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Randy Roll

Endorsement watch: The judges

After a couple of Republican endorsements, the Chron gives us a slate of judicial candidates for the Democratic primary in the district courts. A brief summary:

Singhal in Democratic primary for 1st Court of Appeals, Place 3

We recommend Dinesh Singhal, 52, who has tried more than 25 cases and handled 19 appeals.

Hootman in Democratic primary for 1st Court of Appeals, Place 5

We recommend Tim Hootman, 57, an experienced appellate lawyer who is known for having an atypical legal approach.

Robinson in Democratic primary for chief of the 14th Court of Appeals

We recommend Jane Robinson, 46, who is board certified in civil appellate law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

Kronzer in Democratic primary for 14th Court of Appeals Place 7

We recommend Wally Kronzer, 65, who has extensive appellate court experience in state and federal courts.

Weiman in Democratic primary for 80th Harris County District Court

We recommend incumbent Larry Weiman, 64, who has been on this bench since 2008.

Harvey in the Democratic primary for the 164th Harris County District Court

We recommend Grant J. Harvey, 55, who is a highly regarded litigator who has participated in numerous trials and appeals.

Daic in the Democratic primary for the 165th Harris County District Court

We recommend Megan Daic, 34, for a court that needs a more efficient and decisive judge.

Acklin in the Democratic Primary for the 176th Harris County District Court

We recommend Bryan Acklin, 34, who is a former prosecutor and is now a criminal defense attorney.

Martinez in the Democratic Primary for the 179th Harris County District Court

We recommend Ana Martinez, 39, who gained a sterling reputation as a human trafficking prosecutor before she became a defense attorney.

Moore in the Democratic Primary for the 333th Harris County District Court

We recommend incumbent Daryl Moore, 58, who may be the most respected incumbent running in Harris County.

Kirkland in the Democratic Primary for the 334th Harris County District Court

We recommend incumbent Steven Kirkland, 59, who has been on this bench since 2016 and served on another civil bench and a municipal bench before that.

Gaido in the Democratic Primary for the 337th Harris County District Court

We recommend Colleen Gaido, 39, who is a respected former prosecutor and current criminal defense attorney.

Bell in the Democratic Primary for the 339TH Harris County District Courts

We recommend Te’iva Bell, 39, who has served in the felony courts from three perspectives – as a prosecutor, a criminal defense attorney and a public defender. H

Powell in the Democratic Primary for the 351th Harris County District Court

We recommend incumbent George Powell, 54, who was elected to this bench in 2016.

Phillips in the Democratic Primary for the 507th Harris County District Court

We recommend C.C. “Sonny” Phillips, 59, who has been practicing family law, and occasionally appellate law, for 34 years.

They did actually say more about the candidates they recommend, and they noted who else was on the ballot. Go read all that for yourself. As noted, Weiman, Moore, Kirkland, and Powell are incumbents, while Harvey (Alex Smoots-Thomas), Daic (Ursula Hall), Acklin (Nikita Harmon), Martinez (Randy Roll), and Phillips (Julia Maldonado) are running against incumbents. Here are the Q&A’s I’ve run from candidates in these races:

Tim Hootman, 1st Court of Appeals, Place 5
Jane Robinson, Chief Justice, 14th Court of Appeals
Wally Kronzer, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7

Grant Harvey, 164th Civil Court
Megan Daic, 165th Civil Court
Bryan Acklin, 176th Criminal Court
Ana Martinez, 179th Criminal Court
Judge Steven Kirkland, 334th Civil Court

Q&A’s from candidates not endorsed by the Chron:

Tamika Craft, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7
V.R. “Velda” Faulkner, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7
Lennon Wright, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7

Cheryl Elliott Thornton, 164th Civil Court
Jimmie Brown, 165th Civil Court
Judge Randy Roll, 179th Criminal Court
Judge Julia Maldonado, 507th Family Court
Robert Morales, 507th Family Court

Q&A responses from Natalia Cornelio (351st Criminal Court) and Cheri Thomas (14th Court of Appeals, Place 7) are in the queue and will be published in the next couple of days. The Chron will do endorsements for the Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals separately, and will not be endorsing in the County Court, Justice of the Peace, and Constable races. That’s one way to get through this long list of candidates and races in a (mostly) timely fashion.

One last thing: As is often the case with these judicial endorsements, I agree with some and not so much with others. The one that surprises me is the endorsement of Judge Powell. After the big deal the Chron made about not endorsing any judge or judicial candidate who didn’t support bail reform in 2018, it’s a bit jarring to see no mention at all of that subject in this context.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Randy Roll

(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.)

Judge Randy Roll

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

I am Randy Roll the incumbent Judge of the 179th District Criminal Court first elected in 2008 and reelected in 2015. I have 32 yrs experience with more than 5000 clients, 8 yrs on the bench (including muni-court). Before practicing law, I was a teacher and housing contractor. I am a linguist and speak Spanish, Russian, German & French. I am the only attorney in the county qualified by the courts to accept appointments in 5 languages before I became judge. As an attorney I accepted appointments (more than 2000), primarily in Spanish as I had been certified in that language, despite never taking formal classes. I wrote the Spanish admonishments (legal warnings for defendants) the courts used for more than 15 years. I have had more than 150 trials as judge and attorney, my opponent has had 4 felony trials as a defense attorney. I have been involved, as a participant & candidate since 2002 in the judicial selection process.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This felony court hears all 4 types of felonies, from theft to murder. This court hears Prostitution cases. Prosecutors like my opponent put prostitutes in prison. I defended them because they were victims. As judge, I have refused to put such victims in prison.

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

Immediately in 2009, (1) I made my grand juries reflect the diversity of this county. The legislature liked what we did and then made it law. (2) I was instrumental in adoption of the Public Defender’s Office. My vote and support was crucial for getting the Public Defender’s Office installed in Harris County. In 2009 we were only 9 Democrats to 13 Republicans. I had to convince Republicans to join us. (3) I spear-headed the use of DNA testing by appointed counsel. I am a progressive judge, (4) handing down more probations since 2009 and more 2nd chances to probationers in non-violent meritorious cases than all the other 21 judges. The DA’s Office has policies of not giving probations in many types of cases, so it falls on the judge. (5) I terminate probations early if they get their education or GED. (6) I also reversed the excessive probation sentences routinely given before 2009. For example, I do not give 10 years probation for possession of a small drug amount. Usually now it is 2 or 3 yrs with treatment where needed. (7) We use Intensive Out-Patient drug treatment and where warranted, in-patient treatment. (8) I have helped young offenders. Several ministers attend the court and we discuss how we can keep them out of harm’s way. My opponent says giving undocumented people probation is a trap for deportation. Tell that to the father of 5 who has lived here since he was a toddler and is now out working to support his family. (9) I began giving Personal Recognizance (PR) bonds (free) in appropriate cases. Since 2009 I have given more PR bonds than any judge. I had a written policy giving PR bonds for non violent meritorious cases. All other cases were on a case by case review. I was not sanctioned as 13 other judges were & that sanction was reversed. (10) I turned around the most bloated and anemic docket of criminal cases of the 22 courts and made it the 5th best and smallest docket, by working hard and taking 8 days vacation in my 1st 4 yrs. This allowed my court to go to trial more often and those waiting in jail had their delay to trial reduced from years to months. (11) Now, I am the senior judge with judicial experience and several new judges have come to me for advice. I still call older retired judges for advice. I am a dedicated to improving the system.

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

I hope to continue the reforms I have made. I want to use my position as the most experienced senior judge to influence Commissioner’s Court to fund mental health services for the justice system. We should not be treating mental health patients by incarceration. I want to continue advising and leading newer judges. I fight everyday to give justice.

5. Why is this race important?

EXPERIENCE MATTERS! I only have 8 yrs as a judge, but that is the most of all 38 criminal judges (including 16 misdemeanor courts). SAFETY MATTERS! My opponent faults me for revoking bonds for people on serious drugs while in court. She implies it is ok for an Aggravated Robbery suspects to continue on bond doing serious drugs like Cocaine and PCP. Often when it is marijuana or some soft drug like this, I keep them for 30-45 days to dry out and then re-instate their bond. My opponent falsely says I do this regardless of the charge (her words). I fear for public safety. PCP is the most violent drug around. My opponent repeats statements she knows to be false. She said, “…he revokes bonds if a defendant tests positive for use of controlled substances – regardless of the charge …”. That is not true. I am providing documents to this blog from the Harris County District Court Administration showing I have revoked only 41 bonds in the last three years out of thousands of defendants. This is fewer than all the other 21 felony courts of Harris County. EXPERIENCE, JUDGMENT & TRUTH MATTER!

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

EXPERIENCE MATTERS. I came in as a reformer. I made reforms – grand jury, public defender’s office, DNA evidence with appointed attorneys, probations, early terminations, reasonable probations, drug treatment, young offender assistance, PR Bonds, and reduced the docket. I am the senior judge in judicial experience. I am in the best position to continue progressive reforms. I am the only true DEMOCRAT in this Democratic Party Primary. My opponent is a republican masquerading as a Democrat. She became a citizen and started voting in 2008. She has only voted 6 times in 12 yrs and half of those were in the republican primaries. In the same 12 yr period I have voted 13 times and only as a Democrat. She wants good voters to vote for her and yet she votes so sparingly. My ex-DA opponent has had very few felony trials, she admits to 4 as a defense attorney. Shouldn’t we want our judges to be qualified, experienced, involved, wise truthful and compassionate. EXPERIENCE MATTERS!

After-deadline filing review: Courts

Let’s return to the wonderful world of scoping out our candidates. Today we will concentrate on judicial races. Previous entries in this series are for the greater Houston area, Congress, state races, and the Lege.

Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals

I’ve actually covered all of these races, and given bits of info about the candidates, here and here. Go read those posts for the details, and here as a reminder are the candidates’ names and Facebook pages:

Supreme Court, Position 1 (Chief Justice) – Amy Clark Meachum
Supreme Court, Position 1 (Chief Justice) – Jerry Zimmerer

Supreme Court, Position 6 – Brandy Voss
Supreme Court, Position 6 – Staci Williams

Supreme Court, Position 7 – Kathy Cheng
Supreme Court, Position 7 – Lawrence Praeger

Supreme Court, Position 8 – Gisela Triana
Supreme Court, Position 8 – Peter Kelly

Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3 – William Demond
Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3 – Elizabeth Frizell
Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3 – Dan Wood

Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 4 – Brandon Birmingham

Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 9 – Tina Yoo Clinton
Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 9 – Steve Miears

First and 14th Courts of Appeals

Covered to some extent here, but there has been some subsequent activity, so let’s get up to date.

Veronica Rivas-Molloy – 1st Court of Appeals, Place 3
Dinesh Singhal – 1st Court of Appeals, Place 3
Jim Sharp – 1st Court of Appeals, Place 3

Rivas-Molloy and Singhal were mentioned previously. Jim Sharp is the same Jim Sharp that won in 2008 and lost in 2014.

Amparo Guerra – 1st Court of Appeals, Place 5
Tim Hootman – 1st Court of Appeals, Place 5

Both candidates were also previously mentioned. This is the seat now vacated by Laura Carter Higley.

Jane Robinson – 14th Court of Appeals, Place 1, Chief Justice
Jim Evans – 14th Court of Appeals, Place 1, Chief Justice

Jane Robinson has been mentioned previously. Jim Evans was a candidate for Family Court in 2014, and was appointed as an associate judge on the 507th Family Court in 2017, making him the first openly gay family court judge in Texas. He doesn’t have a campaign presence yet as far as I can tell.

Wally Kronzer – 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7
Tamika Craft – 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7
Cheri Thomas – 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7
V.R. Faulkner – 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7
Dominic Merino – 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7
Lennon Wright – 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7

Not sure why this court has attracted so many contestants, but here we are. Kronzer was the only candidate I knew of in that previous post; Cheri Thomas came along a bit later, and the others were all later in the filing period. Texas Judges can tell you some more about the ones that don’t have any campaign presence.

Harris County District Courts

The following lucky duckies have no opponents in the primary or the November general election:

Kristin Hawkins (11th Civil)
Kyle Carter (125th Civil)
Mike Englehart (151st Civil
Robert Schaffer (152nd Civil)
Hazel Jones (174th Criminal)
Kelli Johnson (178th Criminal)
Ramona Franklin (338th Criminal)

The next time you see them, congratulate them on their re-election. The following almost-as-lucky duckies are in a contested primary for the 337th Criminal Court, with the winner of the primary having no opponent in November:

Brennen Dunn, who had been in the primary for the 185th Criminal Court in 2018; see his Q&A here.
Colleen Gaido.
Veronica Sanders.
David Vuong
John A. Clark, whom I cannot positively identify. I hope everyone sends in Q&A responses, but I’m not voting for any candidate I can’t identify. I hope you’ll join me in that.

The following do not have a primary opponent, but do have a November opponent:

Fredericka Phillips (61st Civil).
RK Sandill (127th Civil), who in 2018 was a candidate for the Supreme Court.
Michael Gomez (129th Civil).
Jaclanel McFarland (133rd Civil)
Elaine Palmer (215th Civil).

Natalia Cornelio is currently unopposed in the primary for the 351st Criminal Court following the rejection of incumbent Judge George Powell’s application. That may change pending the outcome of Powell’s litigation in the matter.

The following races are contested in both March and November:

Larry Weiman (80th Civil, incumbent).
Jeralynn Manor (80th Civil).

Alexandra Smoots-Thomas (164th Civil, incumbent). Formerly Smoots-Hogan, now dealing with legal issues of her own.
Cheryl Elliott Thornton (164th Civil), who has run for Justice of the Peace and County Civil Court at Law in the past.
Grant Harvey (164th Civil).

Ursula Hall (165th Civil, incumbent).
Megan Daic (165th Civil).
Jimmie L. Brown, Jr. (165th Civil).

Nikita Harmon (176th Criminal, incumbent).
Bryan Acklin (176th Criminal).

Randy Roll (179th Criminal, incumbent).
Ana Martinez (179th Criminal).

Daryl Moore (333rd Civil, Incumbent).
Brittanye Morris (333rd Civil).

Steven Kirkland (334th Civil, incumbent). It’s not a Democratic primary without someone challenging Steve Kirkland.
Dawn Rogers (334th Civil).

Te’iva Bell (339th Criminal).
Candance White (339th Criminal).
Dennis Powell (339th Criminal), whom I cannot positively identify.
Lourdes Rodriguez (339th Criminal), whom I also cannot positively identify.

Julia Maldonado (507th Family, incumbent).
Robert Morales (507th Family).
CC “Sonny” Phillips (507th Family).

That about covers it. I should do a separate entry for JPs and Constables, and I did promise a Fort Bend entry. So there will likely be some more of this.

UPDATE: I missed Robert Johnson, the incumbent Judge of the 177th Criminal District Court (the court that now has Ken Paxton’s trial), in the first go-round. Johnson had an opponent file for the primary, but that application was subsequently rejected. He has no November opponent, so you can add him to the list of people who have been re-elected.

Judicial Q&A: Randy Roll

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote in March. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2016 Election page.)

Randy Roll

Randy Roll

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

I am Randy Roll, former judge of the 179th Criminal District Court. I am now running in the Democratic Primary for that court.

I am a former teacher & translator. Originally from Port Arthur, I have lived in Houston since 1974. I have been practicing Criminal Law for 28 years.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This felony district court hears only criminal cases. From felony assault to murder, drug cases, theft, burglary, sexual assault and many more.

The penalties for felonies began with State Jail Felony punishable by not less than 180 days in State Jail Facility nor more than 24 months. 3rd degree felony punishable by 2-10 years in the penitentiary (TDC), 2nd degree 2 to 20 years, 1st degree 5 to 99 years.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I was the judge of this court (179th) from 2009 to 2012. I brought innovation and new administration to the bench. I was the first to require attorneys handling DNA to have special knowledge and training. Reformed the grand jury makeup to reflect the county’s diversity. Instituted new bond procedures for 1st time offenders. The present judge more than doubled the docket that I left, this has slowed the judicial process where defendants now must remain in jail much longer than before to have their day in court.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have 28 years experience with criminal law exclusively. More than 110 trials to verdict. I have a good work ethic. In the 4 years I had this bench, I took only 8 days vacation. We worked longer hours than other courts and reduced the wait for trial from years to 3 months. I was never reversed on any trial.

5. Why is this race important?

We need to put fairness back in the courthouse. Of the 37 judges there, we have only 3 Democrats. Everyone should have the same opportunities from the court. Presently that is not the case. Hispanics and African Americans face different standards of justice from an all Republican judiciary. We Democratic judges pushed through and supported the Public Defender’s Office against the wishes of the republican judges.

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

I have a track record as a sitting judge. I followed the law and gave everyone equal access to the court. I was never reversed by the appellate courts and that is a singular accomplishment among the 22 felony judges. We had the most multilingual court of the 22. I am fluent in Russian, German, French and Spanish. I reformed, the Grand Jury makeup, DNA use in court, and popularized bond specific cases and pretrial bonds. I want to continue these reforms that have suffered under an almost all republican judiciary. I am the best candidate in the primary to institute these reforms. In the Democratic Primary, voters should support me because of my deep Democratic Party roots as evidenced by my long term (since 2002) involvement in the Democratic party, my history of running as a Democrat and my extensive contribution of time and money to Democratic Party causes.

Judicial Q&A: Randy Roll

(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.)

Randy Roll

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

I am former District Judge Randy Roll.

I am the Democratic candidate for the 180th Criminal District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

4 types of felonies. 1st degree felony punishable from 5 to 99 yrs in TDC, 2nd degree felony punishable from 2 to 20 years in TDC, 3rd degree felony punishable from 2 to 10 years in TDC & State Jail felony punishable from 6 months to 24 months in the State Jail Facility.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I want to give everyone who comes before this bench an equal chance. Undocumented aliens who have permanent contacts with this county and are deserving of probation should not be denied that opportunity. I will try to stop the cronyism between judges and appointed defense attorneys.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

As a former judge, I inherited the worst and highest docket of the 22 different courts. 4 years later I left that court with the 4th best docket. I reduced the wait for a trial from years to 3 months. As an attorney and judge I have handled more than 10,000 felony cases and 100 jury trials. I speak Spanish, Russian, French and German. In 4 years on the bench, I took only 8 days vacation. I was the 1st judge to require experience & competence for attorneys appointed in DNA cases for indigent defendants, which I proposed to the other 21 judges and they adopted my proposal. No trial in my court (179th) was ever reversed by the Appellate Courts.

5. Why is this race important?

Presently, 19 of the 22 felony judges are Republican. We need more diversity on the bench.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

I have a track record of innovation, hard work and competence. I will work diligently and wisely and I ask for your support.

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.