(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 other Q&As and further information about judicial candidates on my 2018 Judicial page.
1. Who are you and what are you running for?
I’m Armen “Hammer” Merjanian and I’m running for Judge of County Criminal Court 5
2. What kind of cases does this court hear?
This court hears Class A & B Misdemeanor cases (DWI, Theft, Assault, Criminal Mischief, Fail to Stop and give info, etc.) and Class C (ticket) appeals.
3. Why are you running for this particular bench?
Because the current judge, Margaret Harris, is a tyrant who violates the rights of the accused on a daily basis and has for decades. She acts as a prosecutor from the bench as opposed to a neutral magistrate. Instead of complaining about it, I’m doing something about it.
4. What are your qualifications for this job?
I’m a criminal defense lawyer who’s passionate about criminal justice reform and ending mass incarceration. I’ve helped thousands of Texans in my career and know how to fix what’s broken in Harris County! I’ve seen both sides of our criminal justice system – I was a prosecutor prior to starting my own practice. I’m a proud graduate of South Texas College of Law Houston. I’m also a graduate of Gideon’s Promise, the country’s most prestigious training program for public defenders. I’ve also tried approximately two dozen misdemeanor and felony cases as first or second chair.
I have real life experiences outside of law. I was a high school math teacher, cross country, and track coach for 4 years prior to law school. I lead by example – I was named “North Suncoast Coach of the Year” in 2007.
5. Why is this race important?
This race is important because this court impacts the lives of thousands of Texans every year. We can no longer continue to take away the due process rights of the citizen accused and force them to plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit because these judges systematically deny PR bonds and are more worried about “docket control” than justice prevailing at the end of the day. Being tough on crime only creates more crime. The time for change is NOW!
6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?
People should vote for me because I will follow the law. I will waive pretrial appearances for all accused once they have hired or been appointed a lawyer. Personal recognizance bonds will be the norm in my court. I will not punish anyone before they are found or plead guilty; the presumption of innocence will be alive and well in my court. I will encourage the DA to offer more diversions rather than to block pretrial diversions like the current judge does.