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Mack McInnis

Judicial Q&A: Mack McInnis

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates on the November ballot. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates.)

Mack McInnis

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

I am Mack McInnis and I am running for the 185th District Court. I am Board Certified in Criminal Law, I am rated AV-Preeminent, the highest rating in legal ability and ethical standards. I am a 2x past Texas Monthly Super Lawyer. I acted as lead counsel in over 200 state and federal criminal jury trials. I am a past Adjunct Professor of Criminal Trial Advocacy (SBA Professor Excellence Award) at South Texas College of Law. I have served on both sides of the advocacy table. I am married and have children and grandchildren. I am an Eagle Scout. I have written numerous articles and frequently lecture on criminal law and evidence.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 185th Criminal District Court hears all state felonies including capital murders and misdemeanors involving misconduct by public officials.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I hate the key-man (pick-a-pal) grand jury selection system. I believe that the names of the grand jurors and commissioners should be public especially after the end of the grand jury term.

It is well known in the media that in 2011 and 2012, the 185th Grand Jury investigated former DA Patricia Lykos. The names of the 2012 commissioners and grand jurors were sealed indefinitely by my opponent. By law, grand jury proceedings (record of testimony) are sealed; however, the names of the grand jurors and commissioners are part of the public domain. I want to have a random selection process for grand jurors and commissioners. It will eliminate the chance of conflict of interest. The majority of Texas counties use some form of a random selection process.

Additionally, I hope to convince the Criminal Judges Board to revitalize the safer, cheaper and better pretrial release system that Harris County had in the 1980s. It lowered jail overcrowding with minimal risk. Sadly, this agency has become primarily a support for the private bail bond industry.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I received a B.A. in Philosophy and German; a J.D. from University of Houston.

In addition to the answer to number one above, I think voters should know that I have tried very complex cases including capital murders, multi-count federal cases and sex crime cases. I successfully obtained not guilty verdicts in many very difficult criminal cases. On the other hand, I have prevailed against abusive parents in many jury and nonjury trials. I have handled over 100 state and federal appeals including post-conviction writs. I have argued cases in the United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, and Texas appellate courts. I am a past president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association (Outstanding President Award) and I am an active member of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. I am also an active member of the Houston Bar Association, the American Bar Association and Texas Lawyers for Children.

5. Why is this race important?

Justice should be done and it must be seen to be done. This old English judicial expression means that a judge should fairly enforce the law without bias, prejudice or a political agenda and that these actions will be placed in the public domain in a spirit of complete transparency. This year there are many judicial races. This is the public’s chance to get a tough, fair and decisive justice system in Harris County.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

I will advocate and stay the course to obtain these goals: random selection of grand jurors and commissioners; a cheaper, safer and better pretrial release program; an open and accessible criminal justice system in Harris County. My experience, temperament, training and values qualify me to be judge of the 185th Criminal District Court.

Endorsement watch: Criminal courts

The Chron made its endorsements for the Criminal District Courts over two days. For their first four endorsements, they went with three Republican incumbents and one Democratic challenger:

184th Criminal District Court: Mark Thering

Judge Jan Krocker has been a proud leader of mental health courts in Harris County. However, she wound down that work last year after being ousted from the mental health court that she founded. Some courtroom observers point to political justifications for her removal, others to poor budget management. We’ve endorsed Krocker, a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, in the past because of her dedication to improving mental health treatment in the criminal justice system. Without that on her side, Krocker is a less compelling candidate.

After 20 years on the bench, Krocker has developed a reputation as a judge who preemptively makes up her mind. She didn’t hide this fact in her interview with the editorial board: “My job is to protect the public from dangerous people,” Krocker said. “Same as being a prosecutor.”

No, Judge Krocker, it isn’t. A judge’s job is to remain an unbiased arbiter who ensures that the law is followed, due process guaranteed and justice enforced.

Questions about Krocker’s impartiality are nothing new. Krocker was rated one of Texas’ worst judges back in 2006 after she inappropriately intervened in a death penalty case that dated back to her days as an assistant district attorney.

Voters should go with Krocker’s Democratic opponent, Mark Thering. A graduate of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law, where he graduated third in his class, Thering, 51, is a notable defense attorney who has also worked as a certified probation officer in Harris County.

In Round Two, it was two Ds and two Rs.

248th Criminal District Court: Shawna L. Reagin

Judge Katherine Cabaniss is qualified to serve in our criminal courts, but Harris County needs an experienced jurist like Shawna L. Reagin back on the bench.

Reagin, a graduate of the University of Houston Law Center, has a nearly 20-year career in criminal law, handling thousands of cases at both the trial and appellate level. She was elected in 2008 to the 176th Criminal District Court, where she earned the respect of both prosecutors and defense attorneys. As judge, Reagin streamlined caseflow management and used intensive supervision programs to help keep probationers on track. Despite her exemplary performance, Reagin, 56, lost that seat in 2012. In the 2014 election, voters need to return Reagin to her rightful place as judge.


263rd Criminal District Court: Herb Ritchie

When Democratic challenger Herb Ritchie served one term as judge in the 337th Criminal District Court, he set out to run the court with a philosophy of CPR: courtesy, patience and respect.

A graduate of the University of Texas Law School, Ritchie is the sort of judge who works slowly and diligently (perhaps even too much so) to check that his court is doing the right thing. He also works hard to ensure that nonviolent criminals receive all the good time credit possible. Board certified in criminal law, Ritchie’s calm and thoughtful demeanor befits a man who has worked as an instructor in classics at the University of Texas and Baylor University.

That sort of personality stands in stark contrast to Republican incumbent Judge Jim Wallace, who routinely receives low marks from lawyers for the way he runs his court.

They continue their habit of generally having nice things to say about the Democratic challengers. They clearly have a preference for retaining judges, which is reasonable enough, with that credit extending to people who had previously served as judges. I don’t have any Q&As with candidates mentioned in this editorial yet, but look for them from Shawna Reagin, Mack McInnis, and Randy Roll in the next two weeks.