(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.
1. Who are you and what are you running for?
I am the Presiding Judge in the 312th Family District Court. I was first elected to the Court in November 2018 and ascended to the bench January 2019. I was first licensed to practice law in June 1977 after graduating from South Texas College of Law. I have practiced law in the state of Texas for 42 years prior to my election to the bench and will have been licensed 45 years in June of this year. Before my election I practiced law with my law partner for over 28 years. I am married, divorced, married, divorced and married again. Together my wife of more than 27 yrs and I raised her two children and one of our own. We presently have three grandchildren. Because of my legal experience and my life experience I am without question the most qualified individual to serve in this Court. Family Courts have traditionally been Courts of equity where we seek to do what is best for the family and especially for the children involved. I do that work every day on the bench in the courthouse where I was elected to serve.
2. What kind of cases does this court hear?
The 312th hears the entire range of family law cases including but not limited to divorce, modification of prior orders, child support enforcement and modification; original suits affecting the parent child relationship; contempt; paternity; adoption; terminations; cases involving children in the care of CPS/ TDFPS. These case descriptions have the effect of minimizing the broad range of cases this Court hears. I have cases involving allegations of murder, vast financial resources, physical and emotional abuse, and complex jurisdictional issues involving marital estates. A Family Law Judge does not serve in a vacuum but in an arena of life experiences acquired through life and years of practice.
3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?
I am very proud of the fact that the 312th has been open and in-person every day that we have had access to the Courthouse. I had a staff including my lead Clerk, Court Reporter and Associate Judge who desired to be in the Courtroom where we were elected to serve and expected to be found. We followed all protocols and moved our docket effectively, safely and efficiently. From the beginning I adopted discovery procedures intended to effectively streamline the time associated with discovery hearings. The ability to create time saving policies came as a result of my extensive experience in other areas of the practice of law. In the 312th we have attempted every day to provide a Courtroom where lawyers could try their case in a meaningful way in compliance with the rules of civil procedure. The HBA Bar Poll rated the 312th 80% Satisfactory, Very Good and or Excellent. The Associate Judge appointed by me was among the highest rated among her peers. Our lead clerk was recognized as the Professional of the Year.
4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?
Going forward I would like for the 312th to successfully continue to resolve its docket so that cases are handled in a timely, efficient manner. The 312th Court Coordinator is constantly combing through the docket to identify cases that have stalled and are no longer being actively prosecuted. We want to clear those cases to allow for appropriate attention on those cases being actively prosecuted. Additionally, every week we work diligently to improve the movement of cases involving CPS participation. Our children must receive better and more effective protection. Often these cases due to the sheer size of the docket fall between the cracks and the children are suspended in foster care with no real hope of family reunification or permanent placement. It is a tragedy. Judge Baughman and I work every day to move through our docket more efficiently to allow attention to be given to those cases ready to go forward and to relieve lawyers of time wasting delay. When we identify shortcomings in our process we address them. We are committed every day to improve the service we provide to the citizens of Harris county.
5. Why is this race important?
I began seeking election to the bench as a Family District Court Judge in 2009. At that time Judicial candidates were recruited to campaign based upon their recognized experience and ability to handle the job in the event they were elected. So long as we are electing judges in the state of Texas it is necessary that we elect those judges who not only have the experience but have the ability to serve in a state district court. I have been recognized as such an individual by my peers and by the people of Harris county. I am the candidate of choice by my colleagues and peers serving in the family law division. The very worst thing that we could do would be to elect Judges based upon gender, color, or ethnic background. I am the most competent candidate; the incumbent and I should be returned to the bench for 4 more years.
6. Why should people vote for you in March?
The answer to 6 is reflected in 5. I am a fully paid member of the HCDP Coordinated campaign. In every race that I have participated in since 2010 I have received the endorsement of each of the major endorsing entities. I not only support the Democratic Party but I support the individuals in our community that in-turn share common interests with the Democratic party and who seek to be judged by those of similar experiences. I have more legal experience than any other candidate. I have more life experience than any other candidate. I have more judicial experience than any other candidate. The 312th is among the highest rated of the Family District Courts. There is no justification for the replacement of the current Judge and staff serving the citizens of Harris County in the 312th.