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Ursula Hall

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.

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.

The “Has Not Yet Filed” list

Today is the actual, official filing deadline. Anyone who has not filed for a spot in the primary by 6 PM today is not a candidate for a Democratic nomination in 2020. A whole lot of people have already filed, and a whole lot more will file today – I’m going to have a lot to talk about with this tomorrow and for the rest of the week – but there are still a few notable absences (with the caveat that the SOS list may not be complete). So with that in mind, here are the “why aren’t they there yet?” list to ponder as the hours tick down.

US Senate: MJ Hegar is not yet listed. John Love, the Midland City Council member who announced his candidacy in October, has ended his campaign, on the grounds that he lacked the time and finances. Good for him for recognizing his situation, and I hope he looks at 2022 for another possible statewide campaign. Eleven candidates have filed so far, Hegar will make it 12 when she makes it official.

US Congress: Reps. Joaquin Castro (CD20) and Colin Allred (CD32) are not on the list as of Sunday evening. Some of the more recent entrants in CDs 03 and 31 – Tanner Do, Chris Suprun, Dan Jangigian – are not yet on the list. Much-ballyhooed CD28 challenger Jessica Cisneros is not yet on the list. Wendy Davis has CD21 to herself right now, as Jennie Leeder has not yet appeared. CDs 19, 27, and 36 do not yet have Democratic candidates. And while this has nothing to do with our side, the Republican field in CD22 is mind-bogglingly large. Good luck with that.

Railroad Commissioner: Kelly Stone had not filed as of Sunday, but she has an event on her candidate Facebook page announcing her filing at 2:30 today. Former State Rep. Robert Alonzo has joined the field.

SBOE: All positions are accounted for. Letti Bresnahan remains the only candidate in District 5, the most flippable one on the board. I still can’t find any information online about her candidacy.

State Senate: No candidates yet in SDs 12, 18, 22, or 28. Not surprising, as none are competitive, but a full slate is still nice. Sens. Borris Miles and Eddie Lucio now each have two opponents, the field in SD19 is four deep, and Rep. Cesar Blanco still has SD29 all to himself.

State House: Far as I can tell, the only incumbent who hasn’t filed yet is Rep. Rene Oliveira in HD37. Of the top targets for 2020 based on Beto’s performance, HDs 23, 43, and 84 do not yet have Democratic candidates. Those are if not the bottom three on the competitiveness scale, with the first two trending away from us, they’re close to it. If they go unfilled it will still be a waste, but about the smallest possible waste. Rep. Ron Reynolds does not have a challenger. Sean Villasana, running for the HD119 seat being vacated by Rep. Roland Gutierrez as he runs for SD19, has the field to himself so far. In all of the big counties, the only one missing a Dem right now is HD99 in Tarrant, which is not particularly competitive.

District Courts: Limiting myself to Harris County, Judges Jaclanel McFarland (133rd Civil), Ursula Hall (165th Civil), Elaine Palmer (215th Civil), and George Powell (351st Criminal) have not filed. Other candidates have filed in the 165th and 351st, as have candidates in the 337th Criminal (Herb Ritchie) and 339th Criminal (Maria Jackson) where the incumbents are known to not be running again. Alex Smoots-Thomas now has an opponent for the 164th, and I am told another may be on the way.

Harris County offices: All of the candidates I’ve tracked for District Attorney, County Attorney, Sheriff, and Tax Assessor have now filed; I’m told another candidate may be filing for Tax Assessor, but I don’t know any more than that. David Brown has not yet filed for HCDE Position 7 At Large, but he was at the CEC meeting yesterday and I expect to see him on the ballot. Luis Guajardo has not yet filed for Commissioners Court in Precinct 3. There’s still no JP candidates in Precincts 4 and 8, and no Constable in Precinct 8. And Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen is still missing. Could that mean something? We’ll find out today. I’ll have a report tomorrow.

Judicial Q&A: Ursula Hall

(Note: I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates on the November ballot. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. These Q&As are primarily intended for candidates who were not in contested primaries. You can see those earlier Q&As, as well as all the ones in this series and all my recorded interviews for this cycle, on my 2010 Elections page.)

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

My name is Ursula A. Hall. I am known as a rigorous worker, an extraordinarily gifted advocate, a compassionate person and a paragon of patience as a lawyer and a sitting municipal judge. I am an excellent mind, a lover of learning, and a generous spirit. I am a graduate of local, public magnet schools, Wellesley College and South Texas College of Law. I am an optimist, a realist and a dedicated civil servant. And, I am a candidate for state judicial office. I am running for Judge of the 189th Civil District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court hears all civil cases, except family and probate cases, ranging in content from simple to complex. (The court does not hear criminal cases). The court hears commercial, personal injury, death and other disputes, which include claims about accounts, employment, deceptive trade practices, product liability, workers compensation, defective products and more.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

This particular bench is among those most in need of change and diversity in its judicial leadership. As a sitting municipal judge, I bring a rich cultural heritage, a record of public service, a strong belief in our justice system, Spanish language skills and a deep care and concern for fairness, respectful treatment of others and intellectual integrity.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

Integrity. Legal knowledge and ability. Professional experience. Judicial temperament. Diligence. Good physical and mental health. Financial responsibility and public service. These qualities are used by The Judicial Administration Division Lawyers’ Conference of the American Bar Association to assess the qualifications of candidates for State Judicial Office:

I am qualified by my merit in each of these recommended areas. I have demonstrated integrity unassailable integrity. My legal knowledge and ability has been established by over thirteen years of practice in state and federal, trial and appellate courts. I have direct, specifically relevant professional experience as a sitting judge. My judicial temperament is outstanding (as discussed above). I am diligent beyond measure, as my law school and legal career demonstrate. I have no mental or physical impairments. I labor under no financial pressures that threaten my independence and impartiality. And I have been serving the public, in a variety of ways, since I was nine years old when I registered my first voter on behalf of a local union hall.

5. Why is this race important?

Every judicial race is extremely important. Every judge has a profound and immeasurably far-reaching impact on society — not just the lives of those who appear in court, but also those whose lives are changed by case law developments.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

People should vote for me in the in November because I have judicial experience, intellectual integrity and demonstrated servant-leadership. I have adjudicated thousands of cases, as a judge, and presided over trials, using the exact same rules of evidence by which the 189th Civil District Court is governed and state-level rules of procedure. During my time on the bench, I have earned a good reputation among citizens who have appeared before me and court staff for my exceptional judicial demeanor, which includes common sense, compassion, decisiveness, firmness, humility, open-mindedness, patience, tact and understanding.

Intellectual integrity includes the virtues of honesty, courage, fairness, sensitivity, perceptiveness and insightfulness, intellectual humility, perseverance, adaptability and communicativeness. Over the last five years, in my work as a judge, I have learned to strike a balance between decisiveness and deliberation, as well as impartiality and openness to the views of others. Regularly, I refuse to suppress counter-arguments and consistently acknowledge help.

And I am a servant leader who never loses sight of the reality that no staff, courtroom or bench will ever be “mine”. Rather, each always has and always will belong to and work for the public. I recognize that good court administration is a collective exercise, requiring the talents of bailiffs, clerks, administrators and many others.

For additional reasons one should vote for me, and additional information, please go to www.judgeursulahall.com.

Judicial Q&A: Ursula Hall

(Note: I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. There are a lot of judicial races on the ballot in Harris County this election, and so 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. I will also be conducting some in-person interviews of candidates who will be involved in contested primaries for non-judicial offices. Please see my 2010 Election page for a full list of Q&As and interviews.)

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

My name is Ursula A. Hall. I am known as a rigorous worker, an extraordinarily gifted advocate, a compassionate person and a paragon of patience as a lawyer and a sitting municipal judge. I am an excellent mind, a lover of learning, and a generous spirit. I am a graduate of local, public magnet schools, Wellesley College and South Texas College of Law. I am an optimist, a realist and a dedicated civil servant. And, I am a candidate for state judicial office. I am running for Judge of the 189th Civil District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court hears all civil cases, except family and probate cases, ranging in content from simple to complex. (The court does not hear criminal cases). The court hears commercial, personal injury, death and other disputes, which include claims about accounts, employment, deceptive trade practices, product liability, workers compensation, defective products and more.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

This particular bench is among those most in need of change and diversity in its judicial leadership. As a sitting municipal judge, I bring a rich cultural heritage, a record of public service, a strong belief in our justice system, Spanish language skills and a deep care and concern for fairness, respectful treatment of others and intellectual integrity.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

Integrity. Legal knowledge and ability. Professional experience. Judicial temperament. Diligence. Good physical and mental health. Financial responsibility and public service. These qualities are used by The Judicial Administration Division Lawyers’ Conference of the American Bar Association to assess the qualifications of candidates for State Judicial Office:
I am qualified by my merit in each of these recommended areas. I have demonstrated integrity unassailable integrity. My legal knowledge and ability has been established by over thirteen years of practice in state and federal, trial and appellate courts. I have direct, specifically relevant professional experience as a sitting judge. My judicial temperament is outstanding (as discussed above). I am diligent beyond measure, as my law school and legal career demonstrate. I have no mental or physical impairments. I labor under no financial pressures that threaten my independence and impartiality. And I have been serving the public, in a variety of ways, since I was nine years old when I registered my first voter on behalf of a local union hall.

5. Why is this race important?

Every judicial race is extremely important. Every judge has a profound, far-reaching, often immeasurable, impact on society — not just the lives of those who appear in court, but also those whose lives are changed by case law developments.

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

People should vote for me in the primary because I have judicial experience, intellectual integrity and demonstrated servant-leadership. I have adjudicated thousands of cases, as a judge, and presided over trials, using the exact same rules of evidence by which the 189th Civil District Court is governed and state-level rules of procedure. During my time on the bench, I have earned a good reputation among citizens who have appeared before me and court staff for my exceptional judicial demeanor, which includes common sense, compassion, decisiveness, firmness, humility, open-mindedness, patience, tact and understanding.
Intellectual integrity includes the virtues of honesty, courage, fairness, sensitivity, perceptiveness and insightfulness, intellectual humility, perseverance, adaptability and communicativeness. Over the last five years, in my work as a judge, I have learned to strike a balance between decisiveness and deliberation, impartiality and openness to the views of others. Regularly, I refuse to suppress counter-arguments and consistently acknowledge help.

And I am a servant leader who never loses sight of the reality that no staff, courtroom or bench will ever be “mine”. Rather, each always has and always will belong to and work for the public. I recognize that good court administration is a collective exercise, requiring the talents of bailiffs, clerks, administrators and many others.

For additional reasons one should vote for me, and additional information, please go to www.judgeursulahall.com.