(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. 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. You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2016 Election page.)
1. Who are you and what are you running for?
My name is Raul Rodriguez. I was born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. I came to the United States when I was two. The first house that my family lived in was in Houston’s Second Ward. We later moved to Northside, where I grew up. I graduated from John H. Reagan High School in the Heights. Shortly after graduating from high school, I became a U.S. citizen – more than anything, because I wanted to be able to vote.
I went on to the University of Houston where I received a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration. After working for about six years in the corporate world, I decided to return to school to pursue a law degree. I graduated from South Texas College of Law in December 1991 and became licensed in January 1992.
In 2005, Mayor Bill White appointed me to serve as an Associate Judge for the City of Houston Municipal Courts. I still presently hold this position, and I continue to have the privilege of presiding over Class C misdemeanor cases in these courts.
Family is very important to me. My parents were small business owners in the Houston area until my father sold his business in 2015, over 40 years after he started his company. I have five brothers, three of whom served in the U.S. Armed Forces. My youngest brother is a Houston Police Officer. I am married to Patricia Limon de Rodriguez, who is actively involved in various causes and organizations in Houston / Harris County.
I am a judicial candidate for the 174th Criminal District Court in Harris County, Texas. The duties of the judge of this Court are to preside over all levels of felony cases.
2. What kind of cases does this court hear?
This is a State Criminal District Court that handles all levels of felony cases. Felonies are more serious offenses than misdemeanors.
These crimes include arson, aggravated assaults, robbery, serious drug offenses and sexual assaults. Homicide cases such as manslaughter, murder and capital murder also fall under the jurisdiction of these courts.
3. Why are you running for this particular bench?
Of the 22 Criminal District Courts in Harris County, there are only three Latino judges.
The reason that I am running is because two of these judges are retiring in 2016, Judge David Mendoza and Judge Ruben Guerrero, the current judge of the 174th Criminal District Court.
I would like to see Harris County keep its Latino representation in the criminal court system, and I believe I have the experience and judicial temperament necessary to transition into this next progression of my career: seeking election as a Criminal District Court Judge.
4. What are your qualifications for this job?
I have been practicing law as a criminal defense attorney since 1992. In those 24 years, I have tried over 200 cases including approximately 30-35 criminal jury trials. I have been doing court appointments as well as representing clients through my own practice, handling felony as well as misdemeanor cases at both the State District Court and County Criminal Courts at Law.
I am also a mediator, and I am often referred cases by the Family District Courts and Civil District Courts to assist in resolving disputes between litigants.
I had the honor of being appointed by Mayor Bill White as an Associate Judge for the City of Houston Municipal Courts in November 2005. By law, I am required to apply for reappointment every two years, and I take great pride that I still currently hold that position ten years later.
5. Why is this race important?
Every election / race is important, and this particular one is no different. However, out of the 22 Criminal District Courts in Harris County there are only three Latino judges. Two of the Latino judges are retiring and not seeking reelection in 2016. I am the only Democratic Latino candidate for a Criminal District Court in 2016. In a county whose population includes over 40 percent Latino citizens, having less than three Latino Criminal District Court judges is unacceptable.
6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?
With 24 years as a criminal defense attorney and ten years as an Associate Judge with the City of Houston, I believe that I am the best qualified candidate for the 174th Criminal District Court.
In addition, I am the only Latino Democratic candidate for Criminal District Court for the 2016 primary.
Minorities make up nearly 70 percent of the population in Harris County. If I am unsuccessful in my bid to be judge of the 174th Criminal District Court, there will only be one Latino Criminal District Judge that represents the citizens of Harris County. This statistic is insupportable. The judges of these courts should reflect the population of Harris County.
While I would like every voter to pick me, I realize that it is not always going to be the case. I encourage people to go vote even if it is not for me or if they cannot vote for me because they live in another county.
With that said, I would like to remind every eligible voter to go vote because their vote matters. Early Voting is from February 16, 2016 through February 26, 2016. Election Day is March 1, 2016.