and diligently (perhaps even too much so) to check that his court is doing the right thing. He also works hard to ensure that nonviolent criminals receive all the good time credit possible. Board certified in criminal law, Ritchie’s calm and thoughtful demeanor befits a man who has worked as an instructor in classics at the University of Texas and Baylor University.

That sort of personality stands in stark contrast to Republican incumbent Judge Jim Wallace, who routinely receives low marks from lawyers for the way he runs his court.

They continue their habit of generally having nice things to say about the Democratic challengers. They clearly have a preference for retaining judges, which is reasonable enough, with that credit extending to people who had previously served as judges. I don’t have any Q&As with candidates mentioned in this editorial yet, but look for them from Shawna Reagin, Mack McInnis, and Randy Roll in the next two weeks.

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One Comment

  1. N.M. Horwitz says:

    Retaining judges for the sake of retention is horrendously foolish. It’s the type of illogic used by a first-time voter, right there with picking the shorter names.

    The whole “fighting crime from the bench” mentality is present in nearly all of the GOP Judges. They should hold it against all them, not just the ones foolish enough to make a comment about it during their interview.

    Judge Susan Brown, for example, is the same type of prosecutorial zealot. But the chronicle, which must not go on fact-finding missions to the courthouse, couldn’t evidently tell you that.