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Endorsement watch: Criminal district courts

Nine of the 22 Criminal District Court benches are up for election this year in Harris County. Democrats hold seven of those nine positions. The Houston Chronicle has endorsed for of those seven incumbent judges for re-election.

176th Criminal District Court: Since her election to the bench in 2008, Democratic Judge Shawna Reagin has applied important caseflow management techniques that have reduced her docket. She has also used intervention programs to provide intensive supervision of probationers who need help staying on track. Smart choices like these mean a better run courthouse and better use of taxpayer dollars. Voters, take note.

178th Criminal District Court: In a race between two thoughtful, qualified candidates, we endorse incumbent Judge David Mendoza. This Democrat takes a smart approach to the judicial system, focusing on 18- to 25-year-old criminals and punishments that make sense. Before being elected in 2008, Mendoza worked in private practice and also had served for eight years as judge of Harris County Court at Law No. 8. His Republican opponent Roger Bridgewater has deep roots in the courts, having worked as clerk, coordinator, prosecutor and defense attorney, and addresses the justice system with a thoughtful, philosophical attitude in his own right. But in this close match, we endorse Judge Mendoza.

179th Criminal District Court: Judge Randy Roll works hard, putting in long hours, skipping lunches and even vacations to get the job done. And it pays off, with his court’s docket cut in half over his four-year term. In a diverse city like Houston, this multilingual Democrat – he speaks Spanish, Russian, German and French – is an especially important asset to an efficient and effective courthouse. His Republican opponent Kristin Guiney is extremely well qualified, and we hope that she stays involved in judicial politics. But in this race between two top candidates we endorse Judge Roll.

339th Criminal District Court: Judge Maria T. Jackson has the sort of tough but fair disposition that makes for a good judge. She has implemented stringent DWI procedures that have since been adopted by other courts, but also recounts stories of thank you notes from offenders set straight when she put them on probation or through a drug court instead of prison. With experience at the National Computer Forensics Institute – important background in an increasingly cyber world – and five years as judge in the municipal courts before being elected to her current bench, this Democrat is the right choice.

The Chron also endorsed the one Republican judge that had been re-elected in 2008, and the Republican judge that was appointed to replace Kevin Fine, who resigned a couple of months ago. That’s it for the countywide judicial races, but there are still the Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals, First and 14th Courts of Appeals, and Justice of the the Peace races to go.

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