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Tracy Good

Endorsement watch: Two more benches

Bench One:

Judge, 313th Judicial District: Natalia Oakes

Natalia Oakes, 66, earns our support in this primary contest against a qualified opponent, John Stephen Liles. Although Liles has spent nearly twice as long as a member of the bar, Oakes has more experience in juvenile courts. Voters should want a candidate with that specific focus to serve on this specialty bench.

Both candidates favor a rehabilitative approach for juveniles. But while Liles emphasizes vocational training, Oakes displays a deeper knowledge of area rehabilitation and mental health resources. She has dedicated her legal career to helping children and her background as a teacher makes her well-suited to evaluate the most effective programs available to guide young people to a second chance in leading a successful life. Voters should give this Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University graduate the chance she requests “to roll up my sleeves and get to work.”

I’ve got a Q&A for Oakes in the queue – it will publish on Monday. A Q&A for Tracy Good, who is also in this race but apparently didn’t screen with the Chron, is here.

Bench Two:

Judge, County Civil Court-at-Law Court No. 2: Jim F. Kovach

Democratic voters have a choice between two qualified candidates with very different backgrounds. Jim F. Kovach is a former board chair of Legacy Community Health who has spent more than 20 years working almost exclusively in Harris County civil courts at law. Stanley Santire is a former military officer with extensive national and international experience, including working as chief legal counsel at Lockheed Aircraft International.

We encourage voters to back Kovach, 52, a graduate of the University of Houston Law Center. While Santire has an impressive career, Kovach has the on-the-ground experience in these specific courts that makes for a qualified judge.

I don’t have a Q&A from Kovach, but I do have one from Santire, which is here. That link also contains endorsements for two Republican primaries on these benches.

Judicial Q&A: Tracy Good

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote in March. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. You can see other Q&As and further information about judicial candidates on my 2018 Judicial page.

Tracy Good

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

My name is TRACY D. GOOD. I am running for the 313th Juvenile Court.

I’m a native Houstonian. I have been married to my wife for almost 29 years. We have two adorable twin daughters. I am a graduate of the University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. In addition, I obtained my Juris Doctorate from the University of Houston Law School. I am a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Internal Auditor. Despite these credentials and many years of experience in corporate America, my passion and focus has always been defending the defenseless, ensuring that the rights of individuals are upheld to the full extent of the law. I want to carry these traits to the bench so that the powers of the government are equally balanced with the rights of individuals. This balance is especially important when it comes to protecting the rights of children and families.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Juvenile and CPS termination cases.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I have a passion for justice. I believe everyone regardless of economic status, ethnicity, gender, or sexual preference should all be seen equally in the eyes of the law. This is especially true with respect to the rights of children. I want lawyers in my court to fight zealously for their "children" clients. I want every legal avenue possible to be explored. We are dealing with their future. And, their presence in court presents them with a huge fork in the road. One path leading to a bright future, and other path leading
to a not so bright future. I believe that the laws of the state of Texas with respect to juvenile justice are designed with a goal, in part, to ensure that the children of the state of Texas have a promising future as contributing members of our adult society.

However, bureaucracy, an inefficient governmental administration, and an imperfect ad litem appointment system are negatively impacting THIS goal of the juvenile justice system. These are just some of the problems that I see.

These are the reasons why I am running. In my courtroom, I will efficiently manage juvenile and Child Protective Services (CPS) cases, and I will ensure that ad litem attorney appointment system is transparent, open, and that ad litem attorney caseloads are manageable.

I want to exam the juvenile justice and child protective services issues from a complete perspective
including:

  • teen pregnancy/prenatal care
  • family therapy/unity
  • mental health issues
  • socioeconomic disadvantages
  • teen peer pressure/gang-related pressures
  • law enforcement and community outreach

I want an impactful and critical examination of the “cradle to prison” pipeline, including resolutions to positively address this serious issue.

Harris County Juvenile Probation Department’s 2016 expenditures were over $105,000,000. There were 11,457 juvenile referrals to the department. This represents over $9,000.00 per referral. See: https://hcjpd.harriscountytx.gov/Published%20Reports/Annual%20Report%202016.pdf

It is important that the people elected by Harris County are good stewards of these funds. A primary characteristic of good stewardship is independence. Because of my internal audit background, I am a firm believer in not only the actuality of independence but the appearance of it. Therefore, I will not accept any campaign contributions from attorneys seeking ad litem appointments in my court!

With approximately $105,000,00 million dollar annual 2016 expenditure, the residents of Harris County deserve to be among the nation’s top ranked Juvenile Justice Systems. As your judge, it will be my passion and focus to make the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department a model for the nation.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

Eleven Years of practicing primarily family law, including juvenile and cps matters. I am a CPA with many years of corporate experience.

5. Why is this race important?

Families and children are important, and the system that judges and/or punishes them should be held to the highest standard of fairness, transparency, accountability and professionalism.

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

I am the better candidate for the job.

I’m a strong Democrat. In the past, I have volunteered for such organization as the NAACP legal redress clinic, and the real men read project. I have marched for causes in support of fairness and freedom for all.

Further, I’m a bit of renegade (perhaps it is the Democrat in me), in that I refuse to be a part of or accept court appointments from any Harris County Juvenile Court, for I personally feel awkward attempting to benefit from or acquiescing to a system that I hope to change one day.

Further I don’t understand how any person can have the fortitude to run against a system while simultaneously benefiting financially from that system. This seems a bit hypocritical to me. I’m not sure, but I hope that my primary opponents feel the same the way.

Endorsement watch: Juvenile courts

I had thought we were at the end of the line for endorsements, but not quite yet.

Natalia Cokinos Oakes

314th Juvenile District Court: Natalia Oakes

Democratic candidate Natalia Oakes has dedicated her career to helping children, and voters should put that passion to use on the bench. Oakes, a graduate of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, has practiced in Harris County family courts for 14 years. Before becoming a lawyer, Oakes worked as a teacher, giving her a solid background for communicating with children and their parents in distress. She told the Chronicle editorial board that she is running for judge to “have the power to introduce new and innovative programs” to the juvenile courts. She would like to see more emphasis on tracking offenders to determine the effectiveness of different rehabilitation programs. Her goals are laudable and her background promising, but her opponent is the tipping point.

Republican incumbent Judge John F. Phillips has served in the 314th since 2002. Despite recognized capabilities, Phillips has earned a reputation for cronyism and heavy handedness. He has been noted for assigning former law partners and campaign contributors as court-appointed attorneys. Phillips also has been criticized for abusing his discretion in separating an abandoned 12-year-old rape victim from her child. We wanted to hear Phillips’ side, but he refused to meet with the editorial board.

Despite her lack of judicial experience, we think the 314th needs a change and that Natalia Oakes will be a capable new judge.

I should note that the Chron endorsed Cokinos Oakes in 2010 for the then-open 313th Juvenile Court. I don’t think she got any less experienced since then. Be that as it may, the Chronicle didn’t mention that the criticism they cite of the incumbent judge in this race comes courtesy of their own Lisa Falkenberg. Falkenberg gives us a reminder of Judge Phillips’ rap sheet.

In recent days, readers have contacted me, some of them apparently on their way to vote early, asking variations of the same question: “What was the name of that judge who took away Angela’s baby?”

By now, all you readers should know his name by heart. But as a frequent sufferer of name-recall syndrome myself, I don’t mind answering.

He is state district Judge John Phillips, a Republican elected to the 314th district court in 2002. After his Republican primary opponent was excluded from the ballot, apparently on a technicality, Phillips was left to face Democrat Natalia Oakes, a juvenile law attorney and former teacher.

In a recent Houston Bar Association poll, Oakes bested Phillips 400-348 – not a huge lead for Oakes but a significant shortcoming for Phillips, a Republican on the bench for more than a decade who holds an administrative position in juvenile courts.

Recently, I asked a reader who votes overwhelmingly Republican and often disagrees with my stances on social issues what kept her from voting straight ticket.

“Well, because there’s always a few,” she said with a laugh. “There’s just always a few.”

She listed Phillips among the few.

[…]

In 2008, I wrote about how the judge ordered two children, aged 1 and 2, from the home of their LaPorte grandparents, who had raised them since infancy, and placed with strangers in a foster home. In a hearing terminating the rights of the parents over drug abuse, Phillips refused to let the grandparents intervene, apparently because he deemed the couple, both in their 50s, too old.

Phillips said the boys would need guidance into their 20s and “the stark reality is there’s a very good chance” their grandparents “will be dead at that time.'”

More recently, a series of columns on 12-year-old rape victim “Angela” gained wide attention from readers. Angela, abandoned by both parents after she became pregnant, was placed in CPS custody. The girl, who had every reason to resent the life inside her, embraced pregnancy, decided on breastfeeding, and even bonded with a Rosharon relative of her foster mother who agreed to provide a loving, stable home for her and her baby.

But when Phillips got wind the Rosharon family was caring for the newborn, he demanded that child protective officials transfer the baby to a foster home in Montgomery County where Angela wouldn’t have access to her.

Phillips told Angela bluntly in court: “You and your baby are not going to be together.”

His reasons had nothing to do with the law. State law only allows children to be taken from parents if there’s evidence of abuse or neglect – neither of which was ever alleged against the young mother.

Phillips was ready to throw Angela away as damaged goods, and he might well have succeeded, if not for attorney Thuy Le, who fought to represent the girl and eventually prevailed in getting a new judge to reunite Angela and her baby.

He also likes to post juvenile crap on Facebook, and he didn’t like the Public Defenders Office, but there’s enough to question his fitness to be a judge without that. Cokinos Oakes did not send me Q&A responses this year but she did so in 2010, and you can see that here. I did get responses from Tracy Good, the Democrat running for the 313th Juvenile Court, and those are here. We’ll see if there is any Falkenberg Effect in this race.

Judicial Q&A – Tracy Good

(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.)

Tracy Good

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

My name is TRACY D. GOOD. I am running for the 313th Juvenile Court.

I’m a native Houstonian. I have been married to my wife for almost 25 years. We have two adorable twin daughters. I am a graduate of the University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. In addition, I obtained my Juris Doctorate from the University of Houston Law School. I am a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Internal Auditor. Despite these credentials and many years of experience in corporate America, my passion and focus has always been defending the defenseless, ensuring that the rights of individuals are upheld to the full extent of the law. I want to carry these traits to the bench so that the powers of the government are equally balanced with the rights of individuals. This balances is especially important when it comes to protecting the rights of children.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Juvenile and CPS termination cases.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I have a passion for justice. I believe everyone regardless of economic status, ethnicity, gender, or sexual preference should all be seen equally in the eyes of the law. This is especially true with respect to the rights of children. The old cliche that “the children are our future” is a profound truism. OUR CHILDREN ARE YOUR FUTURE!

The question is: what type of future are we creating? I believe that the laws of the state of Texas with respect to juvenile justice are designed with a goal, in part, to ensure that the children of the state of Texas have a promising future as contributing members of our adult society. However,

bureaucracy,
an inefficient governmental administration,
and a broken ad litem appointment system.

are negatively impacting THIS goal of the juvenile justice system. These are just some of the problems that I see. These are the reasons why I am running. In my courtroom, I will efficiently manage juvenile and Child Protective Services (CPS) cases, and I will ensure that ad litem attorney caseloads are manageable.

I want to exam the juvenile justice and child protective services issues from a complete perspective including:

teen pregnancy/prenatal care
family therapy/unity
mental health issues
socioeconomic disadvantages
teen peer pressure/gang-related pressures
law enforcement and community outreach

I want an impactful and critical examination of the “cradle to prison” pipeline concluding in resolutions to positively address this serious issue.

Harris County has an annual budget of over 92 million dollars devoted to the Juvenile Justice System. It is important that the people elected by Harris County are good stewards of these funds. A primary characteristic of good stewardship is independence. Because of my internal audit background, I am a firm believer in not only the actuality of independence but the appearance of it. Therefore, I will not accept any campaign contributions from attorneys seeking ad litem appointments in my court!

With a 92 million dollar annual budget, the residents of Harris County deserve to be among the nation’s top ranked Juvenile Justice Systems. As your judge, it will be my passion and focus to make Harris County a model for the nation.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

Nine Years of practicing primarily family law. I am a CPA with many years of corporate experience.

5. Why is this race important?

Families and children are important, not distribution of MONEY to favored Lawyers.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

I am the better candidate for the job.