Judicial Q&A: Katherine Thomas

(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.

Katherine Thomas

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

My name is Katherine Thomas and I am running for the 184th Criminal District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court hears felonies ranging from State Jail to First Degree Felonies as well as Capital Offenses.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for this particular bench because I have always been an individual rooted in service, and not just any type of service but service to the Harris County community and marginalized groups.

I have had the opportunity to examine politics on a national scale during my work in the White House under President Obama’s administration. I have spent countless hours giving back to the home and the community that raised me. I have studied at institutions whose foundations have been to give access to education to those who were denied. This carried me into my career as a prosecutor where I fight every day for the protection of victims, Defendant’s rights as well as justice and safety for all. All of this I carry with me as I seek to serve the people of Harris County as the next Judge of the 184th Criminal District Court. The reality is that we need leaders on the bench who have a continuous commitment to the community outside of election season. Our county needs leaders who have the judicial temperament to value the concerns of victims and the rights of defendants. Harris County deserves judges who will use their platform to bring about solutions within the criminal justice system and stick by the community everyday, not one who just promises to do so when it’s time to ask for your vote during election season every four years.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

First, I am a daughter of Houston. I was born and raised in this community. I am a double HBCU graduate from Spelman College and Howard University School of Law. Those educational experiences taught me to be a social engineer and critical thinker. While attending those institutions, I was given the opportunity to intern at the White House under the leadership of President Obama. While attending law school, I pursued criminal defense work in the Criminal Justice Clinic where I represented indigent clients. I was able to try cases in the District of Columbia and facilitate gaining the best outcome for my clients. After law school, I knew
that I wanted to return home to serve my community. I have served this community in many ways. First, in my role as an Assistant District Attorney. As an Assistant District Attorney, I handle and try cases. On average, I have balanced a caseload of over 2,000 cases. That means on a day-to-day basis I walk hand in hand with victims of crime to better understand how to advocate for them. In that role I also ensure that defendant’s rights are protected. That means that use my discretion to ensure that the appropriate cases are dismissed. I have tried the most serious cases that our county sees, including Murder, Sexual Assault of a Child and Intoxication Manslaughter to name a few. I have argued in hundreds of bail hearings, punishment hearings and motions for new trial. I currently supervise 48 prosecutors in one of our largest divisions in the office. In my supervisory role, I train and onboard attorneys who start at our office and teach them the functions of the job and I also teach them trial skills and techniques.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because judges play an intimate role in the daily lives of citizens of Harris County. Whether it is setting bond, deciding which cases go to trial or even selecting grand jurors to hear probable cause. Our county needs Judges who not only have the experience in handling these types of felony cases but they should also have the perspective to understand the concerns of the people who come before the court.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

People should vote for me in March because I believe there needs to be a change within the felony judicial system. I am an individual who believes in taking an active role when I see that change is needed. As an individual who bears witness to the criminal justice system and its shortcomings, stemming from a lack of diversity and acknowledgment of the undeserved, it is time for individuals such as myself to step up.

I am seeking to be elected to this specific seat because there has never been a black woman to hold this seat, a precedent that is long overdue. If I am elected, I want tohave an intimate role in addressing the deficiencies in our criminal justice system, and that first begins with perspective. To this bench I will bring with
me my experiences as a native Houstonian in the black community, my education as a double HBCU graduate, my refined skillset as a trial attorney, and my experience as an upper level prosecutor who supervises and trains junior prosecutors. I believe all of my experiences combined will bring a necessary understanding to ensure that justice is administered evenly and fairly in the courtroom.

I am running on knowledge, accountability, and trust which are pillars that I believe will advance the Harris County community. I am going to use my knowledge and experience to make sure the law is applied fairly, and ensure that individuals are given the same opportunities for deferred adjudication, dismissals, and probation regardless of your race, class or socio-economic status. I plan to hold law enforcement, the State, the defense bar and the Defendants accountable for their actions to ensure that the Community is kept safe should they encounter the criminal justice system in any capacity. As for trust, I believe it is the cornerstone of any good relationship, and through my judiciary role and the changes I plan to implement, I will gain the trust of the community and keep their safety in the forefront of my mind. The reality is that we as a people have had trouble trusting the system because of how the system has treated us. I want to correct and work on rebuilding that relationship start first with my courtroom. In addition, I plan to pour back into the community by implementing a community court for felony offenders to ensure that they’re given access to resources and aided by community leaders and mentors who can help them change their lives.

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One Response to Judicial Q&A: Katherine Thomas

  1. Kibitzer says:

    There is some interesting information here on personal and professional background, and there are some well-sounding generalities that won’t do any harm on the campaign trail, but what is this?

    “lack of diversity and acknowledgment of the undeserved”

    –> lack of diversity – What category/class of lawyers is currently underrepresented among Harris County Criminal Court Judges, assuming that the local judiciary should be demographically representative, i.e. roughly proportional?

    –> undeserved – Who doesn’t deserve to sit on the bench?

    By way of constructive feedback and opportunities to advance public understanding:

    What is a “community court” and how would it constitute an improvement over the status quo? Readers and voters may not have any idea. Aren’t all of these trial-level courts – criminal as well as civil – serving the Harris County community?

    So what makes a felony court a community court?

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