(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to my readers. This year it’s mostly incumbents running for re-election, so it’s an opportunity to hear that talk about what they have accomplished. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. For more information about these and other Democratic candidates, including links to interviews and Q&As from the primary and runoff, see the Erik Manning spreadsheet.)
1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?
I am Jerry Simoneaux and I preside over Harris County Probate Court 1
2. What kind of cases does this court hear?
Probate Courts help families coping with death and disability. People come to probate court to appoint an executor for a deceased loved one in order to pay final bills and distribute their assets. People also come to probate court to appoint a guardian for loved ones with diminished capacity, such as dementia or intellectual disabilities. Sometimes, people fight over estates and we hear those contested matters, too.
3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?
I have done more to fundamentally improve our courts and the practice of probate law than any other judge of this court before me. I took a court with 1990’s technology, accessed $400,000 of non-taxpayer money, and fully upgraded the four probate courts in Harris County. Now, the probate courts are the most technologically advanced courts in the county. That means we can offer remote and in-person hearings simultaneously and seamlessly. I have made it very easy for people with mobility impediments (and busy schedules) to appear in court. Many more of my accomplishments are listed on my website at www.judgejerry1.com
4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?
I am working to increase the availability of pro bono attorneys to help families who cannot afford one. I have been on the board of the Houston Volunteer Lawyers since 2019 and we are constantly finding ways to bring new volunteer attorneys into probate court. I am also working with the County Commissioners Court and the State Legislature to form a new Probate Court 5 to help ease the strain on the four existing courts. We have not had a new court created in over 25 years and the population has nearly doubled since then.
5. Why is this race important?
Because death and disability are indiscriminate, we see people from all walks of life. That is different from any other court, so it is essential to have a judge who is welcoming to everyone and who will provide as safe space for all. As a trilingual, openly LGBTQ judge, I know how important it is to have representation on the bench who also reaches out to all communities to ensure suitable inclusion.
6. Why should people vote for you in November?
I have received the highest rating of any elected judge from the Houston Bar Association (Judicial Evaluation Poll 2019 and 2021) and the LGBTQ Caucus. I am an innovator who has completely transformed the courts by giving greater access to the public and creating efficiencies for attorneys who practice here. And, I have lots more plans for the next four years to continue to improve our courts.