Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Democratic primary

Judicial Q&A: Blair McClure

(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. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Blair McClure

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

My name is Blair McClure and I am a candidate for Harris County Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 Place 2. This position was held by the Hon. George E. Risner for some 34 years, and I am honored to be considered to take his place.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The Justice of the Peace in Texas presides over the Justice Court, which has jurisdiction in civil matters in which the amount in controversy is not more than $20,000, and in eviction cases. The criminal jurisdiction of the Justice Court includes misdemeanors punishable by a fine only, the most common being traffic offenses and Class C misdemeanors such as public intoxication, disorderly conduct, simple assault, and theft of property valued at under $100. The Justice of the Peace also presides over the Truancy Court, conducting cases where a child has been absent from school without excuse. And, the Justice of the Peace has a vast array of administrative duties, for example, dangerous dog determinations, determinations of the rights of owners of towed vehicles, and applications for occupational drivers’ licenses.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

The Justice Court is almost always a citizen’s first contact with the justice system, and I want the opportunity to serve the citizens of this community by bringing a common sense approach to equal justice for all. I want to promote dignity in court proceedings, processing cases timely and efficiently.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

While I am not a lawyer, I plan to bring my life experiences, and my willingness to work hard to this position. I have served the Justice Court Precinct 2 Place 2 as a community outreach liaison which has allowed me to become familiar with the laws and procedures governing Justice Courts; and I have 35 years of work experience with IBM as a project manager that has given me the practical knowledge and people skills which I can use to competently deliberate and decide the various types of disputes filed in the Justice Court.

5. Why is this race important?

The Justice Court is almost always a citizen’s first contact with the justice system, and a Justice of the Peace engages with the community on a grass roots level. I feel it is important to provide court participants with an opportunity to be heard, fairly and impartially, and to render decisions in accordance with the governing procedures and laws. I want to promote dignity in court proceedings, and process cases timely and efficiently.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I feel that I am the most qualified candidate in this race. I have been a resident of the Precinct 2 community for over 50 years. I bring the experience of 35 years as a project manager for IBM, and my service as the Court’s outreach liaison. I bring the understanding of the nature of the justice court as a place where citizens can go to assert their claims acting pro se. And, I want the opportunity to work hard to serve the citizens of the Precinct 2 community by brining a common sense approach to equal justice for all.

Interview with Desiree Broadnax

Desiree Broadnax

We wrap up our exploration of the non-County Judge executive offices with Desiree Broadnax, who is running for District Clerk. Broadnax is the manager of the Intake division at the District Attorney’s office, which means she has responsibility for all incoming case filings. She has worked in the DA’s office for nineteen years, starting out as a typist on the evening shift and working her way up. This has also had her in close contact with the District Clerk’s office over the years. We talked about that experience and her ideas for the District Clerk’s office, and you can listen to it here:

As with the judicial Q&A’s, more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. I will periodically round up the links to these posts as well.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Natalia Oakes

(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. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Judge Natalia Oakes

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

My name is Natalia Oakes, Judge of 313th Family (Juvenile) District Court and worked as a lawyer in Juvenile Court for 18 years handling juvenile delinquencies and CPS (Child Protective Services) cases before being elected judge to the 313th Juvenile Family District Court in 2018. Previously, I was a secondary school teacher.

I was born in Beaumont, Texas and raised in a big civic-minded family. I graduated from Tulane University with a B.A. in English Literature with a Teacher's Certificate and awarded my law degree from Thurgood Marshall School of Law of TSU. My parents stressed education. I am grateful for the honesty and integrity they taught me through example.

I worked in Juvenile Court as a lawyer for 18 before being elected judge. I joyfully interacted daily with lawyers, judge, clients, probation officers, court staff, assistant district attorneys, assistant county attorneys, detention officers, interpreters and bailiffs.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 313th hears Juvenile delinquencies, Child Protective Services cases, adoptions and child immigration cases.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

What we have accomplished in 3 years is a source of pride: We have implemented more rehabilitation measures to help prevent recidivism. Therapeutic services have been introduced to address the trauma that many of the youth have experienced. Multi Systemic and Family Functional Therapy are used to address the family's needs in dealing with the youth and helping the family deal with each other. This service is done in the home for better accessibility. Diversion programs, for non-violent offenders, are used so youth do not have to come to court; parents don't have to miss work nor, youth school.

Also, in 3 years we have developed many community partners who have input and output to redefine youth justice, who support the youth in their neighborhoods. There is a dual status docket concentrating on youth who are in the CPS system and delinquency system. The 313th presides over GRIP (Gang Recidivism Intervention Court) with MAGO (Mayor's Anti Gang Office) showing noted success in support for: education, family, substance abuse, counselling, relocation, mentoring). Houston Endowments for the Arts have come to the Detention Center to expose youth to ballet class, opera, music, slam poetry and other creative measures. Also, we are keeping the youth close to home and not sending all violent offenders to TJJD (Texas Juvenile Justice Department) Harris County has a placement for violent offender treatment and families can more easily visit, too.

There are fewer certifications, giving youth the opportunity to rehabilitate.

As for the CPS cases, keeping the family together and best interest of the child is the goal.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

I want to continue to implement the rehabilitative programs that have been so successful. I want to add more trade and cultural programs. I want to broaden youth's exposure to new outside interests. I want to continue to forge the many relationships that I have made over 21 years practicing juvenile law for the benefit of the youth. There are many entities the juvenile judge deals with and a judge can harm the youth if any of the groups are alienated.

I would like to promote gun control, awareness, education in Harris County. The youth have so much access to guns that curbing the gun violence is difficult without some concerted effort from government and authorities.

5. Why is this race important?

When the youth benefit, we all benefit. When our communities are safe from teenage crime, communities thrive.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I am dedicated to Juvenile Law. I am very open to suggestions and have an open door to new ideas. The morale in the 313th Curt is very high. The court staff is polite, organized and efficient. They serve the public well and promptly.

I want to continue to promote programs that produce results for youth and families of Harris County.

Interview with Marilyn Burgess

Marilyn Burgess

The other contested executive office that we will explore this week is Harris County District Clerk. This office was briefly held by a Democrat following a special election in 2008, but otherwise had been in Republican hands since the 1990’s, along with the other non-Presidential year offices. In 2018 it was won by Democrat Marilyn Burgess, who has had the challenge of revamping jury service during the pandemic. The District Clerk handles all of the filings from 90 courts in Harris County, but most people know it for handling the process of summoning and organizing jurors for the county’s courts. Burgess has overseen projects to do jury summonses electronically, with automated reminders, and has added vouchers for parking, coffee, and meals to the experience. She has other plans in mind as well, which we discussed in the interview. I should note that I did not do interviews for District Clerk in 2018 – it was just too busy a year – so this is the first time I’ve talked to District Clerk candidates since 2014. Here you go:

As with the judicial Q&A’s, more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. I will periodically round up the links to these posts as well.

Judicial Q&A: Judge David Patronella

(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. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Judge David Patronella

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

My name is David Patronella and I’m running for County Civil Court #4. I was elected to four terms in the Texas Legislature and was appointed to Justice Court Precinct 1 Place 2 where I’ve served eight terms. I’m a native Houstonian, proud graduate of Houston public schools, and a graduate of the University of Houston Honors College and the University of Houston Law Center. I’m also a husband, and father of two adult children living in a household with a total of four canine and feline companions-three of which are rescues.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court hears civil cases where the amount in controversy is less than $200,000. This jurisdiction includes civil appeals from justice courts ranging from small claims to eviction suits to debt claims.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I’m running for County Civil Court #4 because the court hears appeals from justice courts so my experience gives me a strong foundation to continue to serve. I’ve loved serving Precinct 1 and honored to have been elected eight times by the voters, but I am excited by the chance to work in a countywide capacity. I have been highly rated in Houston Bar Association Judicial Qualifications Polls for my legal knowledge, docket management skills, and judicial demeanor. In the most recent HBA Polls of attorneys expressing an opinion our court had the highest very good and excellent ratings among all justice courts and the second highest of all trial courts in the county. With the bench coming open this election cycle, I am uniquely qualified to step into this role.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

Prior to my years of serving as judge, I practiced in the district and county civil courts, trying both bench and jury trials. Since 1989, I have served as Justice of the Peace for Precinct One, where I try civil cases and criminal misdemeanor cases. I also conduct administrative hearings—including seizures of neglected and abused animals.

In addition to my years of service on the bench, I’ve taught judges and court personnel through the Texas Justice Training Center for 25 years throughout Texas. In 2019, I was named Texas Judge of the Year by the state association.

I am currently serving my seventh year as a member of the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, which hears complaints of judicial misconduct and disciplines judges who violate canons of ethics. I am the only elected Democrat currently serving on this body. Prior to my appointment as commissioner, the Commission asked that I serve as a mentor to several judges to assist with ethics issues.

I have also served as Chairman of the Justice Courts section of the State Bar of Texas and have served four times as Presiding Judge for the 16 justice courts. In addition, I have completed over 1500 hours in continuing legal education-more than three times the amount required-to keep abreast of changes in procedural and substantive law. I have also authored Texas CLE presentations and participated in CLE planning committees.

I was appointed by the Texas Supreme Court to a six-year term on the Texas Judicial Council and chaired committees on Judicial Campaign Reform and Promoting Diversity in the Judiciary.

I am fluent in four languages including Spanish which is invaluable in handling court dockets as Harris County is one of the most diverse counties in the country, and parties often appear without translators.

5. Why is this race important?

Every race in the upcoming primary is important but, the county civil benches often receive less attention than criminal benches because we don’t sentence offenders accused of serious crimes. However, in this time of housing insecurity, the eviction matters we hear are of grave concern, as we determine whether someone may be left homeless. And in this time of job loss and food insecurity we enter civil judgments which impact many people who are teetering on economic despair. I have been proactive in bringing Gulf Coast Legal Aid and the Alliance and the Houston Volunteer Lawyers as well as the Houston Apartment Association in Zoom hearings to attempt to resolve these matters and often avoid an eviction judgment. Through this collaborative approach, nearly 80% of our nonpayment eviction cases were nonsuited or dismissed. It is important that the judge follows the law but also rules with compassion and recognition of how parties may be impacted. I bring both the knowledge and the sensitivity necessary to administer justice in this court.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I have more experience than any other candidate in this race. Furthermore, my solid public record demonstrates that I will follow the law, administer justice and treat everyone with courtesy and respect.

Additionally, the recent Houston Bar Association Judicial Evaluations Poll showed that, of those who expressed an opinion, our court had the highest rating of any Justice of the Peace Court in the county – and was in the top two highest of all trial courts in the county. I have the legal knowledge and judicial temperament to serve Harris County.

Lastly, I am proud to be endorsed by Mayor Sylvester Turner, Senator John Whitmire, Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, Congressman Al Green, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Representative Senfronia Thompson, Representative Hubert Vo, former Mayor Annise Parker and a host of current and former public officials at the city, county, state, and federal levels. A full list of endorsements is available at our website. www.Judgedavidpatronella.com If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at [email protected] and follow us @JudgePatronella.

I hope to earn your support in the March 1st Primary.

Interview with Carla Wyatt

Carla Wyatt

Challenging the incumbent in the Democratic primary for Harris County Treasurer is Carla Wyatt, a longtime employee of the county. Wyatt has a PhD in Environmental Toxicology from Texas Southern University, where she also received bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She serves as a deputy director and manager of special projects for one of the Constables, and has led projects on redistricting and reorganization of park rules, and has served on a variety of other projects as well. She has worked as an environmental investigator for the TCEQ, and has worked on numerous tree and urban forestry initiatives with the city of Houston and related non-profits. She had a lot to say about using her experience at the county to the job of Treasurer, and you can hear about it here:

As with the judicial Q&A’s, more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. I will periodically round up the links to these posts as well.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Greg Glass

(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. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Judge Greg Glass

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

My name is Greg Glass, and I preside over the 208th District Criminal Court of Harris County, Texas. I am on the Democratic Party Primary Ballot in March of 2022.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This Court hears and handles felonies of all kinds, from State Jail Felonies at the bottom, all the way to and including Capital Murder at the top.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

The main accomplishments during my three years on the bench have all been Covid-19 related. I have been intimately involved in the creation of the GOB (General Order Bond) that allows the automatic release on bond of those persons accused of less-serious, non-violent felonies. A major consideration was the Covid Emergency affecting the inmates in the Harris County Jail, so
that releasing non-violent alleged offenders would reduce the jail population, and accordingly, the spread of Covid among the jail population.

Another main accomplishment has been the resumption of jury trials during Covid, in spite of the limitations imposed upon the Courts regarding the creation and installation of appropriate health and safety protocols.

I, unlike some other felony courts, have also continued to use Zoom and not require each Defendant or attorney to appear in person every setting, as some courts do. I feel the safety of all persons is important, especially as relates to possible Covid infections. Also, it reduces overcrowding in the Crimnal Justice Center.

I also take time, when requested by counsel for either the State or the Defense, to review defendants’ bonds. I believe in being equally fair to both the prosecution and the defense, and I have repeatedly shown that fairness.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

It is my intention to continue to provide the fair and equitable administation of justice in my courtroom while trying as many cases as possible, while keeping attorneys, defendants and jurors safe from Covid. Further, I and other judges now on the bench, are trying to standardize the various types of case settings for all the felony courts so that attorneys and defendants will know what should be accomplished by each court setting.

5. Why is this race important?

It is important because neither of my Democratic Primary opponents is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, as I have been since 1983. One is a prosecutor who lives in Harris County, but for the past number of years has been a prosecutor in Montgomery County and whom I have never heard of until shortly before her filing for the primary. The other opponent would not be eligible to run under the law which was recently passed but does not go into effect until after this primary cycle, as she has not been licensed for the length of time required by the new law. Additionally, she only this year was approved by the Board of Judges, myself included, to handle up to second degree felonies by way of appointment. Before this year, she could only be appointed to State Jail Felony and third degree felony offenses, or to Motions to Adjudicate Guilt or Rovoke Probation. She is not qualified for appointments to handle first degree felonies or capital felonies.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

As I mentioned, I am the only Board Certified Democratic Primary candidate in the field of Criminal Law. I have experience in handling lawyers, defendants and cases in general, which none of my opponents have. I have handled all the docket problems associated with Covid in a manner designed to both protect lawyers and defendant’s, but also to move as many as possible of the oldest and most serious cases to trial.

Interview with Dylan Osborne

Dylan Osborne

This week I’m going to focus on the two executive offices in Harris County that are not County Judge that feature contested primaries. Both were won by Dems in the countywide sweep of 2018, and so both are held by first-termers. The incumbent Harris County Treasurer is Dylan Osborne, who knocked off longtime incumbent Orlando Sanchez after winning a three-way primary. You can hear the interview I did with him for that race here. Earlier this month, Treasurer Osborne announced a historic partnership with Unity Bank, one of the few Black-owned banks in the country, here in Harris County. The Harris County Treasurer’s office has fairly modest duties, with the main one being responsible for handling payments and moving funds. That wasn’t always the case, and we talked about what Osborne has done with the duties he has, and what else there is and could be to do with that office. You can listen to that discussion here:

As with the judicial Q&A’s, more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. I will periodically round up the links to these posts as well.

Judicial Q&A: Chris Watson

(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. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Chris Watson

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

My name is Chris Watson and I am running for Harris County Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1 Place 2

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court hears community based issues such as small claims, evictions, and truancy.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I have been working for a better quality of life in this community for many years. This position will allow me to have an immediate impact on the people in our community. I feel this position offers me a great chance to touch lives and have immediate impact in this community in a positive way. For example, truancy cases, in particular, can give me the chance to positively touch the lives of our community youth, maybe before they are committed to lives of continuous crime. I would like to institute creative, positive ideas to deal with truant students and their parents.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

Besides meeting all the stipulated legal qualifications for the Justice of the Peace in Texas, my experience as a licensed Texas mediator, legal researcher for more than 15 years and community activist in this community for more than 25 years, has uniquely prepared me to serve the people of this community as a Justice in our community court.

5. Why is this race important?

In these trying times of COVID and economy, the community court has and will continue to play a crucial role in helping this community navigate through these turbulent times. In helping people to keep their homes and reestablishing their quality of life, there will have to be a community court that is fair, creative and compassionate and the justice that is in this court needs to be one who is prepared to be creative and compassionate enough find ways of compromise, within the law, to keep to bring our community together for the common good.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

Chris Watson is the one to vote for because of his long time commitment to building the quality of life in this particular community. He has worked alongside many of the community leaders and has been endorsed by leaders who know his commitment to our community. State Representative Jarvis Johnson, State Representative Senfronia Thompson, Senator Borris Miles, State Representative Alma Allen, and many other local leaders and activists have attested to Chris Watson’s dedication to this community and endorsed his campaign. He will serve in fairness and compassion as the Justice of the Peace and will work every day to improve the quality of life in Precinct 1.

On primarying the quorum breakers

Of interest.

Working Families Party, a political party and relative newcomer to Texas politics that backs Democrats aligned with their platform, aims to spend in the ballpark of half a million dollars this cycle, WFP Texas Co-director Pedro Lira told the Signal.

Much of that money will go to door-to-door canvassing.

“At the end of the day, when you can really connect with people face to face, that’s really what motivates people to get out to vote,” Lira said. “We’re trying to build a real base of working class people. You can’t do that without involving those people.”

[…]

In partnership with CWA and Texas Organizing Project, WFP is also bankrolling “Texans for Better Dems,” a new political action committee that will primary Democrats in the state legislature who returned from Washington D.C. to restore quorum, a move that caused a rift in the state party and led to the creation of the Texas Progressive Caucus.

“We were incredibly proud of the Democrats who fled the state to deny Republicans quorum. It’s exactly the kind of leadership that we need from our elected officials,” Lira said. “We were also just as disappointed to see some of those Democrats come back. And it’s because those Democrats gave Republicans quorum that bills like the abortion ban and the anti-voting legislation were able to pass.”

Lira said the PAC was created specifically to primary those Democrats.

This was a thing I wondered about, and had seen some speculation about a few months ago when the quorum was freshly broken and tempers were high. I tried to keep an eye on it during the filing process, but there was a lot to keep up on, and if any WFP-backed candidates were out there, they didn’t make their presence known in a way that was visible to me. Now that we’re well past the filing deadline, let’s revisit this.

The first question is who the potential targets would be. I did a little digging into who among the Dems were here during the quorum break in Special Session #1, and who came back during Special Session #2 to bring the attendance count to the required level – this was in response to a private question I was asked. Long story short, I trawled through the daily journals on the Texas Legislature Online site, and found enough record votes to mostly fill in the picture.

For the first special session, I identified the following Dems who were present in Austin: Ryan Guillen, Tracy King, Eddie Morales, John Turner, Abel Herrero, Terry Canales, and Leo Pacheco. (There’s one I can’t identify; I suspect it was Harold Dutton, but he shows up in the next session, so it doesn’t really matter.) Guillen is now a Republican, Pacheco has since resigned, and Turner is not running for re-election. According to the SOS Qualified Candidates page, none of the others have primary opponents.

For the second special session, we can add these legislators, who were either there from the beginning or who showed up while the quorum was still not established: Dutton, Art Fierro, Mary Gonzalez, Bobby Guerra, Oscar Longoria, Eddie Lucio Jr, Joe Moody, James Talarico, Garnet Coleman, Armando Walle, and Ana Hernandez. Lucio and Coleman are not running. Talarico is running in a different district, HD50, which is open now that Celia Israel is running for Mayor of Austin. Fierro was paired with Claudia Ordaz Perez in redistricting. Of the rest, only Dutton and Gonzalez have primary opponents, and Dutton was a target well before the quorum break issue. Gonzalez, who has had primary challengers in the past as well for other reasons, faces someone named Rene Rodriguez, about whom I could find nothing. If the goal was to primary these Democrats, it sure doesn’t look like that goal was achieved.

Now, the WFP may well be playing a longer game. As we know, there wasn’t much time between the passage of the new maps and the start of filing season. Maybe they decided it was better to wait until 2024, or maybe they decided to focus more on races like CD35 (they have endorsed Greg Casar) and CD30. Maybe they’ll back Ordaz Perez and David Alcorta, the other candidate in HD50. Who knows? If they intended to make a bigger splash than that, I’d say they came up short. We’ll see what happens after this election.

Interviews and judicial Q&As through January 14

Updating from last week. This is to put all of the interviews and judicial Q&As in a single post for your convenience, in case you missed something. This past week was Commissioners Court Precinct 4. Starting Monday will be the County Treasurer and District Clerk races, and the week after that will be Senate District 15 and (I hope – it’s still in the works) Candis Houston from HD142. After that is CD38, and probably statewide candidates.

Here’s the interview list so far, followed by the judicial Q&As. As a reminder, much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. Let me know if you have any questions.

Interviews

Aurelia Wagner, HD147
Danielle Bess, HD147
Jolanda Jones, HD147
Nam Subramanian, HD147
Reagan Flowers, HD147

Ben Chou, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4
Ann Williams, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4
Gina Calanni, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4
Lesley Briones, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4
Clarence Miller, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4

Judicial Q&As

Judge Abigail Anastasio, 184th Criminal District Court
Lema Barazi, 189th Civil District Court
Judge Scott Dollinger, 189th Civil District Court
Judge Chris Morton, 230th Criminal District Court
Judge Tristan Longino, 245th Family District Court
Judge Hilary Unger, 248th Criminal District Court
Judge Chip Wells, 312th Family District Court
Teresa Waldrop, 312th Family District Court
Judge Natalia Oakes, 313th Family District Court>,

Porscha Natasha Brown, County Criminal Court At Law #3
Judge Kelley Andrews, County Criminal Court At Law #6
Judge Andrew Wright, County Criminal Court At Law #7
Judge Michael Newman, County Probate Court #2

Judge Lucia Bates, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2
Herbert Alexander Sanchez, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2

Interview with Clarence Miller

Clarence Miller

One last interview for Harris County Commissioners Court, Precinct 4. Next week I will have interviews for other county offices, and after that will visit with some more legislative and Congressional races. Today we speak with Clarence Miller, whom I had met in pre-COVID times and was running for this position well before the new map was drawn. Miller worked for the United States Postal Service for 29 years and served as Director of the Houston Post Credit Union, and was elected as Director of the Northwest Harris County Municipal Utility District #24. Here’s the interview:

As with the judicial Q&A’s, more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. I will periodically round up the links to these posts as well.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Michael Newman

(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. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Judge Michael Newman

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

My name is Michael Newman. I am the incumbent Judge of Harris County Probate Court Two. I have over 41 years of legal and trial experience. I have tried over 110 cases as a trial lawyer and judge. During my career, I have conducted thousands of contested hearings, represented thousands of clients in complex disputed matters including will contests, elder abuse and financial exploitation, common law marriage and child visitation disputes, contested guardianships and personal injury and insurance defense cases.

As a certified mediator, I have conducted over 500 mediations, settling over 80% of the cases that I mediated. I have been married to trial attorney Deborah Newman for over 36 years.

Our daughter Caitlin, 28, is a manager in the hospitality industry. We have two rescue dogs, Bridget and Chloe. I received my JD Degree from the University of Houston Law center in 1980, where I served as associate Editor of the Houston Law Review. I received a B.B.A in management with Honors from the University of Texas at Austin in 1977

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Probate Court 2 is a trial court. We try and hear contested cases involving will contests, challenging the validity of wills, the testamentary capacity of testators and undue influence and fraud; breach of fiduciary cases, elder abuse and financial exploitation, common law marriage disputes involving the characterization of community and separate property, contested guardianship cases, personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death and real estates and business disputes. The non-contested matters include the probate of wills, uncontested heirships, and guardianship cases.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

Since being elected, I have quadrupled the number of weekly ancillary dockets from one to four. Ancillary dockets are the ones where the judge handles disputed hearings. As a result of the increased dockets, the number of contested hearings have increased by over 100 percent and the waiting time for contested hearings has also been reduced for lawyers and litigants During my term, the number of trials conducted has increased by a factor of five.

I have significantly increased the diversity of the court staff over sixty percent of new court staff have been qualified minority candidates. I rule timely, rarely take cases under advisement since I read all paperwork filed prior to hearing and have not been reversed on appeal, as of yet.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

I will continue to provide the public, lawyers, and their clients with equal and timely access to the courts, render prompt and correct rulings in accordance with the law in a fair and nondiscriminatory manner to avoid unnecessary costs and delay. I will continue to treat all people that appear in my court with the dignity and respect each deserve. I will continue to read all motions and paperwork in advance of all contested hearing and trials, as well as work as hard as I can serving the public in a just and fair manner and will proceed with my recruitment of additional qualified minority candidate for court staff positions.

5. Why is this race important?

Harris County Probate Court 2 is first and foremost a trial court. Trials are now set on Thursdays and Fridays in addition to Mondays because of the heavy volume of contested cases that are filed and to accommodate lawyers and their clients.

It is essential that the lawyer elected to serve as probate judge have the necessary trial experience and substantive knowledge of the many diverse areas of laws that this courts hears so that proper and time rulings can be made. The cases heard in probate court effect the lives including the emotional and financial wellbeing of the people that seek judicial relief. In addition to judicial temperament, the judge of probate court must have the substantive knowledge and necessary experience of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, the Texas Rules of Evidence, the Texas Estates Code, the Texas Guardianship code, the Texas Family Code, the Texas Trust Code, among other codes and statutes.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I seek reelection because I am the candidate running for this court with the necessary years of experience in just the types of cases and issues that are litigated in probate court. I draw on that experience every day. Lawyers with minimal experience can and do run for judge, but a law license does not make one qualified to make the kind of decisions probate court judges make every day. As my literature states, “Experience matters”.

I have over 41 years of trial experience as a trial lawyer and trial judge. I have represented thousands of clients in disputed cases, I have conducted thousands of hearings and have tried over 110 trials as a lawyer & judge. I have conducted over 600 meditations as a lawyer and certified mediator. I have been committed and will continue to be committed to providing equal and timely access to the courts for hearings & trials in a fair, impartial and non-discriminatory manner.

Literally hundreds of lawyers that practice in my Probate Court 2 strongly support my reelection. They have seen my commitment to providing court access; they have observed my patience and preparedness; and observed my commitment to do the right thing. I know that rulings can greatly affect people’s lives, their families, finances and loved ones.

I have spent years arguing before judges; now lawyers argue before me in Probate Court 2. I know how hard they work and the stresses of their clients. I try to keep people at ease. My court has been present to serve those who need access. We are there because we are needed, and I make sure the staff keep that in mind.

I am a judge who likes and cares about people. That coupled with my experience, my record and my temperament are the reasons that people should vote for me in March. Because I wanted to serve in a way that all judges should. I have the experience to rule accurately, to follow the law and to understand the effects of rulings on peoples’ lives.

As a judge I am diligent, prepared, and attentive. I treat those who come to probate court 2 equally and with respect. My first tenure as a judge has been personally fulfilling. I have been a lawyer in court and know that it can be a difficult job. I respect the lawyers and their clients and give the time and attention required to make the best decisions I can, while following the law. I read what lawyers file; and I treat everyone with respect. My legal experience, knowledge and integrity are unmatched.

Interview with Lesley Briones

Lesley Briones

Next up for Harris County Commissioner Precinct 4 is Lesley Briones. Briones was appointed to be the Judge of County Civil Court at Law #4 in 2019 following the Bill McLeod accidental resignation saga; while she resigned her bench upon announcing her candidacy, she remains in place pending the appointment of a new judge, which should happen in January. A South Texas native and graduate of Harvard University, Briones worked at Vinson & Elkins and was General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer of the Laura & John Arnold Foundation prior to her appointment to the bench. Here’s what we talked about:

As with the judicial Q&A’s, more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. I will periodically round up the links to these posts as well.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Andrew Wright

(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. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Judge Andrew Wright

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

My name is Andrew A. Wright, I am the Judge of Harris County Criminal Court at Law Number Seven (#7).

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This Court is one of 16 Misdemeanor Criminal Courts in Harris County. This court handles primarily Class B and Class A Misdemeanors. The duties are to handle various criminal cases, typical in this court are Driving While Intoxicated cases, Burglary of Motor Vehicle cases, Thefts, Assault cases and various other cases. In addition to this, sometimes these Courts hear Class C (JP and Municipal Court) appeals. In addition to the above, there are various administrative duties of the position. This court can also hear Chapter 33 bypass hearings.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

My main accomplishment was when myself and my colleagues implemented misdemeanor bail reform in the County Criminal Courts at Law. We helped create the presumption of a pr bond in the vast majority of non-violent misdemeanor cases. In addition to this we created the Office of Managed Assigned Counsel to make sure that misdemeanor criminal appointments are done free from the Judge’s involvement. We want to make sure the Court Appointment system is raised to a higher bar than ever before, yet free from Judicial involvement.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

One of the things I hope to accomplish moving forward is to create a system of guidelines to keep cases from just laying stagnant for a long period of time. Something like a Docket Control Order, or scheduling order is one method I am contemplating for doing so. This will create clear and defined expectations to which all parties are aware of. There is a great deal of cases that cannot move forward because of issues that prolong this case without any clear expectations.

5. Why is this race important?

What happens in misdemeanor court affects peoples lives. I know plenty of people just look at it and thinks “its just a misdemeanor” or gives it less importance due to not being a felony court. But what we do each and every day in Court 7 affects many people’s lives. This race is important because those people need to have a judge that fairly, accurately and competently administers justice in their case. The judge needs to know what they are doing and knows the relevant law applicable to their case. The person on the bench needs to be able to step forward on January 2, 2023 and administer justice and not have a “on the job training.”

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

As above, this race is important as it affects people’s lives. The judge in this race needs to be able to have the relevant experience, knowledge and skill to effectively administer justice in a fair and non-biased way. I am that candidate. I have been a practicing attorney for 14 years and have tried many criminal cases. I am board certified in Criminal Law. I have the relevant experience, knowledge and knowhow to make sure that what happens in Criminal Court 7 is the right thing according to the laws of the State of Texas. This bench is a trial court bench, we try cases. Since taking the bench I have been at the top, if not the top of judges in trial. We do not have the time for this bench to be a learning curve or on the job training for a candidate that does not have the necessary experience to gain. I am the best and most qualified candidate for Harris County Criminal Court at Law Number Seven and I hope to continue to serve in that capacity. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Interview with Gina Calanni

Gina Calanni

As I’ve noted before, there are several current or recent elected officials in this primary for Harris County Commissioners Court, Precinct 4. One of them is Gina Calanni, who won an upset victory for HD132 in 2018. Unfortunately, the 2020 election was not as successful for her, but she got a lot done in that one term, passing eleven bills during the 2019 session. Calanni is a single mother of three and a published author, and I interviewed her before, in the primary for that 2018 race, which you can listen to here. You can listen to this interview here:

As with the judicial Q&A’s, more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. I will periodically round up the links to these posts as well.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Chris Morton

(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. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Judge Chris Morton

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

I am Judge Chris Morton of the 230th District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court hears Felony Criminal Cases.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

I have implemented policies and procedures that deal with bail and bond in a fairer more equitable way and in a way that more closely aligns with the constitutional laws of Texas.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

I hope to implement a fairer system of appointing attorneys to indigent defendants and I hope to move bail and bond practices closer to a point were dangerous individuals are detained and others are released without bankrupting their families.

5. Why is this race important?

The first virtue of every social institution is justice. Neutral objective judges are crucial to justice. Judges cannot be prosecutors on the bench. They cannot trade away justice merely to create security. Judges are currently being attacked from every angle in an effort to make authoritarian security supersede the virtue of justice. I'll stand with the law and with justice.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I have a proven track record of standing firm against those who will use the law as a means of oppression and who would subvert judicial independence. I stood up to Governor Greg Abbot when his executive orders sought to strip the judiciary of independence and to strip people of substantive statutory and constitutional rights by finding his executive orders unconstitutional. I stood up to the legislature when they sought to create a constitutional crisis in issuing arrest warrants for their colleagues by accepting a writ of habeas corpus from one of those beleaguered law makers. I have not been intimidate nor swayed from applying the law in a fair and equitable fashion by attacks from right wing organizations or attacks in the media. I have not been swayed or intimidated by criticism from fellow Democrats or left wing activists. I stand solidly with the law and with justice.

An email from Erica Davis

From the inbox, sent to Democratic precinct chairs:

Erica Davis

You elected me to serve as your Trustee for the Harris County Department of Education and I am very proud of what we have accomplished. I too believe in elevating voices, educating the uniformed and ensuring ethical leadership. I made a commitment to be a grassroots’ leader to our community.

Today I write to inform you in my most humble self, that I have filed to run for Harris County Judge. I have served Harris County residents for over a decade building relationships and working to keep people safe.

Every citizen deserves the same response time to safety, the elimination of wasteful spending, and bringing resources back to the Harris County residents. That is why I am running today, a native Houstonian with a purpose and passion for the residents of Harris County.

I’ll be giving you a call in the next week to speak with you. I’d like to share my vision for Harris County and invite you to discuss what matters to you. Thank you for your service and commitment to our community.

Emphasis in the original. Still no “why me and not Judge Hidalgo” statement, as previously noted, but there’s at least some mention of issues. Response times from law enforcement seems to me to be more of an HPD issue, but it could be a call for increasing the Sheriff’s budget, with maybe some more for the Constables as well. I find that a call to “eliminate wasteful spending” is in general sufficiently vague as to be meaningless. What is “wasteful” to you may be critical to me, and vice versa. If you can’t or won’t specify what you consider wasteful, we can’t have a real conversation about it. In other contexts, references to “wasteful” spending have usually meant an intent to cut spending overall. That would seem to be in conflict with a call for a bigger Sheriff’s budget, but 1) I’m drawing an inference here, and 2) we need specifics. As for “bringing resources back to the Harris County residents”, I guess talk to our legislative and Congressional delegations? I don’t know how to interpret this.

I should note that while I got that email on Monday, I got another one on Tuesday that contained this video, in which she restated her concerns about crime and “wasteful spending”, with additional concerns about property taxes and infrastructure. No ideas for improvements were mentioned – this was a brief introductory video – but again, it was the beginning of a critique of her opponent. How receptive a Democratic primary electorate that knows and likes Judge Hidalgo will be to this remains to be seen, but at least she’s saying something.

Good thing I’ll be getting a call to speak with Candidate Davis in the next week or so. As you may imagine, I have some questions.

Interview with Ann Williams

Ann Williams

We continue with our series of interviews for the Harris County Commissioner Precinct 4 primary race. Today’s candidate is Ann Williams, who has served on the Alief ISD Board of Trustees since 2007 and is currently serving as that Board’s President; she has held that position for the past seven years. Williams works in information technology and has an MBA to go along with a bachelor’s degree in IT. She also serves as the President of the Texas Caucus Black School Board Members. Please note, there were a couple of times when the Zoom session froze for a few seconds. I apologize for the glitches. Here’s the interview:

As with the judicial Q&A’s, more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. I will periodically round up the links to these posts as well.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Kelley Andrews

(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. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Judge Kelley Andrews

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

My name is Kelley Andrews and I am the Presiding Judge of Harris County Criminal Court at Law No. 6

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Court 6 is a misdemeanor court, so we hear cases that involve offenses that can potentially lead to county jail sentences. Assault, DWI, DWI 2nd, Assault Family Violence, Animal Cruelty, Criminal Mischief, Criminal Trespass, and Thefts up to $2500 are some examples of the cases that are heard in misdemeanor courts.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

Since being elected and taking the bench in January 2019 I, along with my colleagues, immediately began working on bail reform. The O’Donnell lawsuit that was costing the county excessive amounts of legal fees was dismissed, we worked, and continue to work, together to change and create local rules that affect bail reform, so that no one is left in custody, or feels forced to enter a plea, simply because they can not afford to get out of jail. I helped create and preside over the misdemeanor Mental Health Court and I represent the misdemeanor courts on the Harris County Mental Health Standing Committee. As presiding Judge of Court 6, I have focused on addressing the underlying conditions that factor into a person entering into the criminal justice system. Conditions such as mental health issues, substance abuse and addiction, housing and educational insecurity, and health care. I tailor conditions of bond and community supervision to the individual person, so that those conditions address the underlying issues that landed that person in criminal trouble in the first place. It has been my experience in the last 14 years that I have worked in the area of criminal law, as both an attorney and now a judge, that addressing these issues can truly help people to get out of the criminal justice system permanently. Every single person that comes into Harris County Criminal Court at Law No. 6 is treated with respect, dignity and compassion.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

I would like to continue with the work that I have started, begin to work with some of the other agencies and judges involved in the criminal justice system on developing some community outreach that shows people the courts can be places to get help and work to help put people in need of services in contact with those services, and I’d like to expand the Mental Health Court, so that I am able to help more people in this area.

5. Why is this race important?

Misdemeanor courts are one area of the criminal justice system where you have a real shot at helping someone to turn their life around because it is often the first time an adult ever has contact with the criminal justice system. Helping people work towards getting out of the criminal justice system helps the person, and it also helps the community. Judges need real experience in the area of law that their courts preside over in order to help people make these types of changes. Experience facilitates alternative dispositions in the criminal arena because with that experience comes a real time working knowledge of options available under the law, of resources currently available in Harris County, relationships with the attorneys, agencies, and departments that work within the criminal justice system and are necessary to help effectuate the desired outcome.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I truly care about my job and the people that find themselves in Harris County Criminal Court at Law No. 6. I believe in criminal justice reform and work every day with the goal of getting the people that find themselves in criminal trouble out of the criminal justice system permanently because helping them do that helps the entire community.

Interview with Ben Chou

Ben Chou

This week I will focus on what may be the most important local race, for Commissioners Court in Precinct 4. As you know, in the new Commissioners Court map, Precinct 4 was redrawn as Democratic-leaning, which gives Dems the opportunity to unseat incumbent Commissioner Jack Cagle and take a 4-1 majority. There are seven candidates in the Democratic primary, and I have interviews lined up with five of them. We start today with Ben Chou, a Houston native and Rice graduate. Chou is an attorney who has worked in politics for Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. More recently, he served as the Director of Innovation for the Harris County Clerk’s Office during the 2020 election, leading the team that pioneered drive-through voting. If you remember that preview of what Commissioners Court redistricting might look like from early last year, it was Chou who provided the maps. Here’s what we talked about:

As with the judicial Q&A’s, more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. I will periodically round up the links to these posts as well.

Judicial Q&A: Teresa Waldrop

(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. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Teresa Waldrop

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

I am Teresa Waldrop. I’ve been a resident of Harris County for 25 years. I am Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and have practiced law for over 30 years. I am running as a Democratic candidate for the 312th Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This Court hears divorce cases, suits affecting parent-child relationship, adoptions, name changes, and enforcements. This court also hears Child Protective Services cases.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running to unseat the incumbent. The incumbent ran for judicial office 4 times for 3 different family law benches over a span of 8 years. The blue wave landed him a bench in the 2018 election cycle. He has touted his experience, compassion and common-sense approach when responding previously in this blog to questions about seeking judicial office. He failed to mention shortcomings in the areas of professionalism, temperament and emotional outbursts. Over the course of my career, I have had my share of judges who did not like me, my client, my argument, or my side of a case. I have witnessed judges lose their cool. Getting dressed down by judicial bullies has been part of my job for 30 years. But what took place in my 3-day bench trial before the incumbent was new-level different. Not only do Harris County citizens and their lawyers doing business in this Court deserve to be treated with professionalism, dignity and respect, the judicial canons require it. I have the temperament, demeanor and experience to run a professional family law court, the type of court one would expect to encounter in Harris County, Texas.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have practiced law for over 30 years. I have been Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 2009. Ninety-eight percent of my practice is devoted to family law matters. I have handled all phases of litigation from intake to trial, both jury and bench, and post-trial matters, including several appeals. My last jury trial lasted 12 days. My longest non-jury trial was 9 days. I have been the trial lawyer in three family law cases of first impression in the State of Texas. I am a graduate of Leadership Houston (Class XXII) and a Past President of the (Houston) Association of Women Attorneys. I have both the professional experience and leadership underpinnings needed to run this Court in a patient, dignified and courteous manner.

5. Why is this race important?

Because bullies don’t belong on the bench. Humiliation, sarcasm and snark are a judicial bully’s tools of oppression. Harris county citizens access this Court in times of crisis. Those citizens and their lawyers pay the salaries of our Harris County family law jurists. They deserve to interact with a judge who is patient, dignified and courteous when they find themselves in family law court. Every. Single. Courtroom. Day.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I am the most qualified candidate for this job. The incumbent has had a judicial term to demonstrate his experience, compassion and common-sense approach, and he’s come up short. Judicial incumbents who have shown themselves incapable of managing the job you gave them should now be returned to private practice. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, ‘when people show you who they are, believe them’.

Interviews and judicial Q&As through January 7

Putting these in one place for your convenience and mine. I’ll try to do this on a weekly basis so you don’t have to hunt for the previous engagements I’ve had with candidates. It’s going to be pretty much wall-to-wall through the primary period. Next week I’ll be running the Commissioners Court interviews, and the week after that will be the Treasurer and District Clerk interviews. After that will be SD15 and hopefully HD142, and I’m working on CD38 as well. After that, I will probably be reaching out to some statewide candidates.

Here’s the interview list so far, followed by the judicial Q&As. As a reminder, much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. Let me know if you have any questions.

Interviews

Aurelia Wagner, HD147
Danielle Bess, HD147
Jolanda Jones, HD147
Nam Subramanian, HD147
Reagan Flowers, HD147

Judicial Q&As

Judge Abigail Anastasio, 184th Criminal District Court
Lema Barazi, 189th Civil District Court
Judge Scott Dollinger, 189th Civil District Court
Judge Tristan Longino, 245th Family District Court
Judge Hilary Unger, 248th Criminal District Court
Judge Chip Wells, 312th Family District Court
Judge Natalia Oakes, 313th Family District Court>,

Porscha Natasha Brown, County Criminal Court At Law #3

Judge Lucia Bates, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2
Herbert Alexander Sanchez, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2

Interview with Reagan Flowers

Reagan Flowers

We wrap up the week of speaking to candidates in HD147 today by talking with Reagan Flowers, who currently serves as HCC Trustee in District 4. I had a conversation with her a few months ago, as she was running for a full term on the HCC Board; that interview can be heard here. Flowers is an educator and entrepreneur, the founder of C-STEM Teacher and Student Support Services, Inc., and Chief Knowledge Officer for Education Consulting Services, LLC, having previously been a science teacher at Yates High School. I should note that there were a couple of times when the Zoom session froze for a few seconds – this has happened with a couple of interviews. Doing Zoom interviews has mostly been great, but technology can be fickle. Here’s the interview:

As with the judicial Q&A’s, more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. I will periodically round up the links to these posts as well.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Abigail Anastasio

(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. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Judge Abigail Anastasio

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

I am Judge Abigail Anastasio, presiding of Judge of the 184 th District Court. I have nearly 20 years of experience in public service as a Judge, teacher,
defender, and prosecutor. You can find out more at JUDGEANASTASIO.COM.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court handles all felony prosecutions ranging from Capital Murders to state jail felonies. I have handled thousands of cases during my time on the bench, including charges of capital murder, child abuse, sex abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, weapons offenses, animal cruelty, and various financial crimes.

Felony courts also handle special misdemeanors that deal with official oppression. I handle post conviction writs and some appellate matters. Probation revocations, adjudications, and administrative law are also included within my jurisdiction.

The District Court Judges also handle extensive administrative duties. I am the Chair of both the Docket Management and Justice Technology Committees. I also serve in many capacities including development and staffing of backlog trial courts and developing procedures to aid other judges in running their dockets more efficiently. Under my leadership, the court clearance rates increased significantly to rates higher than those even prior to Hurricane Harvey. I also serve on the Special Projects Committee, Standing Committee, and Bail Bond Committee.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

I have accomplished many things during my time on the bench including the following: efficient court procedures leading to lowest backlog, lowest age of case, one the highest number of jury trials conducted, one of the highest successful probation completion rates, advancement of rehabilitative programs, creation of more courts… among many other things. I have been operating under emergency conditions the entirety of my time on the bench and have still been able to improve the court and successfully hold trials.

Additionally, and as simple as this may sound, the current felony court Judges had one guiding principle coming in: to ensure the law was followed. We have done that.

Many of my accomplishments are tangible. I (more often than not) have the lowest felony docket and backlog. I inherited a docket in the middle of then pack, but I worked hard to improve those numbers and to make things run efficiently despite Harvey and COVID-19.

My efficiency has led to the 184th having the lowest average age of case and one of the courts with the lowest number of individuals detained pretrial and on bond. The 184th also takes less actual number of court settings/appearances to resolve cases than nearly any of the Criminal District Courts.

I have presided over, to date, the most felony trials during the pandemic and have one of the highest number of felony cases tried during my 3 years on the bench. I was one of the first judges in Texas to implement safety procedures and try a felony case during the pandemic.

The key to public safety, overpopulation in jails, and access to justice for victims and the accused alike, is timely disposition (resolution) of cases. And you can do all of this while being fair and balanced. It takes a lot of hours and hard work, but, as I have proven over the past 3 years, it can be done.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

We hope to stay on the same trajectory, disposing of cases timely and getting people their day in court as quickly as possible. I’d like to continue to work with the other Judges to improve the efficiency of our dockets and create new courts. We would also like to focus on creating more therapeutic and rehabilitative programs to those suffering from addiction and for those without support systems. I would like to see a reduction in recidivism, which can only come by providing these services.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because it is essential that good, fair, qualified judges who have proven themselves remain on the bench. Consistency and knowledge of the cases is key. Now that we have experienced judges on the bench, it’s important to keep them there if they are doing a good job. I have extensive experience in my field and have kept the court functioning properly even during the seemingly impossible challenges of Covid. I encourage the voters to compare the experience levels, qualifications, and accomplishments of each candidate. I feel assured that the people will see that I am the right candidate to remain in this position.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I have kept my promises to the electorate and beyond.

Always a champion of the people, I dedicated my life to public service in Harris County early in my career. I have served close to twenty years as Judge, assistant district attorney, teacher, and defender for the indigent. I taught English at Cesar Chavez High School in Southeast Houston for seven years.

I spent most of my childhood overseas, mainly in the Middle East, with much travel through Europe and Northern Africa. This left a lasting appreciation for diverse communities and an affinity for the cultural and demographic wonder of Harris County.

I am a fighter and understand the value and necessity of hard work.

In 2004, I was diagnosed with cancer, specifically Hodgkins Lymphoma. I underwent chemotherapy and radiation, and beat it, going on to become a licensed white-water rafting guide on the Kennebec River in Maine, and eventually completing the Ironman race subsequent to my battle and recovery. I remain cancer free 18 years later.

While working full time, I graduated from the University of Houston, and while working as a teacher in HISD attended night classes part-time to earn my law degree from South Texas College of Law.

After graduating law school and passing the bar exam, I served as an Assistant District Attorney for Harris County, prosecuting thousands of cases at that post. I always held that helping everyone was key: both victims of crime as well as those deserving of a second chance.

With that noble mission in mind, I left the DAs office to work complex defense cases, representing with fervor and integrity the indigent and others who stood accused of crimes. I quickly made a name for myself in my practice, being chosen as a Texas Super Lawyers Rising Star in 2017 and 2018.

Serving from both sides of the aisle, and now on the bench, has given me a unique perspective as both prosecution and defense; attorney and judge. This gives me a paramount ability to be fair, balanced, and impartial when compared to those who have only served on the side prosecuting those who are innocent unless proven guilty.

I have served years on the bench; years representing the accused; and years advocating for those seeking justice.

Collectively, I have tried close to 100 jury trials and handled thousands of cases, including charges of capital murder, child abuse, sex abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, weapons offenses, animal cruelty, and various financial crimes.

Of all the Criminal District Courts in Harris County, the 184th District Court, under my leadership, has the smallest backlog of cases. The court has one of the shortest dockets of individuals awaiting trial, and one of the shortest lists of people on bond. I consistently have one of the highest case clearance rates of all the Criminal District Courts (as of 12/20/2021) and have maintained the highest case clearance rate in over a decade for the 184th District Court. 

I treat every case individually and effectively and don’t waste your valuable tax dollars. My no-nonsense professionalism and efficient approach to case processing leads to wider access to justice for all, ensuring Harris County communities stay safer.

You, and those you love, can have faith that someone experienced and accountable is working swiftly to administer fair and unbiased justice on your behalf, all the while making sure due process and the rule of law remain.

Interview with Danielle Bess

Danielle Bess

Next up in HD147 we have Danielle Bess, a native Houstonian and real estate professional. Bess has been involved in politics for a long time, having worked with campaigns ranging from Obama for America, Sheila Jackson Lee for Congress, Annise Parker for Mayor, and Ron Kirk for Senate. Her work has included affordable housing and community development projects, and rebuilding or repairing homes damaged by floods. Here’s what we talked about:

As with the judicial Q&A’s, more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. I will periodically round up the links to these posts as well.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Hilary Unger

(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. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Judge Hilary Unger

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

Judge Hilary D. Unger, 248th District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Criminal – felony cases.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

First and foremost, we kept the courthouse open during the continuing renovation and repairs from Hurricane Harvey through the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. All of the judges went back to the Criminal Justice Center before the renovations were complete and each of us had to share a courtroom. When we finally were able to get back into our courtrooms, we were deep into the pandemic and I came to the courthouse every day, just trying to help keep the system afloat. When we were finally able to start trying cases, we had to contend with both Covid and building related issues. We have had to share jury rooms and we still have to deal with Covid related setbacks; I’ve had to stop two jury trials because of Covid exposure. None of us complained and we all did what we had to do.

Since I’ve been the judge for this court, the number of probationers who have successfully completed probation has doubled; people are no longer going to prison for minor technical violations.

Individuals who come before me, and who are proven to have committed serious and violent crimes, are punished appropriately under the law, and I have meted out very harsh sentences where called for. However, it is my belief that the community is protected, taxpayer costs are reduced, lives are salvaged and the community’s productivity improves when recidivism is diminished. In appropriate situations, I actively engage with social workers, organizations, and community leaders in an effort to find alternatives to incarceration, with an eye towards rehabilitation, and a reduction in recidivism, while emphasizing an increase in community safety. I try to steer these defendants into programs where they can better themselves, and become law abiding and positively contributing members of society.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

I stay very involved with the people whom I have sentenced to probation/deferred adjudication. I will continue those efforts if I am re-elected for a second term. I encourage probationers, and I offer guidance when needed. I also stress to them the importance of education and trade certificates, and I frequently offer incentives to probationers who complete such programs. I believe that my efforts have worked as measured by the fact that the number of people who have successfully completed probationary sentences has doubled in this court since I took the bench.

I also would like to expand my partnership with the various organizations who work with defendants pretrial; these organizations include psychiatric medication providers, substance abuse treatment providers, and counselling providers. I would continue to arrange emergency housing for individuals as well as emergency mental health treatment, when needed. I would continue to
request assistance from the social workers at the Re-Entry program, which is located at the Harris County Sherriff’s Office, in an effort to connect defendants with services. Finally, I would continue to reach out to community organizations and leaders who have offered to help provide support for young adults who appear before me.

5. Why is this race important?

All citizens of the US, the State of Texas and Harris County deserve fair, and equal treatment before the law. We do not want to head backwards, to a climate where abuses in the administration of justice, notably in the manner in which the criminal justice system treated some members of society differently than others, were accepted as the norm in the 248th District Court. We have made great strides in removing some of the inequities, but certain pundits have tried to conflate the nationwide rise in crime with Democratic judges’ insistence on the preservation of due process rights for all; this revival of soft-on-crime rhetoric ultimately serves to perpetuate the lie that the current Democratic judges are weak or bad and that we do not consider the safety of victims, or of society as a whole. These accusations are simply false.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

Since taking the bench in 2019, I have made it a priority to treat everyone who appears before me with respect and to ensure that due process rights are not forfeited for expediency’s sake. Yet, I am always mindful that public safety is of paramount importance.

I have criminal court experience as a DA and a defense attorney in two of America’s largest cities – Houston and New York. As a prosecutor, I prosecuted complex narcotics and conspiracy cases and as a defense attorney I represented clients in both state and federal courts. My experiences have enabled me to critically assess positions taken by both the State and the defense.

Although my primary practice area has been criminal law, the experiences that I’ve had handling CPS cases and civil involuntary commitment hearings have proven extremely useful in giving me perspective into how criminal cases affect families and children.

Through my work with civil involuntary commitment patients in mental health hospitals, I saw the devastating effects of mental illness and also how well medications help. I also learned about the unique challenges facing mental health patients. Given that the Harris County jail is the largest mental health provider in Texas, this experience has proven invaluable. Similarly, through my work with CPS parents and children, I saw firsthand, how addiction affects families and also about the long-term effects of trauma on the childhood brain.

All of these experiences have provided me with significant insights and extensive experience that my opponent does not have. These insights in turn allow me to better understand the needs and hurdles of those who appear before me as defendants as well as the particular circumstances, feelings, pain and loss of crime victims.

Erica Davis announces herself

Her timing is interesting.

Erica Davis

Former Precinct 1 Constable’s Office Chief of Staff Erica Davis announced her run for Harris County Judge on Wednesday, joining 11 other challengers in the race to unseat Lina Hidalgo.

Davis has worked as the Trustee for the Harris County Department of Education and comes from a family of educators. She has also served in the Precinct 1 Constable’s Office for more than a decade and grew up in Houston’s Sunnyside neighborhood.

“My work experience coupled with my education has prepared me to hold leaders accountable and implement policies that mirror the diverse county we serve,” Davis said in a statement announcing her run.

Davis is one of several women who reported she was sexually assaulted at a Houston-area Massage Heights location in 2019. Her lawsuit helped spark an investigation of the national chain and landed her assaulter — who also was charged in an assault on an undercover Precinct 1  officer during a sting — in jail.

That undercover officer and Davis later both sued the establishment for negligence. Davis agreed to a monetary settlement in the case.

I did not know that about Erica Davis. Respect to her for her courage and persistence.

I am curious about the seemingly slow pace of her campaign. She filed for Harris County Judge on December 13, which is now four weeks ago, but her impending candidacy was teasted on Twitter a week before that. As far as I can tell, this is her first official communication as a candidate for this office. The primary campaign season is pretty short to begin with, and she’s just now introducing herself to an audience that knows the incumbent very well. Her campaign webpage is still very bare-bones, with almost nothing other than a brief biography – the In the Community and “Erica in the News” sections have nothing. She does now have a campaign Facebook page, which is not linked on her campaign webpage and which appears to be her Facebook page from her 2020 campaign for HCDE renamed for this purpose – the last update is from November 4, 2020, which is to say Election Day.

Nowhere in the press release, the webpage, or the Facebook page is there any stated reason for why she is running. She talks about her life and experience, which would be fine if she were just now gearing up to take on a Republican incumbent in November, but sure seems like an omission in this context given that she’s asking Democratic voters to vote out someone who I daresay is quite popular and is frequently talked up as a future statewide candidate. I’m sure there are people who will vote for Erica Davis because they know her, and there are some people (yes, even Democrats) who will vote for her because they don’t like Judge Hidalgo, but there’s no way that’s enough to get her to a runoff, much less to fifty percent. The question is not “would Erica Davis make for a good County Judge”, it’s “would Erica Davis make for a better County Judge than Lina Hidalgo”, and so far Erica Davis has not attempted to answer that question. I have no idea what she’s waiting for.

(Yes, I know, I could try to schedule an interview with her and ask her that myself. I’m still trying to schedule an interview with Judge Hidalgo, and I’m not interested in talking to anyone else in that race until and unless I’m able to do that. Plus, not to put too fine a point on it, this sure seems like something she should be leading with. It shouldn’t be up to me, or anyone else, to have to get that information out of her.)

One more thing: The Chron persists in saying that there are three Democrats running against Judge Hidalgo when we all know there are five. I double-checked the SOS Qualified Candidates page just to make sure that Maria Garcia and Kevin Howard were still there and hadn’t been disqualified or something, but there they are. I mean, neither of these candidates will make any impression on the race, but they are there on the ballot and I have no idea why the Chronicle seems to be unable to accurately report that.

Interview with Aurelia Wagner

Aurelia Wagner

Today’s candidate for HD147 is Aurelia Wagner, who had run in the primary for this seat in 2020 as well. Wagner is a teacher and graduate of Texas Southern University, where she participated on the debate team. She served in the United States Navy Reserve while in college, and had grown up in different places around the country as her father had served in the US Air Force. Wagner has volunteered with Constable May Walker and with the Texas League of Young Voters. Here’s the interview:

As with the judicial Q&A’s, more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. I will periodically round up the links to these posts as well.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Lucia Bates

(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. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Judge Lucia Bates

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

I am the Presiding Judge of Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Place 2. My court is located in Baytown. I was elected November 2018.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

I preside over a variety of cases including:

Small Claims and Debt Claims up to $20,000
Evictions
Only Court in Harris County handling the Driver’s License suspension dockets
Mental Health Docket
Magistration
Truancy
Jury Trials for Criminal Citations

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

o Cleared a backlog of 20,000 cases in 3 months
o Conducted Eviction Workshops with Houston Apartment Association to educate the Landlords and Tenants on procedures.
o Hosted Virtual Truancy Workshops via zoom due to the Pandemic. Facilitated by the Assistant. District Attorney, there were over 147 Triad officers in attendance.
o Streamlined court access to the public.
o Elected on the Harris County Juvenile Probate Board- Just re-appointed. (15 students graduated in the summer).
o Goose Creek CISD Communications Academy Advisory Board
o Partnered with Exxon Mobile to facilitate a Teen Summit to be held in Spring, 2022
o Established a very good relationship with the various School Districts, helping with youth initiatives.

Actively involved in the Precinct 3 Community

✓ Board Trustee for HCA Hospital -Southeast-just re-elected for 3 more years
✓ Galena Park ISD Community Leadership Council
✓ Membership Board Committee of the North Shore Rotary
✓ Nominating Board Committee of the North Channel Chamber of Commerce (Former Board Chairman)
✓ Top Ladies of Distinction-Baytown Chapter
✓ Vice President- Home Owners Association
✓ Collaborated on 6 Food Drives throughout the Community including 3 at the Courthouse Parking lot.
✓ Sponsored a Bicycle giveaway at Christmas
✓ Collaborated with the City of Baytown on many initiatives
✓ National Junior Honor Society Induction
✓ Member of Crosby/Huffman, Baytown and Highlands Chamber of Commerce.

Spoke to various groups:

▪ North Shore’s Annual Certification Day
▪ Friends of Crosby Library
▪ Baytown Lions Club
▪ Black History Program at Lee College
▪ Kiwanis Club
▪ Young Professional Council-Baytown Chamber of Commerce
▪ Baytown Optimist Club
▪ Northshore Senior Networking meeting.
▪ Highlands Elementary (guest speaker)
▪ Houston Chronicle “Lunch & Learn Guest” Celebrating Women’s History month.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

Continue to provide the best solutions to everyone who enters the Courtroom.
Continue to be fair in my rulings.
Complete the backlog of Jury trials, put on hold during the pandemic.
Continue to Educate myself by attending all classes pertinent to the Justice of the Peace Court.
Continue the positive relationship with my constituents and keep the Court “The People’s Court”.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because I am committed to this job and community. I still have initiatives to complete. The Community has trusted my judgement and fairness and I would love to continue to be the positive change agent at “The People’s Court”.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I am the only candidate in this race that has experience. I am successfully running an efficient court. In my 1st term, I have cleared over 20,000 backlog cases, made the court accessible to all citizens and I work hard every day to better the lives of those most in need.

I would like to continue advocating, leading and finding solutions for my community, whether it be Truancy, Evictions, Food distributions or educating the public on the numerous legislative changes.

Interview with Jolanda Jones

Jolanda Jones

There are seven candidates in the Democratic primary for HD147, and I think it’s fair to say that one of them is better known than the others. That candidate is Jolanda Jones, who has been a fixture on the local political scene for the past two decades. Jones served two terms as an At Large City Council member and one term on the HISD Board of Trustees, and ran in the Democratic primary for Harris County Tax Assessor in 2020. You can check out my past interviews with her for those offices here. Jones is a criminal defense attorney, former track All American at the University of Houston, reality TV star, and reliably one of the more interesting people I get to talk to when it’s interview time. Our interview for HD147 is as follows:

As with the judicial Q&A’s, more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. I will periodically round up the links to these posts as well.

Judicial Q&A: Glenda Duru

(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. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Glenda Duru

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

My name is Glenda Duru. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas and am a proud Houstonian. I am honored to run for judgeship for the 313th Juvenile District Court of Harris County Texas.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 313th Juvenile District Court hears both criminal (juvenile delinquency) and civil (family child protection) cases.

3. Why are you running for this bench?

I am running for this bench because I have a passion for children, youth, and families. I believe that Harris County continues to need representation in the judiciary, particularly when it comes to the juvenile courts. I believe that there is a need for change in the 313th District Court. The change I seek to bring will balance fairness, impartiality, and protection of the community.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I bring a wealth of professional experience in social work, child welfare, and the law that will serve me well in this position. I am a graduate of the University of Houston’s Masters of Social Work program as well as a graduate of Thurgood Marshall Law School. Earning my degrees from both of these outstanding Houston institutions prepared me for both theoretical and practical application of the practice of youth and family services, social work, and the law. For more than 10 years I have worked on the ground to support thriving families through social work and legal advocacy. For the last 4 years I have been particularly focused on child welfare law. As an experienced trial attorney, with over 250 trials, I have developed an expertise in advocating on behalf of a child or family, in service of the best interest of my client. In gaining this practical experience, I now impart this knowledge onto students as a trial advocacy professor at Thurgood Law School. I continue to be an avid learner of the law and committed to upholding the principles that govern our courts – to use the letter and spirit of the law for the greater good.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important to me because I have civilly prosecuted in 313th since 2018, and in my years in the court I have witnessed many things that have led me to see a need for change. There is a need to remove bias and prejudice that can so easily remove objectivity from the court’s ruling. Too often I have witnessed how the current court’s judgement has left the permanency of children in limbo. The court must be fair and make judgements based on the law. Too often I see that children have been made to be voiceless despite knowing that they are our future. The court is held to the highest levels of accountability to make sure that both children and families are protected by all means within the law.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I am an advocate who seeks to bring change to the court that will support those who have been made most marginalized. Harris County citizens deserve a judge that is familiar with and a representation of the community; one who is fair, objective, and experienced. I will bring my years of experience to the bench to make impartial judgements that put the best interest of the children, youth, and families in my court first. Additionally, my work will not only be limited to the court room. I will continue to serve the community on the frontlines of education, community engagement and child protection. A vote for me, is a vote for the right Candidate.

Interview with Nam Subramanian

Nam Subramanian

We are now at the start of interview season. I began running the judicial Q&A responses last week, and this week I will begin running interviews with candidates in contested Democratic primaries. Lots of candidates, lots of races, not much time – you know the drill. I’m still mapping out what races I will try to cover, so bear with me. If there’s a must-have for you, please do let me know.

This week I’ll be focusing on HD147, the primary to nominate a successor to Rep. Garnet Coleman, who will be retiring after a distinguished 30-year career. First up is Nam Subramanian, who was the first candidate to file for this race, before Rep. Coleman’s retirement announcement. Nam is a high school teacher, working on her master’s in education from Johns Hopkins University. She would claim the title of youngest member of the State House if elected. Here’s what we talked about:

As with the judicial Q&A’s, more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. I will periodically round up the links to these posts as well.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Tristan Longino

(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. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Judge Tristan Longino

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

Tristan Harris Longino, 245th District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Family law (Divorce, Parent-Child Relationship, Protective Orders where court has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over a child or dominant jurisdiction through a pending divorce).

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

a. First family court to implement online scheduling (created myself as the county did not yet have any pilot program available) to allow litigants and counsel to conveniently pick settings that worked with their schedules and free up staff time (otherwise spent on the phone and e-mail responding to scheduling requests) for other responsibilities to increase court efficiency.

b. Eliminated trial dockets which were an inefficient use of court’s resources and litigants’ money and attorneys’ time (sitting through large dockets being called to hear other’s announcements without knowing if the court could have time to reach you if you were ready for trial).

c. Implemented a number of policies, such as prove-up of agreed divorces/orders by affidavit or unsworn declaration without the need to appear in person (saved litigants time & money), creating a submission docket where non-evidentiary matters were required set by submission (increasing court availability for evidentiary hearings like temporary orders and trial settings), etc. A number of these policies were adopted by the other family courts at the outset of the pandemic as they allowed cases to progress while the family bar/litigants/the courts ibecame familiar with Zoom for remote hearings.

d. Second highest rated presiding judge on 2021 evaluation by our local bar association (https://www.hba.org/docDownload/1871299).

e. Highest clearance rate in 2021 and second lowest docket size in family division (excluding the 507th as that is a more recently created court with a smaller docket as a consequence of having fewer post-judgment cases) (https://www.justex.net/dashboard/Family).

f. Have continued to conduct many proceedings by Zoom due to efficiencies created by medium (reduced travel time means less time off work and elimination of unproductive billing time for travel, increased participation in the process by parents navigating protective service cases, etc.) combined with increased safety for participants involved during multiple waves of ongoing pandemic while continuing to ensure the court remains open to the public by streaming proceedings.

g. Coordinated with two other family courts in the county (who also implemented online scheduling) to adopt joint policies to try and move toward simplifying practice by attorneys in Harris County by having shared policies between those three courts.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

Continue to look for opportunities to innovate to increase efficiency and access to the court to ensure litigants can have their disputes disposed of timely.

5. Why is this race important?

To quote my predecessor, the Hon. Roy Moore, from our endorsement interview with the Houston Chronicle in 2018, family courts have “power over property, people, and liberty.” I think anyone would agree it’s important to have a jurist on the bench who knows the law, will apply it fairly to the facts, and work diligently to get matters heard and out of litigation so litigants are not kept hostage in an expensive and emotionally toxic process longer than necessary.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I’m experienced (I’m a board certified family lawyer and will have four years on the bench) and have brought innovation to the courts that have increased efficiency while reducing barriers to access. Read more about what I’ve done and why I’m running again at www.longinoforjudge.com.