Judicial Q&A: Michael Galligan

(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.

Michael Galligan

1. Who are you and what are you running for?

My name is Michael Galligan and I am a Democrat running to become the next judge of Harris County Probate Court Number 4.

I was born and raised here in Houston. I went to St. Pius X high school before attending college at the University of Pennsylvania. I came back to town to attend South Texas College of Law. Upon graduation I began work as a probate and estate planning attorney with Galligan & Manning. My wife, Eileen Romero Galligan, is the School Director at YES Prep Southeast. We have an amazing six-year-old son Joseph who is in First Grade as Corpus Christi Catholic School.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Harris County has four statutory probate courts. Statutory probate courts exist in the most populous counties to handle very particular types of cases. Probate law is a unique, specialized, and not necessarily intuitive area of law. The rules that apply in other courts often do not in probate court. The expectation is that statutory probate court judges will have expertise in the area of probate and guardianships to better serve these large populations. This is one reason why probate experience is a must for any Harris County probate court judge.
Our probate courts have jurisdiction over claims brought by or against an executor, administrator or guardian of an estate, guardianship and will contests, will construction cases and claims related to trusts. Most of the probate courts’ business involves administration matters. The probate courts are responsible for monitoring decedents’ estates and guardianships which can go on for years. They must review and approve inventories and accountings, determine the priority and validity of creditor claims, evaluate evidence to determine who a decedents’ heirs are, and make sure that a prospective ward’s rights have been preserved when a guardianship is instituted. Probate Court Four also assists in the administration of the mental health docket dealing with issues related to court ordered mental health services and administration of psychoactive medications.
Most of the public’s contact with the probate courts occurs when a will is probated. This involves a non-adversarial proceeding during which the probate judge must be well acquainted with the rules relating to what is a valid will and what is involved in a valid will execution.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I believe that Democrats will be very successful in 2018. If there is a wave election sweeping Democrats into judicial positions up and down the ballot, it is imperative that they be experienced and competent. I am running to ensure that the next judge of Harris County Probate Court 4 will be the type of judge I would want to practice before. One who knows the law and is able to apply it efficiently to the facts. One who is career-long probate practitioner. I’d be remiss if I did not mention that election night 2016 made a big impact on me. At that moment, after watching the results in disbelief, I resolved to be part of the solution. To do what I can, when I can. I am running to help carry that blue wave that will send a message to the County, the State, and the entire country, that Democrats, liberals, progressives, and people of good conscience will not give up on our government.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have worked as an estate planning and probate attorney for my entire career. Over the course of my career, I have been involved in various proceedings in probate court, including will contests, will construction suits, petitions demanding accountings of executors and trustees, declaratory judgment actions to determine the heirs of a decedent, and actions involving creditors. I have been appointed by probate courts as an attorney ad litem to represent the interests of unknown heirs in court proceedings. I have handled approximately 200 Cases in Harris County, alone, (twice as many as my opponent) and many more outside the County. A substantial part of my practice also involves consulting with clients and preparing their estate plans including wills, trusts, medial and financial powers of attorneys, appointments of guardians, and business entities. As such I have been involved with the entirety of the process, from planning, to implementation, to resolution of conflicts. 

5. Why is this race important?

Everyone has a loved one who has passed away. Everyone knows of someone struggling with mental illness or incapacity. Probate courts affect the lives of more citizens than just about any other type of court. Those who come into probate court do so at a time real vulnerability. Probate court judges must therefore be equipped with the necessary experience and expertise. This race is important because it will decide whether the Democratic candidate in the general election is someone with that expertise or not. 

6. Why should people vote for you in the March primary?

My primary opponent has been an attorney longer than I have been alive. However, despite his almost 40 year career, I still have more than twice the number of matters filed in Harris County Probate Courts. I have more than six times the number of matters filed in these courts since 2010. Last year, my opponent filed only one matter in a Harris County probate court. The year before, he only filed three. At his pace, it would take my opponent more than 37 years to have gained the experience that I have in probate court right now. While my opponent has merely dabbled in probate law over the course of his career, probate law is what I do when I wake up every morning.  

I am the only candidate in this primary race with the necessary experience and expertise to serve as the next judge of Harris County Probate Court 4.

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