Judicial Q&A: Judge James Horwitz

(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.)

Judge James Horwitz

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

James Horwitz, Presiding Judge for Harris County Probate Court No. 4

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Harris County Probate Court No. 4 has jurisdiction to hear cases involving all aspects of:

(1) the probate of the estate of a decedent which contains issues involving the existence or non existence of valid Wills and whether the executor/administrator has complied with the legal obligations of such role; and
(2) the heirship determination of a decedent’s estate who does not have a valid Will with the possible appointment thereafter of a representative of such an estate as well as whether that representative has complied with the obligation of that role; and
(3) the wrongful death litigation of a decedent whose estate has been filed with this Court (concurrent jurisdiction with Civil District Court but the superior right to bring that type of case into the Probate Court); and

(1) the determination of incapacity of an individual that might require a guardianship (through age, illness, and/or accident) with the appointment thereafter of a guardian (of the person or estate or both) of the incapacitated person with determination of whether such guardian has complied with the legal obligations of such role; and
(2) personal injury suits involving individuals who have guardianship estates in this Court (concurrent jurisdiction with Civil District Court but the superior right to bring that type of case into the Probate Court) ; and

(1) matters involving the interpretation and modification of trusts including whether the trustee has complied with the legal obligations of such role

(1) Harris County Probate Court # 4 (along with Probate Court # 3) has an additional jurisdiction to conduct hearings regarding whether a person requires commitment at a psychiatric hospital because of mental illness and furthermore whether such person who has been committed requires medication

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

Probate Courts have regular ongoing dockets involving the above cases that occur weekly that cannot be postponed. People continue to die and become incapacitated (a fact of life) and the pandemic required immediate adjustments to allow for the uninterrupted judicial determination of such matters. As the administrative judge for the four Harris County Probate Courts during the height of the pandemic (2020), it was incumbent on me to help develop policies that streamlined the process. I’m proud to say that our court along with the other Harris Probate Courts became the state leader in developing methods including zoom hearings to allow for the delivery of such justice to the community. Our caseload and completion rate has actually increased and continues to increase during this term. Because of my work especially as administrative judge. the four Probate Courts work well together to make as much as possible identical procedures so that attorneys do not (has had been the way in the past) have to learn four separate ways to handle their cases loads depending on which Probate Court they find themselves in. Education of attorneys has been a priority, and I am a co-founder of the Texas Probate American Inn of Court that is accomplishing the goal of educating and mentoring young lawyers regarding probate law.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

Our court has installed more sophisticated technology to help the public have their cases heard remotely and/or in person or a combination of both in a more efficient manner. The use of that technology will speed up the completion rate of our court case load. Continued education of attorneys is essential to that process and more legal seminars will continue to be held on various probate subject matters led by our court.

5. Why is this race important?

Everybody comes to Probate Court eventually, one way or another, as a decedent, an incapacitated person, an heir, contestant, and/ or a witness. This Court’s mission statement is to help families in crisis to resolve issues. A judge handling these types of jurisdiction must possess a heightened sense of empathy as well as the required judicial knowledge and wisdom to accomplish the court’s mission. This race is important because of the leadership required to continue guide the Court effectively.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

I have 45 years of legal experience. My career has included the practice, of course of estate planning and probate, but also civil, criminal, family, juvenile, corporate, and business law. It is essential to know and be competent in various aspects of different types of the law because of the complex nature of probate. I have demonstrated my competency as a probate judge during the almost 4 years on the bench. Probate Court, unique among all other courts, has 4 times as many staff as other types of court because of the multitude of jurisdictions it must handle day to day. It takes a manager as well as a jurist to effectively administer the workload of this court. I have molded the staff into an effective and efficient task force to handle its case load and will continue this job.

Related Posts:

This entry was posted in Election 2022 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Judicial Q&A: Judge James Horwitz

  1. Chris Daniel says:

    This is a great judge. He had a very seamless transition and has made himself available to all parties as appropriate and as needed. I highly respect him. We don’t agree on politics, but he is a true public servant.

Comments are closed.