(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?
Hello, my name is Audrie Lawton and I am running for Harris County Justice of the Peace, Precinct 7, Place 2.
2. What kind of cases does this court hear?
Justice of the Peace Court:
- Hears traffic and other Class C misdemeanor cases punishable by fine only.
- Hears civil cases with up to $10,000 in controversy.
- Hears landlord and tenant disputes.
- Hears truancy cases (where school districts file against parent)
- Performs magistrate duties.
- Conducts inquests.
3. Why are you running for this particular bench?
First, I am seeking this position because I am qualified. Second, I believe that it is time for new leadership. I am a litigator who has tried over 100 cases to a jury. I have also handled thousands of cases in JP courts on behalf of my clients (plaintiffs and defendants). As a judge, I would seek to improve technology in the courthouse, increase productivity and efficiency of the dockets, and maintain a sense of honor and dignity for all litigants. I believe in transparency of the court and I would work to make sure that all litigants are given their due process under the law.
Below are five ways I want to improve the court:
- Enhance courthouse technology by creating a ”Courthouse App” and improving the current online e-filing and document retrieval system.
- Establish extended hours to provide alternatives for plaintiffs and defendants who have demanding work schedules or are caregivers to young children and the elderly.
- Establish an onsite law library/resource center for all litigants.
- Open up the courthouse doors and allow organizations and professionals to host educational seminars.
- Work closely with the Constable’s office to identify safety issues in the community, hold town hall meetings, and promote overall safety.
4. What are your qualifications for this job?
Licensed to practice law for 15 years in the State of Texas.
Licensed to practice law in the Eastern, Southern, Northern, Western Districts of Texas and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Former Assistant Attorney General, State of Texas.
Former Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, State Bar of Texas.
Former Prosecutor, Special Prosecution Unit of Texas.
Assistant General Counsel, O’Connor & Associates.
Speaker – Texas BarCLE on practice in Justice Courts May 2017 and May 2018.
5. Why is this race important?
Change happens on a local level. This phrased is used a lot, but it means a lot! Local races include key positions such as your Major, Chief of Police, and your neighborhood Justice of the Peace. Since this court has exclusive jurisdiction over landlord/tenant cases, and hears cases involving traffic tickets, other Class C misdemeanors and civil disputes up to $10,000.00, it’s more likely that an individual will visit their neighborhood JP court than any other court in the city! Therefore, it is important that the community elects public officials that represent the interest of the community.
6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?
I want to Bring Back the Peoples’ Court! This means opening up the courthouse to the very community in which it serves! As a forty year-old mother of two, I can understand the demands life places on us all. As a judge, I will work tirelessly to ensure the fair treatment of all in my courtroom. I will also work hard to make sure that no one is wasting due to long waits and other delays. I will ensure that court procedures are administered in an efficient cost-effective manner. A vote for me is a vote for Leadership, Experience and Commitment!