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judicial races

Runoff results: Harris County

As with the statewide roundup, here are the results from Harris County. As of 10 PM, 99 of 260 voting centers had reported, so while these results aren’t final, it seems likely to me that not much will change.

Congressional Dem

CD38 – Diana Martinez Alexander vs. Duncan Klussman. Klussman had a 67-33 lead after early voting (65-35 as of 10 PM) and looked to be an easy winner.

SBOE Dem

SBOE4 – Coretta Mallet-Fontenot vs Staci Childs. Childs was up 56.5 to 43.5, and was leading big in early in person voting (62%) and Tuesday voting (65%), which helped her overcome a 1,200 vote deficit in mail ballots. Given that trend, I’d say she’s on her way to winning.

State House Dems

HD147 – Jolanda Jones vs Danielle Bess. Jones was up 55-45, and unlike the special election led in mail ballots (by 300 votes) and early in person voting (by 200 votes), while running nearly even on Tuesday (the tally was 520-508 for Bess as of 10 PM). She seems likely to hold on.

Harris County Dems

185th Criminal District Court – Andrea Beall vs Judge Jason Luong. Beall led 54-46 and had the advantage in all three forms of voting.

208th Criminal District Court – Beverly Armstrong vs Kim McTorry. Armstrong had a big lead in mail ballots, while McTorry had small margins in in-person voting, but it doesn’t look like it will be enough as Armstrong was up 52-48.

312th Family District Court – Teresa Waldrop vs Judge Chip Wells.
County Civil Court at Law #4 – Manpreet Monica Singh vs Treasea Treviño.

Waldrop (63%) and Singh (65%) were in command from the beginning. I believe Manpreet Singh will be the first Sikh on the bench if she wins in November.

Commissioners Court, Precinct 4 – Lesley Briones vs Ben Chou. Briones led 55-45, with similar margins across all three voting types.

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, Place 2 – Sonia Lopez vs Steve Duble. Duble also led 55-45, using a 59-41 advantage in early in person ballots to overcome a modest deficit with mail votes.

Republicans

Alexandra Mealer cruised to victory for the County Judge nomination, while Jack Morman got his rematch in Precinct 2. The HD133 race was too close to call, with less than 100 votes separating Mano DeAyala and Shelley Barineau. Check on that one in the morning.

UPDATE: All of the Dems that were leading last night won. Mano DeAyala won in HD133 51-49.

Two judges sanctioned by Judicial Conduct Commission

Not a good look, and really bad timing for one of them.

A pair of Harris County civil court judges have been sanctioned for behavior in their courtrooms, with one judge allowing the shackling of attorneys and another erupting into fits of rage during a trial.

The reprimand applies to Judge Barbara Stalder in the 280th Family Protective Order Court for holding an attorney in contempt during a February 2020 hearing and then ordering the bailiff to shackle him to a chair in the jury box, according to State Commission on Judicial Conduct documents. A week later, the judge did the same with another attorney.

The commission also ordered that Judge Clinton “Chip” Wells in the 312th Family District Court be admonished and undergo two hours of education on how to appropriately conduct himself for courtroom outbursts of anger aimed at lawyer Teresa Waldrop during an April 2019 divorce trial.

Stalder could not be reached Friday as the commission’s ruling from April 20 was made public. Wells acknowledged that his actions were wrong.

“I made a mistake and I’m not hiding from that,” said Wells, who is facing Waldrop in the Democratic runoff election. “My behavior was not acceptable.”

You can read on for the details – as I said, it’s not a good look for either of them. Stalder was defeated in the March primary, so her situation is short-term no matter how you look at it. Wells is in the May primary runoff, and as it happens Waldrop is his opponent. I know from previous correspondence that she has pursued this matter for some time – the precipitating event was in April of 2019, so you can do the math.

I received judicial Q&A responses from Wells and Waldrop, so consult those if you still need to know more. I know these procedures take time, and I know that the State Commission on Judicial Conduct tends to release their orders in groups on a regular rather than ad hoc basis, but it would have been nice to have known all this before we voted in March, especially given the Chron’s grievous lack of endorsements in non-criminal court races. You don’t have to hold this against either Judge Wells or Judge Stalder if you don’t want to – it would be perfectly defensible to conclude that their merits outweighed these incidents, or that they were still better than their opponents, or that this was just one bad day on the job, or whatever. Obviously, fair minds may disagree on that. All I’m saying is that I’d have preferred to have had as full a picture as possible before I voted. Given that Stalder lost her primary and that Waldrop led Wells 46-28 in March, perhaps it wouldn’t have made any difference. It still would have been nice.

Where are the endorsements?

As you know, early voting has begun for the May 7 election, which includes two Constitutional amendments and the special election for HCC District 2. As of last night when I drafted this, I see no endorsements in any of these elections on the Chron’s opinion page. Are these elections not worth it to them, or have they just not gotten around to them yet? I sure hope it’s the latter, and that they will rectify that quickly. I don’t know what they’re waiting for.

Seventeen days after that election will be the primary runoffs. A quick check of the Erik Manning spreadsheet confirms for me that in all of the Democratic primary runoffs for which the Chron issued a March endorsement, their preferred candidate is still running. In ballot order:

CD38 – Duncan Klussman
Lt. Governor – Mike Collier
Attorney General – Joe Jaworski
Comptroller – Janet Dudding
Land Commissioner – Jay Kleberg
SBOE4 – Staci Childs
HD147 – Danielle Bess
185th Criminal Court – Judge Jason Luong
208th Criminal Court – Kim McTorry
Commissioners Court Precinct 4 – Lesley Briones

You may or may not agree with these, but those are who the Chron picked. They have no races to revisit among them. They do, however, have three more races to consider, which were among those they skipped in Round One:

312th Family Court – Judge Chip Wells vs Teresa Waldrop
County Civil Court at Law #4 – MK Singh vs Treasea Treviño
Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1 Place 2 – Steve Duble vs Sonia Lopez

The links are to my judicial Q&As for those who submitted responses. You can find all the Q&A and interview links from the primary here. More recently I interviewed Staci Childs and Coretta Mallet-Fontenot in SBOE4; I will have an interview with Janet Dudding on Monday. There’s no need to rush if the Chron wants to circle back to these races they ignored originally – they can wait till after the May 7 election, but not too long since early voting there will begin on May 16. It’s only three runoff races (*), plus those two Constitutional amendments and that one HCC race. C’mon, Chron editorial board, you can do this.

(*) There may be some Republican runoffs for them to revisit as well. I didn’t check and am obviously not as interested. I doubt most Republican runoff voters are either, so whatever. The HD147 special election is between the same two candidates as in the primary runoff, so we can assume the endorsement for one carries over to the other.

Judicial Q&A: Beverly Armstrong

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. This was intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote in March, and I have extended it for the May runoffs. 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.

Beverly Armstrong

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

I am Beverly Armstrong. I am running for Judge of the 208th Criminal District Court. I have been a resident of Harris County for more than 30 years. I moved here after graduating from Prairie View A&M University with a BS degree in Civil Engineering. I attended the part time program at South Texas College of Law in downtown Houston while working full time. When I’m not serving as a public servant, I serve on the communion steward and finance committees at my church, Jones United Methodist Church. My husband and I started our family here and have raised two children who attended schools in Harris County.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 208th Criminal District Court hears all levels of felony cases. This includes State Jail Felonies, 1st through 3rd degree felonies and capital felony cases.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I’m running for this bench because too many habitual, violent offenders were being released on low (lowered) bonds by this court And because this court was not holding trials to bring justice to the accused and for the accuser.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have been a licensed attorney for 25 years. I’ve been a prosecutor for 15 years. I started my prosecution career in Polk County. I spent 3 years in the Galveston County District Attorneys Office where I served as Court Chief in the 212th and 10th Criminal District Courts and Chief of the Child Abuse Division. I was asked to return to Polk County to serve as the First Assistant Criminal District Attorney, where I currently serve. Over the course of my criminal law career, I have handled more than 2000 cases from misdemeanor thefts to murder. I have been the led attorney handling cases from grand jury to trial for numerous felony cases including aggravated robbery, child sexual assault and murders. I supervise a staff of secretaries, investigators and prosecutors. I’ve prepared numerous appellate briefs and I have successfully argued before the 9th court of appeals. Additionally, I served as a faculty advisor at the Prosecutor Trials Skills Course held by the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.

5. Why is this race important?

This court handles the most serious criminal cases in the county. It’s imperative that the most qualified candidate is seated for this court. Additionally, the judge of this court needs a proven track record of implementing tools to help promote fairness and justice for all parties in the courtroom.

6. Why should people vote for you in May?

People should vote for me because experience matters. I am the most experienced candidate in this race. I am ready to handle any types of case that is on the docket on day one. I am the only candidate that has handled every type of case this court hears. I have a proven record of fighting against the release of repeat violent offenders while demonstrating compassion for non violent offenders who need a second chance. I have worked with agencies to find mental health programs, parenting skills programs and drug rehabilitation programs to give offenders the tools needed to become successful members of our community as opposed to repeat offenders. I will show up ready to work. I will respect the attorneys time and the time of the community before my court. I will bring fairness, integrity and experience to the courtroom. I am committed to the protection of the community in the courtroom and outside of the courtroom.

Meet the new judge of County Civil Court at Law #4

So far, this is the only public announcement I have seen:

There was an item (#281 if you search) on the March 8 Commissioners Court agenda to discuss and possibly take action on this vacancy, which had stretched on for awhile. While the County Civil Court at Law #4 website still showed Lesley Briones as Judge as of the weekend, I assume that will be updated soon. This appointment is for the rest of the year only, as the position will be filled for the next four years in the November election. As noted before, Manpreet Monica Singh and Treasea Treviño are in the runoff to be the nominee for that bench. For now, congrats to Judge Ayala, who I’m sure will do an excellent job in the interim. And I’m glad Commissioners Court finally got around to this.

Initial post-election wrapup

Just a few updates and observations to add onto what I posted yesterday morning. Any deeper thoughts, if I have them, will come later.

– Cheri Thomas and William Demond won their races for the 14th Court of Appeals. I didn’t mention them yesterday, just too much to cover.

– Also didn’t mention any of the SBOE races, four of which are headed to runoffs on the Dems side, including SBOE4 in Harris County. Those were all open or (with SBOE11) Republican-held seats. The three incumbents were all winners in their races – Marisa Perez-Diaz (SBOE3) and Aicha Davis (SBOE13) were unopposed, while Rebecca Bell-Metereau (SBOE5) easily dispatched two challengers.

– All of the district court judges who were leading as of yesterday morning are still leading today.

– Harold Dutton also held on in HD142, but the final result was much closer once the Tuesday votes were counted. He ultimately prevailed with less than 51% of the vote.

– Cam Cameron took and held onto the lead in HD132 (he had trailed by four votes initially), defeating Chase West 52.8 to 47.2, about 300 votes.

– Titus Benton was still leading in SD17, though his lead shrunk from 484 in early voting to 275.

– I touched on this in the runoff roundup post, but the perception that Jessica Cisneros was leading Rep. Henry Cuellar was totally a function of the order in which the counties reported their results. I say this because if you click on the race details for the CD28 primary on the SOS election returns page, you see that Cuellar led by more than 1,500 votes in early voting; he stretched that to about a 2,400 vote lead in the end, though it was just barely not enough to get to 50%. But because Bexar County was first out of the gate and thus first to be picked up by the SOS, and Cisneros ran strongly there, it looked like she was about to blow him out. There are a couple of tweets from Tuesday night that did not age well because of that.

– Statewide, the Dem gubernatorial primary will be a bit short of 1.1 million votes, up a tiny bit from 2018, while the GOP primary for Governor is over 1.9 million votes, comfortably ahead of the 1.55 million from 2018. More Republicans overall turned out on Tuesday than Dems statewide. In Harris County, it looks like the turnout numbers were at 157K for Dems and 180K for Republicans, with about 43% of the vote in each case being cast on Tuesday. Dems were down about 10K votes from 2018, Rs up about 24K. In a year where Republicans are supposed to have the wind at their backs and certainly had a lot more money in the primaries, I’m not sure that’s so impressive. That said, March is not November. Don’t go drawing broad inferences from any of this.

– At the risk of violating my own warning, I will note that the CD15 primary, in a district that is now slightly lean R and with the overall GOP turnout advantage and clear evidence of more GOP primary participation in South Texas, the Dem candidates combined for 32,517 votes while the Republicans and their million-dollar candidate combined for 29,715 votes. Does that mean anything? Voting in one party’s primary, because that’s where one or more local races of interest to you are, doesn’t mean anything for November, as any number of Democratic lawyers with Republican voting histories from a decade or more ago can attest. Still, I feel like if there had been more votes cast in that Republican primary that someone would make a big deal out of it, so since that didn’t happen I am noting it for the record. Like I said, it may mean absolutely nothing, and November is still a long way away, but it is what happened so there you have it.

– In Fort Bend, County Judge KP George won his own primary with about the same 70% of the vote as Judge Hidalgo did here. Longtime County Commissioner Grady Prestage defeated two challengers but just barely cleared fifty percent to avoid a runoff. The other commissioner, first termer Ken DeMerchant, didn’t do nearly as well. He got just 14.3% of the vote, and will watch as Dexter McCoy and Neeta Sane will battle in May. I confess, I wasn’t paying close attention to this race and I don’t have an ear to the ground in Fort Bend, so I don’t know what was the cause of this shocking (to me, anyway) result. Sitting County Commissioners, even first timers, just don’t fare that poorly in elections. Community Impact suggests redistricting might not have done him any favors, but still. If you have some insight, please leave a comment.

– As was the case in Harris, a couple of incumbent judges in Fort Bend lost in their primaries. I don’t know any of the players there, and my overall opinion of our system of choosing judges hasn’t changed from the last tiresome time we had this conversation.

This came in later in the day, so I thought I’d add it at the end instead of shoehorning it into the beginning.

Harris County election officials are still counting ballots Wednesday morning for the Tuesday Primary Election. Despite the Texas Secretary of State John B. Scott saying officials will not finish counting ballots by the deadline, Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria said she’s confident counting votes will be done.

“It’s going to take a couple of days to finish the entire process as we’ve always seen,” Longoria said. “I don’t have concerns about counting the election ballots for this election.”

[…]

Harris County Voting Director Beth Stevens said the paper ballot system slows down the process for both voters and election workers.

“We’re working with paper here, what we know is we have hundreds of thousands of ballots processed accurately and securely here in our central counting station and we’re working with 2.5 million registered voters,” Stevens said.

In addition to voter registration identification mishaps, and mail-in ballot rejections, Harris County election officials also said damaged ballots have become an issue in the counting process. According to Stevens, damaged ballots have to be duplicated before being scanned by electronic tabulators and counted in at the central polling location. Officials said this could take some time.

“There was a negative attempt to make Harris County look bad in this moment and it’s completely unnecessary because we are processing as appropriate,” Stevens said. “Voters can be sure that paper ballots and electronic media that go with that is the most safe and secure ballot in the country.”

And this.

More than 1,600 ballots in Harris County were not read properly by the county’s new voting machines because of human error, the elections administration office said, resulting in a slower tabulation process for Tuesday’s primaries.

The new system requires voters to take paper ballots with their selections from a voting machine and feed it into a counting machine. Voters did this incorrectly in some cases, said elections office spokeswoman Leah Shah, making the ballots unreadable. Instead, those ballots were re-scanned at the county’s election headquarters, an extra time-consuming step.

Shah said Harris County’s long primary ballot required voters to feed two sheets of paper instead of the usual one, increasing the chance of error if they are inserted the wrong way or inadvertently creased or wrinkled. The 1,629 incorrectly scanned ballots represent less than 1 percent of the nearly 500,000 primary ballots cast.

“These are margins of error that are already accounted for, built in to how we process the ballot,” Shah said. “But we also understand the importance of having the paper trail and having that extra layer of security and backup.”

Voter Sara Cress, who ran the county’s popular elections social media accounts in 2020, said the first page of her ballot became wrinkled in her hand as she filled out the second page. When she attempted to feed the scuffed sheet into the counting machine, it would not take.

“I tried it twice, and then two poll workers tried it over and over again, and it just was giving errors,” Cress said.

[…]

Shah said new requirements under SB1, the voting bill passed by the Legislature last year, placed additional strain on county elections staff. She said 30 percent of the 24,000 mail ballots received have been flagged for rejection because they fail to meet the law’s ID requirements.

Elections staff have been calling those voters, who mostly are over 65, to inform them of the March 7 deadline by which they must provide the correct information or their ballots will not be counted.

The issue with the printers is one reason why the new voting machines were rolled out last year, when they could be tested in a lower-turnout environment. Fewer initial disruptions, but perhaps not enough actual testing to work through all the problems. Going to need a lot more voter education, and more stress testing on those machines. The fiasco with the mail ballots, which is 100% on the Republicans, is putting a lot of pressure on the elections staff. None of this had to happen like this. I mean, if we’re going to talk voter education, not to mention training for county election workers, that was a complete failure on the state’s part. It’s easy to dump on the Secretary of State here, and they do deserve some blame, but they too were put in a no-win spot by the Republicans.

As far as the rest goes, the early voting totals were up at about 7:20 or so on Tuesday night. Initial results came in slowly, as you could tell from my posts yesterday, but almost all of the voting centers had reported by 1 PM yesterday. I do believe there will be some improvement with the printers before November. At least we have two more chances to work out the kinks before then, with the primary runoffs, the May special election, and possibly May special election runoffs. Here’s hoping.

A roundup of runoffs

I was going to just do a basic recap of all the primary races that will require runoffs, and then this happened, and I had to do some redesign.

Rep. Van Taylor

U.S. Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano, has decided to end his reelection campaign after he was forced into a primary runoff amid 11th-hour allegations of infidelity.

Taylor made the stunning announcement Wednesday, hours after he finished his five-way primary with 49% of the vote, just missing the cutoff for winning the primary outright. The runner-up was former Collin County Judge Keith Self, who is now likely to become the next congressman for the 3rd District.

“About a year ago, I made a horrible mistake that has caused deep hurt and pain among those I love most in this world,” Taylor wrote in an email to supporters. “I had an affair, it was wrong, and it was the greatest failure of my life. I want to apologize for the pain I have caused with my indiscretion, most of all to my wife Anne and our three daughters.”

The day before the primary, the conservative outlet Breitbart News posted a story that Taylor had had a monthslong affair with a Plano woman, Tania Joya, who he had paid $5,000 to keep quiet. The publication reported that she provided it a phone screen shot purporting to be communications with Taylor and a bank record showing that she deposited $5,000 into her account. The Texas Tribune has not been able to independently verify the report.

[…]

Taylor has until March 16 to remove his name from the runoff ballot, which he plans to do, according to a spokesperson. After he does that, Self is automatically the Republican nominee for the district. There is a Democratic nominee for the seat, Sandeep Srivastava, but they face long odds after the district was redrawn last year to favor Republicans.

Holy shit. There’s a link to that article in the Trib story, which I refuse to include. It’s one of the less important aspects of this story, but the timing is curious. Why not publish this earlier, if that’s what you’re going to do, and not take the chance that he could win without a runoff? It gets a whole lot more complicated for the Republicans if he withdraws after winning the primary, and he came quite close to doing just that. I don’t understand any of this.

Anyway, this is where I was originally going to start this post. Here’s a list of the races that have gone into overtime. You can also read the Decision Desk wrapup for some more details.

Statewide Dem

Lite Guv – Mike Collier vs Michelle Beckley.

AG – Rochelle Garza vs Joe Jaworski. As of Wednesday afternoon Jaworski had less than a 2K vote lead over Lee Merritt. When I first looked at this, it was a 3K lead, with all of the remaining ballots in Harris County, where Jaworski started the day with a 6K vote lead over Merritt. That had shrunk to a bit less than 5K votes by the afternoon, which almost made my logic that Jaworski would easily hold his lead look idiotic, but the gap appears to have been too large for Merritt to overcome. But who knows, there may be a bunch of late-fixed mail ballots out there, so let’s put a pin in this one.

Comptroller – Janet Dudding vs Angel Vega.

Land Commissioner – Sandragrace Martinez vs Jay Kleberg.

Congressional Dem

CD01 – JJ Jefferson vs Victor Dunn.

CD15 – Ruben Ramirez vs Michelle Vallejo, who has a 300-vote lead over John Rigney.

CD21 – Claudia Zapata vs Ricardo Villarreal.

CD24 – Jan McDowell vs Derrik Gay, who rebounded after my initial bout of pessimism to finish in second place.

CD28 – Rep. Henry Cuellar vs Jessica Cisneros. Cisneros had a big early lead that was mostly a function of the order in which the counties reported their results. Cisneros crushed it in Bexar County, then watched as Starr, Webb, and Zapata erased her lead. In the end, if what I’m seeing is the actual final tally, it was Cuellar who missed winning outright by nine (!) votes. This one could change to a Cuellar win as the overseas and provisional votes are tallied, and then of course there may be a recount. Hold onto your hats.

CD30 – Jasmine Crockett vs Jane Hope Hamilton.

CD38 – Diana Martinez Alexander vs. Duncan Klussman. This is the only Congressional runoff in Harris County for Dems.

SBOE Dem

SBOE1 – Melissa Ortega vs Laura Marquez. The third-place finisher had big charter school backing, so this race can go back to being one you don’t need to know about.

SBOE2 – Victor Perez vs Pete Garcia.

SBOE4 – Coretta Mallet-Fontenot vs Staci Childs. This is in Harris County, it’s the seat Lawrence Allen vacated in his unsuccessful run for HD26. I’ll put this one on my to do list for runoff interviews.

SBOE11 – Luis Sifuentes vs James Whitfield. Double-timer DC Caldwell finished third, while also losing in the Republican primary for this same seat to incumbent Pat Hardy. Let us never speak of this again.

State Senate Dem

SD27 – Morgan LaMantia vs Sara Stapleton-Barrera.

State House Dems

HD22 – Joseph Trahan vs Christian Hayes.

HD37 – Ruben Cortez vs Luis Villarreal

HD70 – Cassandra Hernandez vs Mihaela Plesa. This one was an almost even split among three candidates, with third place finisher Lorenzo Sanchez 29 votes behind Plesa and 102 votes behind Hernandez. Another overseas/provisional vote count to watch and another recount possibility.

HD76 – Suleman Lalani vs Vanesia Johnson. This is the new Dem-likely seat in Fort Bend.

HD100 – Sandra Crenshaw vs Venton Jones.

HD114 – Alexandra Guio vs John Bryant. Bryant was a Dem Congressman in the 90’s, in the old CD05. After winning a squeaker against Pete Sessions in 1994, Bryant tried his luck in the primary for Senate in 1996, eventually losing in a runoff to Victor Morales. Bryant just turned 75 (why anyone would want to get back into the Lege at that age boggles my mind, but maybe that’s just me), while Guio is quite a bit younger. Should be an interesting matchup. This was a five-way race with everyone getting between 17 and 25 percent, so endorsements from the ousted candidates may make a difference.

HD147 – Jolanda Jones vs Danielle Bess.

Harris County Dems

185th Criminal District Court – Andrea Beall vs Judge Jason Luong.

208th Criminal District Court – Beverly Armstrong vs Kim McTorry. Judge Greg Glass finished third.

312th Family District Court – Teresa Waldrop vs Judge Chip Wells.

County Civil Court at Law #4 – Manpreet Monica Singh vs Treasea Treviño. David Patronella was in second place after early voting, but fell behind as the Tuesday votes came in.

Commissioners Court, Precinct 4 – Lesley Briones vs Ben Chou.

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, Place 2 – Sonia Lopez vs Steve Duble.

Republicans

Not really interested in a complete rundown, but it’s Paxton versus P Bush for AG, Dawn Buckingham versus Tim Westley for Land Commissioner, and Wayne Christian versus Sarah Stogner for Railroad Commissioner. At least that last one will be interesting.

As noted yesterday, it will be Alexandra Mealer versus Vidal Martinez for the nomination for County Judge. I have no feelings about this.

I will put some other primary news and notes in a separate post. Let me know if I missed a race.

2022 primary results: Harris County

There were some issues, as there always are. Honestly, that’s one of the reasons I vote early – less time pressure in case something happens. There was also an issue with reporting the early ballots.

The Harris County Elections Administration has requested an extension on the 24-hour deadline to report the results of Tuesday’s primary elections, according to Texas Secretary of State John Scott.

State law requires that counties report results from both early voting and Election Day within 24 hours of the polls closing. Just after polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Scott’s office said that they were informed by Harris County election officials that the county would not be able to count and report the results.

“Harris County election officials have indicated to our office that the delay in ballot tabulation is due only to damaged ballot sheets that must be duplicated before they can be scanned by ballot tabulators at the central count location,” Scott said in a statement.

Failing to meet the deadline is a Class B misdemeanor, Scott’s office said.

“Our office stands ready to assist Harris County election officials, and all county election officials throughout the state, in complying with Texas Election Code requirements for accurately tabulating and reporting Primary Election results,” Scott said.

Don’t know what happened there, but I get a PDF of the results in my inbox every time they get posted to the web, and the first one arrived at 7:25, so whatever the delay was it didn’t take that long to fix it. Other places had their issues as well, often because of missing election judges. And I can’t wait to see how long it takes Potter County to finish its count.

County Judge Lina Hidalgo was headed for an easy win in her primary; she was at almost 70% of the vote in early voting. Erica Davis was just shy of 15%. Alexandra Mealer and Vidal Martinez were the two top Republicans. Marilyn Burgess was winning for District Clerk, but Carla Wyatt had a nearly identical lead for Treasurer over incumbent Dylan Osborne. You just can’t tell with these things sometimes.

Commissioner Adrian Garcia was also on the way to an easy win in Precinct 2, while Lesley Briones and Ben Chou were leading in Precinct 4. Jack Morman and Jerry Mouton were the top two for Precinct 2 on the Republican side.

Multiple District Court judges were losing their primaries. The ones who were leading included Hilary Unger, Chris Morton, Dedra Davis, Natalia Oakes, Leah Shapiro, and Frank Aguilar, the latter two by smaller margins that could vanish overnight. Amy Martin was trailing Melissa Morris by a small margin as well. Jason Luong was in second place and headed to a runoff against Andrea Beall, Chip Wells was in a similar position against Teresa Waldrop, while Greg Glass and Scott Dollinger were out of the running, with Glass’ opponents in a runoff and Tami Craft leading the field in Dollinger’s race. Veronica Nelson was above 50% in the three-way race for the new 482nd Criminal District Court.

The County Court judges were doing a bit better, with four out of seven leading their races. For the open benches, Juanita Jackson won in Criminal Court #10, Porscha Brown was above 50% for Criminal Court #3, and Monica Singh was leading for Civil Court #4, with second place too close to call between David Patronella and Treasea Treviño.

For the JP races, Sonia Lopez was leading in Precinct 1, with Steve Duble slightly ahead of Chris Watson for second place. Dolores Lozano won in Precinct 2, incumbent Lucia Bates was over 50% in Precinct 3. Roderick Rogers was winning in Precinct 5 and Angela Rodriguez was winning in Precinct 6.

That’s all I’ve got, with results trickling in. I’ll follow up tomorrow.

UPDATE: We’re going to be waiting for results for the rest of the day due to issues with the paper receipts and the printers.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Dedra Davis

(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. One more late entrant for the series.

Judge Dedra Davis

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

I am Judge Dedra Davis. I preside with great pride over the 270th Civil District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

I have the pleasure of presiding over a plethora of cases. As a Civil District Court judge, I hear matters dealing with Structured Settlements, Minor Settlement hearings, Expunctions, Employment disputes, Jones Act disputes, tax disputes, personal injury matters, and a host of other important and potentially life-changing matters.

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

I have had exceptional results since having the honor of serving as the presiding judge of the 270th Court. To quote William Ewart Gladstone, “access delayed is access denied.” As an entrepreneur for over 22 years, I developed strong survival skills that have actually served me well in my role as presiding judge of the 270th Court.

1) In 2019, I implemented a telephone docket. Many of the civil court judges were having to share courtrooms with the criminal court judges and with other civil court judges and there was no where to have trials or hearings in a timely manner.
2) In 2019, I was the only court, of the 24 Civil District Courts in Harris County, that allowed virtual appearances via CourtCall. No matter where a person was, they had access to justice.
3) In 2019, I opened the doors to the 270th court to school field trips. I have had over 1000 students visit the 270th court, sit on the judge’s bench, hit the gavel, give an order, and get pictures galore. We discussed jobs at the courthouse, setting goals and having dreams.
4) In 2020, when the courthouse closed due to Covid19, I immediately began hold virtual hearings via Zoom, once the service was provided.
5) In 2020, when the courthouse closed due to Covid19, I held virtual trials. As an entrepreneur, I focused on what I COULD do and not what I could NOT do. Even though no juries were being called to duty, the court still had many trials that COULD be held and heard. I was able to get 45 trials to verdict! I finished 2020 with 52 trials to verdict! Number 1, of the 24 Civil District Courts, in trials to verdict that year!
6) In 2021, when the District Clerk’s office got a system in place to do virtual jury calls, I began doing virtual juries. I am the only District Court judge in Harris County, of the 60, that is has been holding virtual jury trials with 12 jurors. This has had an monumental affect on justice being served. I’ve had parties in Scotland, France, and other parts of the world get their day in court, Covid19 Free.
7) Instead of hearing motions only 1 day a week, I changed the court’s practice and now matters are heard 5 days a week. This practice has allowed the court to maintain one of the lowest inventories of the 24 Civil District courts.
8) I changed the “official record” of 270th Court proceedings to a more efficient and cost effective system. Lawyers and litigants no longer have to call and beg for the “official record” of the court. Lawyers no longer have to pay thousands of dollars for the “official record” of the court. They now receive the “official record” of the 270th Court FOR FREE and within 15 minutes of the end of the proceeding. I recognize that all clients and lawyers do not have the resources to pay for the “official record,” and justice was being denied.
9) I require lawyers requesting hearings to be heard to schedule them within 30 days, if law allows. No more waiting months to get a hearing.
10) I demand WORLD CLASS customer service be given to any and everyone that does business with the 270th Court. Good or great customer service is just not enough.
11) I have opened the court to internships for over 30 law students, paralegals, college students and high school students. Majority are volunteers that are trying to learn about the courts and being a judge. Fueling the future.
12) I created an Expunction seminar that I give all across Texas.
13) I created a seminar entitled “How To Become A Judge,” that I have presented all across the USA to law students and pre-law students.
14) I have many more accomplishments since taking the bench in 2019. I just listed a few.

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

I have a PROVEN record. I have and will continue to make sure law and order equals justice.
I have already implemented new policies and procedures that have drastically changed the access to, as well as the efficiency of, the 270th
Court.
I have a PROVEN record. I have and will continue to treat all parties in the court equally. All trials need to be heard, not just the ones where the party can afford to pay a fee for a jury. As the presiding judge of the 270th court, I have a responsibility and a duty to serve all the parties. I refuse to discriminate against a party just because they can’t pay a jury fee.
As you may be aware, when the party files a lawsuit, that party decides if the case will be heard as a jury trial or a nonjury trial. If the party wants it to be a jury trial, the party will pay the jury fee. The parties in the case 100% decide if they want a jury to hear their case or if they want a judge to hear their case, all the way up to 30 days before the date of trial.
I have a PROVEN record. I have and will continue to be innovative, creative in serving the citizens of Harris County. I am dedicated.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important for many reasons. One reason this race is important is because truth and honor are a huge part of the job. When I pulled the 1/1/2019 to 2/13/2022 report, it reflected that I had 88 nonjury trials and 16 jury trials to verdict, that is over 100 trials to verdict. I have been consistently sharing the correct number of trials to verdict, jury and nonjury. There is no room for mistake or confusion.

Another reason this race is important is because the citizens deserve a judge with sound legal judgment. Two occasions when my rulings were taken to the Texas Supreme Court, my rulings were upheld. In one case, two different Courts Of Appeals (6 justices) and the Texas Supreme Court (9 justices) all upheld my decision. That’s 15 justices that upheld my opinion. Sound legal judgment.
PROVEN.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I have over 35 years of legal experience.
I have almost 10 years as a civil litigation paralegal and more than 25 years as an attorney doing litigation and transactional work. I have over 20 years as a Certified Mediator, specializing in civil litigation.
I bring a broad knowledge of the system and the law.
I bring an expertise that is incredibly necessary for the position. Tunnel vision from one perspective is not an ideal trait for a presiding judge.
I have over 3 years as the presiding judge of the 270th Court and have made incredible improvements.
Justice. Fairness. Equality. Judicial temperament.
I am an award winning judge. The Houston Lawyers Association recognized my work and presented me with a “Judicial Service” award. The Texas Bar Foundation, a prestigious organization of elite attorneys, voted me in as a “Fellow.” I am now a “Lifetime Fellow” of the Texas Bar Foundation.

The voters in Harris County do not have to GUESS if I will perform. They have a PROVEN track record that shows I am devoted, driven, dedicated, creative and innovative. No guessing necessary.

The people should vote for me because litigants deserve a leader, not a follower.
If I followed everyone else, I would not be the only District Court in Harris County providing an 100% free Covid19 environment for jury trials.
I would not be the only District Court in Harris County that gives the litigants the “official record” of the court FOR FREE, and within minutes of the end of the proceeding.
The people should vote for me because I have PROVEN that I an innovative and creative.
I have PROVEN that I am a hard worker that thinks outside the box.
I have PROVEN that the citizens and the community are of the utmost importance to me as the presiding judge of the 270th Civil District Court. PROVEN, no guessing necessary.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

Judicial Q&A: Denise Brown

(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. This is one of two late entrants I am running today.

Denise Brown

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

I am Denise Brown. I’m running to be judge of the 270th Judicial District Court of Harris County.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 270th Civil District Court hears all matters except criminal, family, juvenile, and probate. The civil courts handle every type of case from personal injury to employment, defamation, and tax cases, but does not handle criminal, family, or probate cases. The court handles cases involving $200+ in dispute.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

Being a trial lawyer and litigator means I know the value of a jury trial. My clients depend on jury trials to have their cases decided. When a judge fails to hold jury trials, the people of Harris County are affected. To date, there have only been 9 jury trials since January 1, 2019 according to the District Clerk’s website. Judges should be held to the highest levels of honesty and ethics. I will bring integrity to this court so the people of Harris County know what I am saying is the actual truth. I am also running so there is equality in this court. Litigants, attorneys, witnesses, jurors, and members of the public will get equal treatment in my court and not have to wonder if they will get a fair trial.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have been a licensed attorney for more than 21 years. I am a litigator and trial attorney. I’ve handled multiple bench and jury trials representing both plaintiffs and defendants. I have handled cases from motor vehicle wrecks to complex fraud and breach of contract cases to Dram Shop to construction defect to DTPA. A judge should have trial experience before becoming a trial judge.

5. Why is this race important?

Jury trials are the backbone of our judicial system. Without them, cases come to a standstill and parties are denied justice. As a litigator and trial lawyer for more than 21 years, I am not afraid of jury trials. A trial setting motivates parties to resolve a case without the need of a jury. Cases that cannot be resolved are then able to have their day in court and reach a resolution. Since January 1, 2019, there has only been 7 jury trials in the 270th District Court. Not having jury trials is simply unacceptable for this court. I will ensure that the court is managed efficiently and access to justice is available to all parties.

Judges should be held to the highest levels of integrity, honesty, and ethics. Representations made by a judge or on behalf of the court must be truthful, accurate, and beyond reproach. From denying litigants the right to trial by jury (https://search.txcourts.gov/SearchMedia.aspx?MediaVersionID=14723357-
f7cc-4f74-95b4-aace505320b6&coa=coa01&DT=Opinion&MediaID=c8f87cd1-9515-414c-a1b4-56dbfbd330a9) to publicly commenting on cases pending before the Court, the 270th needs someone who believes the rules apply not only to the parties and attorneys but also to the judge. I will restore the 270th to a respectable and honorable court.

Everyone who appears in front of the Court must be treated equally, with respect and dignity, and the knowledge that they will get a fair hearing or trial, regardless of what they look like, where they come from, who they love, or what their beliefs are.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I am the best candidate for the position. A trial judge should have litigation and trial experience before taking the bench. I am the only candidate who has that experience. My background with both plaintiffs and defendants gives me a unique perspective as I understand the challenges faced by each bar as litigation proceeds as well as preparing and trying a case. By bringing efficiency, integrity, and equality to the 270 th , I will raise the level of decorum and dignity in this Court to where Harris County deserves. I am the most qualified person to be judge of the 270th .

Judicial Q&A: Gemayel Hayes

(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. This is one of two late entrants I am running today.

Gemayel Haynes

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

I am Gemayel Haynes, and I am running to be the next Judge for the 183rd District Court in Harris County, Texas.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 183rd Criminal District Court handles criminal cases ranging from low level state jail felonies to capital murder. The range of punishment for these cases is anywhere from 6 months in a state jail to life in prison or death.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for the 183rd Criminal District Court because I believe a Judge who presides over a felony criminal court should be an experienced criminal attorney. My opponent never practiced criminal law before he took the bench in 2019, but I have done nothing but criminal law for almost 15 years. Inexperience can lead to decisions that harm the accused, the victims, and the community.

I also chose the 183rd District Court because it is closed every Friday during a historic backlog of pending felony cases. A closed courtroom causes unreasonable and unnecessary delays in justice for crime victims and the accused. My opponent inherited the lowest court docket in 2019 but the docket numbers have more than doubled due to frequently closed courtroom and lack of trials.

Finally, I want to restore trust and confidence in the criminal justice system. We should have a court that is efficient, transparent, and most importantly, fair to all. I believe every person that appears in court is a human being and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have almost 15 years of criminal trial experience. I began my career as a prosecutor for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. I worked in the felony, misdemeanor, juvenile and justice of the peace divisions, and I had jury trials on everything from class c tickets to murder cases. After I left the DA’s office, I opened my own law office. I represented juveniles and adults charged with misdemeanor and felony offenses in Harris, Chambers, Fort Bend, and Harris counties. I had jury trials on misdemeanor and felony offenses. I also worked on three capital cases, including a death penalty case, as part of a team of lawyers.

I am now an Assistant Public Defender serving as Senior Litigator and Team Lead in the Felony Trial Division of the Harris County Public Defender’s Office. In this role I supervise a team of eight lawyers, I mentor other lawyers in our office, and I represent indigent clients charged with first and second-degree felonies. I am in trial, either as first chair on my own clients’ cases or a second chair with younger lawyers, several times a year on everything ranging from state jail felonies to first degree murder and sex cases. I teach Continuing Legal Education (CLE) classes to criminal lawyers locally and across the state on various topics including bail, pretrial investigation, search and seizure, revocation and adjudication hearings, trial prep, trial strategy, and sentencing issues. During my career I have also taken hundreds of hours of CLEs directly related to criminal law. I have also been a board member of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers
Association since 2014.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because the criminal justice system is getting a lot of attention. The community can’t afford to have inexperienced criminal judges. I believe in smart bail reform that protects the community and respects the right of those accused of crimes. We need judges who will be fair to all, ensure due process rights are protected, and hold people accountable for their actions. The public deserves judges that aren’t learning criminal law while making decisions that have a major impact on lives.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

People should vote for me in the Democratic Primary Election because I am the most experienced and most qualified candidate in this race. My opponent was a civil attorney for over 30 years before he was elected to the felony criminal bench. As a public defender, I fight to protect the Constitutional and legal rights of people accused of crimes. As a prosecutor I worked with the police to protect Harris County citizens and seek justice for crime victims. I am the only candidate in this race who has represented the State and the accused in criminal court, and I am the only candidate with jury trial experience on both sides of the aisle. Serving as a prosecutor and public defender has given me the perspective and experience that is currently missing from this Court.

The criminal justice system has failed far too many crime victims and people accused of crimes. If elected, I want to use my knowledge and experience to address deficiencies in the system and restore trust between the community we serve and the courts. I will work to make the Court more transparent, accessible, efficient, and fair for all.

Final roundup of interviews and judicial Q&As

Here they all are. As noted, I may return to some races for the runoff. For now, this is what we have. As a reminder, much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. Vote well.

Interviews

Duncan Klussman, CD38
Diana Martinez Alexander, CD38

Jinny Suh, Land Commissioner
Jay Kleberg, Land Commissioner

Sen. John Whitmire, SD15
Molly Cook, SD15

Aurelia Wagner, HD147
Danielle Bess, HD147
Jolanda Jones, HD147
Nam Subramanian, HD147
Reagan Flowers, HD147

Candis Houston, HD142
Chase West, HD132

Ben Chou, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4
Ann Williams, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4
Gina Calanni, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4
Lesley Briones, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4
Clarence Miller, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4

Dylan Osborne, Harris County Treasurer (Incumbent)
Carla Wyatt, Harris County Treasurer
Marilyn Burgess, Harris County District Clerk (Incumbent)
Desiree Broadnax, Harris County District Clerk

Judicial Q&As

Kyle Carter, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 2
Cheri Thomas, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 2

Judge Chuck Silverman, 183rd Criminal District Court
Judge Abigail Anastasio, 184th Criminal District Court
Katherine Thomas, 184th Criminal District Court
Judge Jason Luong, 184th Criminal District Court
Andrea Beall, 185th Criminal District Court
Lema Barazi, 189th Civil District Court
Judge Scott Dollinger, 189th Civil District Court
Judge Greg Glass, 208th Criminal District Court
Kim McTorry, 208th Criminal District Court
Samuel Milledge, 228th Criminal District Court
Judge Chris Morton, 230th Criminal District Court
Judge Tristan Longino, 245th Family District Court
Angela Lancelin, 245th Family District Court
Judge Hilary Unger, 248th Criminal District Court
Judge Amy Martin, 263rd Criminal District Court
Dianne Curvey, 280th Family District Court
Judge Barbara Stalder, 280th Family District Court
Judge Chip Wells, 312th Family District Court
Teresa Waldrop, 312th Family District Court
Paul Calzada, 312th Family District Court
Judge Natalia Oakes, 313th Family District Court
Glenda Duru, 313th Family District Court
Judge Leah Shapiro, 313th Family District Court
Ieshia Champs, 315th Family District Court
Alycia Harvey, 482nd Criminal District Court
Veronica Monique Nelson, 482nd Criminal District Court

David Patronella, County Civil Court At Law #4
Manpreet Monica Singh, County Civil Court At Law #4
Treasea Treviño, County Civil Court At Law #4
Porscha Natasha Brown, County Criminal Court At Law #3
Judge Kelley Andrews, County Criminal Court At Law #6
Judge Andrew Wright, County Criminal Court At Law #7
Erika Ramirez, County Criminal Court At Law #8
Judge David Singer, County Criminal Court At Law #14
Judge Michael Newman, County Probate Court #2

Chris Watson, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1 Place 2
Steve Duble, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1 Place 2
Ron Campana, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1 Place 2
Blair McClure, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2 Place 2
Dolores Lozano, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2 Place 2
Judge Lucia Bates, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2
Herbert Alexander Sanchez, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2
Ashleigh Roberson, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2

UPDATE: Naturally, I woke up this morning to see another set of Q&A responses in my inbox. They will run tomorrow.

Judicial Q&A: Treasea Treviño

(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.

Treasea Treviño

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

My name is Treasea Treviño and I am running to be the Democratic Candidate for Judge of the Harris County Civil Court at Law No. 4.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The Harris County Courts at Law have jurisdiction in appeals of civil cases from justice courts in Harris County including evictions. These courts have jurisdiction over statutory eminent domain proceedings, any civil matter where the amount of controversy is less than $250,000. It decides matters regarding title to real or personal property, enforcement of liens on real property, and have exclusive jurisdiction over inverse condemnation suits.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

As you know, the pandemic has affected the underprivileged the most, with many working families struggling to stay afloat, keep a roof over their heads, and food on the table. I decided to run for this bench specifically to help such working families. One of the most important tasks of the Civil Courts at Law is to hear eviction appeals and I want to ensure that everyone who is facing eviction will be treated fairly and have the opportunity to be heard regardless of their socioeconomic status.

This race is also important for demographic reasons. If I am elected, I will be the only Latina Civil Court at Law judge, with over 43% of Harris County’s population being Latino, it is important for Latinos to have representation at every level of the judiciary.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have been a practicing attorney for over 14 years and have tried over 700 cases during that time. I have spent six years as Assistant Attorney General and six years as assistant county attorney my time practicing law has been devoted to public service and defending the wellbeing of Harris County’s residents. I have vast experience dealing with multiple parties, I am bilingual and my experience as a trial lawyer will allow me to hit the ground running from day one.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because this court will be making important decisions regarding eviction appeals and because it is a bench that needs a judge committed to service, a judge who is efficient, follows the law, is fair and will utilize her discretion for the benefit of the residents of Harris County.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I know that my professional experience coupled with my life experience, make me the most qualified candidate for this open bench. I am the one who has the most trial experience, in the past 14 years I have been at the courthouse almost every day trying cases, involving complex issues and multiple parties. Also, because I am hard worker, determined, and I have good judicial temperament which would allow me to be a good judge.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Amy Martin

(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.

Judge Amy Martin

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

I am Judge Amy Martin and I preside over the 263rd Criminal District Court of Harris County.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

I hear state felony-level criminal cases.

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

One of my most significant accomplishments has been to reduce the relative size of the docket since I was elected. When I took the bench, the 263rd had the highest case load among the 22 District Courts. Now, it is one of the 10 smallest dockets among the 23 District Courts (an additional court was added last year).

Improvement in my court’s efficiency was accomplished despite initially only having access to a criminal courthouse every other week, then having to share courtroom with 2 other judges, and ultimately having exclusive use of a courtroom, but without a jury room.

I have increased the number of successfully completed probations and deferred adjudications by 20% through the thoughtful use of tailored probation conditions that are meant to help an individual to improve their life and end their involvement with the criminal justice system. I have utilized specialty courts such as the STAR Court, Veteran’s Court, and Mental Health Court to address the specific needs of individuals that have found themselves in the legal system because of particular issues.

In my court, a defendant’s appearance is waived in most circumstances to minimize the unnecessary negative impact on a defendant who may have to take time off of work, obtain childcare, and find transportation downtown. I have changed the practice in my court to resetting cases for at least 60 days (often longer) between settings. Traditionally, the time between settings has been 30 days. At the same time, I require the attorneys on both sides to meet and make substantive progress on resolving the case.

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

I hope to continue to make my court the model in Harris County for adjudicating criminal cases with efficiency, fairness, and compassion. When public health circumstances and courtroom space allow, I would like to implement a more structured case management plan to reduce the number of unnecessary court appearances and have a uniform schedule for which particular tasks need to be completed by the attorneys in each case. I hope to continue to increase the use of diversion programs, explore creative options for effective dispositions of cases, and to assist defendants on bond to find programs to participate in so they can be productive while their case is pending.

5. Why is this race important?

Everyone in our community is affected by what happens in my court. The 263rd Criminal District Court handles the most serious criminal cases in Texas, including capital murder. There is no other setting in which Constitutional principles are more important. Crime rates across the country continue to rise amid a global pandemic. In Harris County we are still working on fixing the criminal courthouse from Hurricane Harvey and we have woefully too few district courts for our population explosion over the last three decades.

Even during this time of unprecedented challenges, under my supervision, the 263rd has become a more efficient, accessible, and considerate court. This race is important because Harris County voters have the opportunity to allow me to continue to improve our criminal justice system. I’m committed to using my 3 years of hard-earned experience to continue to innovate the court and protect the community.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

Experience matters. I have more experience both as a lawyer and as a judge than any of my opponents, Democratic or Republican. I have earned endorsements, previously and during this primary cycle, from diverse organizations across the political spectrum.

Organizations have endorsed me repeatedly because I have not only improved the productivity metrics of the 263rd , but the courtroom culture as well. Anyone who visits my courtroom can see that I treat all parties with respect and that my number one priority is the fair treatment of everyone who appears before me.

As a member of the Criminal District Court Judges’ Fair Defense Act Management System (FDAMS) committee I have worked to ensure that the Harris County felony attorney appointment process is compliant with Texas law and local policy, and that there are well-established qualification requirements for attorneys who take felony court appointments.

I am on the committee responsible for the hiring and termination of the Harris County Magistrates as well the Associate Judges Hiring Committee, the group that is responsible for creating the standards, application process, and supervisory plan for the newly created positions of Associate Judge. I choose to be on committees such as these to participate in improving the Harris County criminal justice system as a whole, not just my court.

It has been an honor to serve Harris County as a District Court Judge and I hope the voters will give me the opportunity to continue to improve the 263rd District Court, the local administration of justice, and our community. My record shows that I am dedicated to public service and I will continue work hard if given the privilege of being re-elected.

On naming a replacement for Judge Briones

I have three things to say about this.

Lesley Briones

Three years ago, Bill McLeod lost his spot on the civil county court-at-law bench in Harris County due to a paperwork snafu.

McLeod, a Democrat, had been presiding over Harris County Court at Law No. 4 in 2019 when he filed paperwork indicating he was seeking the office of chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court. His filing triggered an obscure — but reasonable — provision of the Texas Constitution which considers such an announcement by anyone holding a county judicial bench an automatic resignation. He was required to step down as soon as a new judge was named.

Despite McLeod’s protests, Harris County Commissioners Court swiftly moved to replace him. At the time, County Judge Lina Hidalgo reasoned that keeping McLeod as a holdover judge would invite conflicts of interest that could require him to recuse himself from some cases. A week later, Hidalgo and the two other Democrats on the commissioners court — Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia — voted to appoint Houston lawyer Lesley Briones to replace him.

“Judge, this is something we did not create; we wish we weren’t in this situation,” Hidalgo told McLeod during that meeting. “Voters deserve a judge who can be absolutely independent as he was elected to be.”

Briones’ speedy appointment rankled the two Republican county commissioners, who voted against her, calling the vetting process unfair and opaque. It appeared as if the Democrats were ramming through their preferred candidate, the kind of behind-the-scenes scheming that Democrats used to accuse Republicans of when they were in charge.

Now in a twist of fate, or hypocrisy, another potential conflict has emerged, this time involving Briones.

Like McLeod, Briones is running for office. She’s a candidate in the March 1 primary aiming to take on GOP Commissioner Jack Cagle in the November general election. Her November campaign announcement also triggered an automatic resignation from the bench — but unlike with McLeod, the Democrats who run the commissioners court are in no hurry to replace her. She’s kept her bench even as she campaigns.

The commissioners’ rationale for letting her stay in her seat defies logic. Let’s roll the tape.

[…]

Commissioners Court has convened seven times since Briones technically resigned. These meetings are typically all-day, marathon sessions that include scores, or even hundreds, of agenda items. Naming a replacement for Briones has been conspicuously absent from their to-do list. In effect, the commissioners’ indecision on Briones’ replacement leaves her collecting a county salary to run for political office.

While we commend Briones for doing her part by recusing herself from certain cases, this predicament reeks of hypocrisy. The Democratic majority’s excuses for the delay don’t pass the smell test.

Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman for Hidalgo, said in a statement that the county judge “is not leading the search for a replacement judge given that Judge Briones is deftly and efficiently carrying out her full workload of cases, while avoiding conflicts of interest,” adding that she “remains open to recommendations by her colleagues on a person to fill the position.” Both Ellis and Garcia noted in statements that it’s been a challenge finding someone who is not only qualified but also willing to take on what would be a temporary job, since voters will elect a new judge for Briones’ seat in November.

Really? When Judge Erica Hughes of Criminal Court at Law No. 3 was appointed to a federal immigration bench in December, county commissioners had no trouble finding not one, but two qualified candidates to fill her seat in a short amount of time. They appointed Hughes’ replacement, Porscha Brown, at the next possible meeting on Dec. 14. When Brown declined the appointment, commissioners named Ashley Mayes Guice to the bench at the very next meeting on Jan. 4.

1. I don’t understand the reason for the delay, either. It’s not a good look for Judge Hidalgo or Commissioners Ellis and Garcia. At the very least, give a better explanation for the delay. And in addition to the issue of Judge Briones having to recuse herself for matters involving the county, there are surely lawyers appearing before her now who may be supporting one of her opponents for the Commissioners Court nomination. That can’t be a comfortable experience.

2. That said, I kind of suspect that their ultimate preference would be to name the winner of the primary for this seat to the bench, as that would minimize turnover in the event that candidate wins in November. The main problem with that is that it’s a three-way primary, meaning that a runoff is likely, and thus we wouldn’t get someone named until late May. Briones herself may still be campaigning for the nomination to Commissioners Court through that time, as she too is in a multi-candidate race, or she may have been knocked out of the race. None of this is a desirable outcome.

3. Greg Abbott, of course, appoints judges all the time in a fashion that takes advantage of the election calendar. His appointees are expected to be the nominee for the next election, though they sometimes draw primary opponents. That’s been a thing for a long time, going back well before Abbott. This doesn’t excuse or justify what the Commissioners are doing here, but it is another reminder of my point that a judicial appointment system is no less inherently political than a system of electing judges. You can’t take the politics out of a political process.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Jason Luong

(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.

Judge Jason Luong

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

My name is Jason Luong, and I am the incumbent Democratic Judge of the 185th Criminal District Court in Harris County, a felony district court. I have over 21 years of legal experience as a prosecutor, a criminal defense attorney and a judge. My wife is a Marine Corps veteran and former intelligence analyst. My oldest daughter attends St. Martha Catholic School and formerly trained with the Houston Ballet. I also have a 2-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. My son is destined to be fighter pilot and astronaut. I am fairly certain that my youngest daughter will one day be elected as the Harris County District Attorney. I come from a family of public servants. My father worked for the City of Houston for over 20 years. My mother worked for the Houston Police Department for over 20 years. I am also the Presiding Judge of Harris County’s Felony Veterans Treatment Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 185th Criminal District Court handles felony criminal charges, where the range of punishment can range from 6 months in the state jail all the way to life in prison or the death penalty. Drug charges, assaults involving a deadly weapon or serious bodily injuries, third time DWI’s, homicide, sex assault cases and crimes against children are just a few examples of the felony offenses that this court hears.

Felony Veterans Treatment Court is a specialty court that handles cases involving veterans who suffer from service-connected PTSD, traumatic brain injury or addiction and have serious felony charges that relate to service-connected disability. The mission of this court is to increase access to mental health and addiction treatment for those veterans with felony offenses. This court seeks to divert veterans from prison to into VA treatment, reducing jail time, costs, and criminal recidivism, while improving mental health recovery and successful re-entry into the community.  

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

When I first took the bench, I (and the other judge) faced unprecedented challenges from not having a permanent courtroom because of the damage to the criminal courthouse due to Hurricane Harvey to a pandemic that shut down jury trials and limited court proceedings for several months. I successfully navigated the 185th through these challenges while still having jury trials and expanding public access to our courts. As we head out of the pandemic, our court’s clearance rate has increased dramatically month over month and has been well over 100% for the past several months, and sometimes as high as 115%.

One of my proudest accomplishments as a new judge and as the new Chair of the Harris County Criminal District Court’s Bail Bond Committee is that I have overhauled the way that bond violations are handled by the district court. Previously, notices of bond violations went only to the judge, which gave the judge inordinate power and judges often revoked defendant’s bonds without a hearing. Now notices of bond violations are sent to the prosecutors as well as defense attorneys, making the process more transparent and fairer. It also gives the court the tools to more immediately and effectively address bond violations, keeping our communities safer while still ensuring that bonds are fair to indigent and low-income defendants.

I am also very proud of my work as the Veterans Treatment Court judge. I am only the third judge to ever preside over this court. This program literally saves veterans lives. Veterans in our program are often suicidal, self-medicating, and/or a danger to themselves and their families. Veterans Treatment Court is a collaborative effort involving a team of over a dozen professionals including VA psychiatrists to develop an individualized treatment plan to help that veteran get the mental health or addiction treatment he or she needs. Though these services are provided through our criminal court proceeding and often results in the veteran avoiding a felony conviction, the main goal is to allow the veteran to re-connect with the community and his or her families and loved ones.

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

I hope to build on the reforms that we started in 2019, especially in terms of how our criminal district courts operate. COVID taught us that there are much more efficient was to run our courts than requiring persons miss work and come to court once a month. We have expanded court proceedings to allow people to attend court by zoom or to have their appearance waived for non-essential court settings. I also hope that my court and all criminal courts have expanded access to mental health services for all defendants, including when they are on bond. The Harris County criminal court is the single largest provider of mental health services in the state. Many of these individuals do not get consistent and reliable mental health services. I would like to work on expanding the availability of mental health services to all persons charged with a felony offense, including having services when they are on bond.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because our criminal courts are important. Harris County is one of the most important criminal jurisdictions in the country. The 185th District Court handles the most serious criminal offenses, including crimes against children, serious drug cases, and murder.

This race is a chance for the citizens of Harris County to elect a judge who has the experience and temperament necessary for this high office. Furthermore, it is a chance to ensure that our criminal courts reflect the diversity of Harris County. I am the first and only Asian American elected as a criminal district court judge in the history of Harris County. Diversity matters for our courts. People will always be distrustful of law enforcement and the criminal justice system if they do not see any diversity in the positions of power. If Harris County wants to be a 21st century county, its courts need to reflect the strength and diversity of its communities.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

The people of Harris County should vote for me because I am the most qualified candidate in this race. I have over 21 years of legal experience—three times as much experience as any of my opponents. I am the only candidate in this race who has experience prosecutor, criminal defense attorney, and a judge. Also, I have shown through my time of the bench that I have the work ethic, character and judicial temperament make me the best candidate for this court. Finally, because of my good work and qualifications, I have received the endorsement of almost every organization endorsing candidates in this race from the Houston Chronicle to the Houston Black American Democrats to the Houston Association of Women Attorneys to the Mexican American Bar Association of Houston. Simply put, though my opponents are each accomplished young trial attorneys with some good ideas, I am by far the most qualified candidate for this court.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Leah Shapiro

(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.

Judge Leah Shapiro

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

Judge Leah Shapiro presiding over the 315th District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 315th District Court is one of the only three district courts in all of Harris County handling juvenile delinquency and dependency matters. With dependency matters, the 315th District Court hears cases when there are allegations of abuse and neglect of a child. The 315th District Court also handles delinquency matters, when a child is accused of committing a criminal offense between the ages of 10 and 17. The 315th also presides over marriages and adoptions for all families, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The 315th District Court presides over two specialty courts in Harris County, Court 360 (the juvenile mental health court), and the C.A.R.E. Court (the juvenile sex trafficking court)—of which I was a founding member in 2011. C.A.R.E. (Creating Acceptance Recovery Empowerment Court) Court serves youth identified as being actively engaged in or at risk of becoming involved in commercial sexual exploitation/sex trafficking by offering specialized supervision and therapeutic services. C.A.R.E. Court works to address the underlying trauma associated with each youth’s at-risk behaviors. Court 360 focuses on helping youth with a diagnoses and their families in identifying and addressing youths’ underlying mental health concerns associated with their at-risk behaviors.

The 315th District Court has a Dual Status Docket dedicated to meet the specific needs for youth who are in the custody of the State of Texas (CPS) and involved in the juvenile justice system (additional information below).

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

I am relentless in my pursuit of equity and fairness in the courtroom, a course I intend to stay if re-elected, often working against the inertia of the system. For example, shortly after taking office I immediately moved against entrenched systems and ended indiscriminate shackling of youth in the courtroom, the decades-old practice in our county in which detained youth, no matter their age or charge, appear in court in “all-fours”—with hands in cuffs, feet shackled together, both connected by a chain between. Everyone should appear before the court with the same dignity and respect, and that’s why I ended the practice for detained youth in 315th District Court.

The 315th District Court piloted and now maintains the only Dual Status Docket in Harris County—a docket designed to meet the specific needs for youth who are in the custody of the State of Texas (CPS) and involved in the juvenile justice system. Dually involved youth are some of our most vulnerable youth, with increased likelihood of recidivism and homelessness. We dedicate a docket to their needs, hear from them directly with both teams present to ensure maximum collaboration, and guarantee that youth voices are heard and that we hold agencies accountable. This specialized Dual Status Docket eliminates duplicate services, provides individual hearings with all stakeholders, and increases overall system accountability.

Since taking the bench three years ago, the court has reduced the active case docket by half when it comes to dependency matters, with allegations of abuse and neglect of children.  This means that not only are we efficiently handling the new cases assigned to the court, but we are also addressing the backlog inherited in 2019.  As such, families are getting resolutions in a timely manner and children are more quickly connecting with their forever families.

I have used my experience to reduce pre-adjudication detentions and disposed of the most felony delinquency cases with the lowest percentage dispositions to Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD). That means we are keeping kids in their homes and closer to home and integrating their families in their rehabilitation. We accomplished this during a pandemic, with appropriate safety measures, because of my dedication and diligence to keeping the 315th District Court open and accessible to continue to serve the residents of Harris County.

I also understand the court system’s duty to taxpayers, which is why I responsibly stewarded Harris County tax dollars by leading all Juvenile District Courts in appointments to the Public Defender’s Office.

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

I have been working on establishing a court in the community. Through practices learned during COVID, the courts have an opportunity to eliminate the traditional party appearances and allow greater access to justice. The court is exploring, with partners in the Fifth Ward and the Center for Urban Transformation, Harris County District Clerk, Constable Pct. 1, District Attorney’s Office, Harris County Juvenile Probation Department, Harris County Public Defender’s Office, and other stakeholders the possibility of holding court in the evening with the remote appearances from a JP courts or location within the neighborhood. This would eliminate the cost of transportation, parking, and reduce time families spend attending court. In addition, remote appearances can reduce the negative impact system involvement has on a youth’s education. The child will no longer miss a day of school due to a court setting.

5. Why is this race important?

A better justice system creates safer and stronger communities. The decisions made in the court directly impact the individuals involved, families, and our community. We have made amazing improvements in court efficiency, access to justice and the treatment of individuals who are system involved. There is work to be done. Children and families deserve a judge who has experience in the law and understands systems to continue to make positive changes for those the court serves.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

With 10+ years in juvenile justice and 15+ years of public service to the justice system in Harris County—as a judge, public defender, and prosecutor—I have the experience, knowledge, and legal understanding to continue to advance both delinquency and dependency issues, to positively impact system practices, and to change the approach of how we address the needs of children and families who are system-involved in Harris County. I am the only candidate in this race with jury trial experience and to have handled both dependency and delinquency cases. It is my honor and privilege to serve in the role as Judge of the 315th , a role to which I was elected in 2018. Since then, I implemented innovative change that addresses the needs of children in the justice and child welfare systems, and applied a more community-centered approach. There is much more work to do to accomplish truly systemic change-which is why I am seeking re-election for the 315th District Court.

Judicial Q&A: Ron Campana

(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.

Ron Campana

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

My name is Ron Campana, and I am running for Justice of the Peace Precinct 1, Place 2. I raised my family in Precinct 1, and I have lived in the precinct for more than 30 years. I am the graduate of a public high school in the Houston Independent School District, and I graduated from Houston Baptist University in 1981. I earned a law degree from Houston’s South Texas College of Law in 1984. I have practiced law in Houston for more than 37 years, serving Texans in the areas of real estate law, business law, construction law, and government law. I have been involved with utility districts and the buildout of critical infrastructure to provide clean water and I have served as director and president of a local municipal utility district. I am also committed to efforts to find a solution to homelessness, having served as director of a nonprofit Houston area homeless shelter. I am grateful to be listed on the 2022 Democratic Primary election ballot as a Candidate for Justice of the Peace Precinct 1, Place 2. You may find my website at www.roncampana.com.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The Justice of the Peace generally serves as judge of the small claims court involving amounts in controversy of $20,000 or less, evictions, and class c misdemeanors. It also presides over statutory hearings involving occupational driver’s licenses, truancy hearings, and mental health determinations.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

This Court has been impacted significantly by the pandemic. There has been a moratorium on eviction proceedings and an interruption in jury matters. The court needs an experienced person, and I believe this is a place where I can make a difference. I am the most experienced candidate, with a track record of more than 37 years in the practice of law and in the courts. On a personal level, I have worked as a volunteer in the community, and my work in the area of property owner’s associations and evictions on a pro bono basis is a reflection of my commitment to the ideal of public service. My mother’s background as a social worker instilled in me at a young age a sense of empathy, an interest in helping to engage with and ensure the wellbeing of others, and an interest in the various and complex social issues confronted by the members of our community. This particular bench will provide the opportunity for me as an experienced lawyer, with the necessary knowledge for this position, to ensure that the business of the people will be taken care of with justice, fairness, and equality for all who come before the court.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have been a resident of Precinct 1 for more than three decades, and I know it well. I have served the community as the director of a nonprofit shelter helping persons in need, and as a result, I have gained firsthand knowledge of the effects of homelessness. I have also held elective office. I was elected as Director and President of a Municipal Utility District in the Houston area providing clean water to the community. This position required me to oversee a public budget involving taxpayer dollars. I have been a practicing attorney for more than 37 years and have substantial experience in the Justice of the Peace Courts. I have the knowledge and experience to serve the community effectively.

5. Why is this race important?

This court is the most likely law court to be encountered by our citizens. It thereby has the greatest duty to perform at the highest standards of both the law and morality. Nowhere are the basic tenets of democracy more challenged than in the Justice Courts. Electing someone who is unprepared for or unschooled in these challenges, or indifferent to them, will result in a basic failure to deliver the promise of justice. I am prepared for the rigors of this position, educated in the issues, and committed to excellence on behalf of the people.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I am the most experienced person on the ballot. The last few years have been difficult and stressful for all members of our community. This court has been particularly affected. Precinct 1 and the community deserve the most experienced and knowledgeable person to serve as their Justice of the Peace. I am committed to making sure the business of the court proceeds in a timely and efficient manner. I ask the residents of Precinct 1 to vote for and support me.

Judicial Q&A: Cheri 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.

Cheri Thomas

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

My name is Cheri Thomas. I am running to be the Democratic candidate for Justice of the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, Place 2. I am a 17-year lawyer with significant appellate and litigation experience. My husband, Lewis Thomas, is a criminal defense attorney. Together, we have three amazing daughters and one fuzzy Samoyed.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The Fourteenth Court of Appeals is an intermediate appellate court composed of nine justices who hear appeals and original proceedings. The Fourteenth Court has jurisdiction over both civil and criminal appeals from lower courts in ten counties: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Grimes, Harris, Waller, and Washington.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for this particular bench because I can make a positive impact in the position. I am committed to doing my part to make Texas a place our children are proud to call home, one that values equality, dignity, and compassion. I know what it takes to handle an appeal with fairness, respect, accuracy, and efficiency. I also love the work of the appellate court. I enjoy the study and analysis that goes into working on an appeal, and I am good at the work of the court. My career has focused on legal research and writing; this makes me particularly well-suited to become a Justice on the Fourteenth Court of Appeals as the court’s work is primarily research and writing.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have extensive civil appellate and trial experience. I practiced civil litigation at Baker Botts, LLP, working on a wide variety of civil trial matters, including contract, employment, securities, toxic tort, and personal injury matters in state and federal courts. I then joined Stuart PC, where I represented clients in civil litigation and appellate matters, in state and federal courts all over the country. In 2016, I became a Partner at Stuart PC. I have managed civil cases at all stages of litigation and appeal.

I also have experience working on criminal appeals. I worked as a staff attorney for the Fourteenth Court of Appeals—the same court for which I am now running, and in this role I worked on numerous criminal appeals in addition to civil appeals, reviewing the record, conducting legal research, and drafting recommendations on various legal matters for the court’s consideration. In 2019, when I initially decided to run for a position on the court, I left my attorney position on the court and joined my husband’s law firm so that I would have flexibility while campaigning. My practice now focuses on federal and state criminal appeals.

I also clerked for a federal judge. After graduating with honors from the University of Texas School of Law, I secured a federal clerkship working with the Honorable Jorge Solis of the
United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, where I had the opportunity to work on numerous civil cases involving various subject matters.

5. Why is this race important?

The Fourteenth Court hears a wide variety of cases: criminal matters as well as family, probate, business, and other civil matters. The decisions this court makes may impact your livelihood, your home, your family, and your liberty. Except for death-penalty cases, all cases appealed from district and county courts in ten counties are considered by the First or Fourteenth Courts of Appeals. Intermediate appellate courts like the Fourteenth Court are often the last courts to review these appeals. The Fourteenth Court reviews practically every appeal that comes before it whereas Texas’s highest appellate courts, the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals, consider a limited number of appeals. This is important because it means the Fourteenth Court is often the last court to consider a case, and thus, the last opportunity for justice.

6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?

Texans are entitled to qualified, fair, and impartial justices. If elected, I will serve honorably. I will work hard, make well-reasoned decisions, and I will treat everyone with fairness and respect.

My education and experience have given me the skills I will need to be an excellent Justice: good judgment and the ability to perform rigorous, meticulous legal analysis. Despite being the first member of my family to graduate from college and attend law school, I graduated with honors from a top-ranked law school. I worked as an associate at a leading international law firm and made partner at boutique law firm. In addition, as a former staff attorney, I have a thorough understanding of the responsibilities of a justice, and I will be able to get to work on my very first day on the job. I was named a “Rising Star” by the Texas Super Lawyers magazine five times, and in 2019, I was elected as a Fellow to the Texas Bar Foundation.

In addition, I understand that the court affects real people and real families. I am one of eleven children in a blended family. We have had our own unique set of struggles, and we have experienced struggles that most everyone has experienced: divorce, cancer, death. Voters can count on me to care.

Judicial Q&A: Kim McTorry

(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.

Kim McTorry

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

I’m Kim McTorry and I am a Judicial Candidate for the 208th Criminal District Court. I am a Houston trial attorney dedicated to fighting for the rights of others. I am the managing attorney at McTorry Law, PLLC where I lend a majority of my practice to representing the underprivileged and the disenfranchised. As a criminal defense attorney, I am tasked with protecting the Constitutional rights of the accused. I formerly served as a prosecutor at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. I accepted this position because I recognized the need for diversity within the criminal justice system. If elected, I am hopeful about making a positive change towards fair treatment of both victims and the accused. I have handled thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases. Outside of the courtroom I enjoy spending time with my husband and 3 children. We are proud baseball and dance parents.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 208th Criminal District court hears felony cases.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for the 208th , because I recognize that courtroom inefficiency and the inability to view cases from the lens of both sides hurts us all. I would bring a fair and balanced perspective to the 208th while ensuring that both victims of crimes as well as those accused of crimes are given equal priority within the bounds of the law.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

My entire career has been spent practicing criminal law in Harris County courts: first as a prosecutor and currently as a criminal defense attorney. Having practiced on both sides, I have gained a wider perspective of the problems that exists and the possible solutions that need to take place to change them. Practically speaking I have handled thousands of criminal cases ranging from low-level misdemeanors to first degree felonies. I have conducted numerous jury trials, pre-trial hearings, pre-sentencing hearings, and other court proceedings.

5. Why is this race important?

Fairness and efficiency on the bench ensure that our community is safe and that our constitutional rights are safe guarded. This race is especially important, because having the right judge on the bench greatly impacts the functionality of our criminal justice system works. We have a lot of work today to fix some of the flaws within our system, and we need someone on the bench that is ready and eager to put in the work. That ‘someone’ is me.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

Having practiced on both sides of the bench, I would bring a fair and balanced perspective to the bench. Both my professional experience as well as my personal experiences make me the best suited for this position. I am a first-generation college student that worked 2 jobs to pay my way through college. I come from extreme poverty and was even homeless for a brief period as a child. I’ve dedicated my life to being a voice for the voiceless because I know what it’s like not to have one. I have handled thousands of felony cases, run my own practice, and am a wife and mother of 3 children. I’m no stranger to hard work. I am eager and prepared to work to clear the current backlog of cases in a fair but efficient manner.

My experiences both professionally and personally have afforded me a relentless work ethic, compassion, and the ability to think outside the box. I look forward to putting these qualities into action by creating a more efficient case management system and working to find long lasting solutions for the people of Harris County that will address recidivism and public safety.

Endorsement watch: Jaworski and more

The Chron finishes off the statewide races by endorsing Joe Jaworski in the primary for Attorney General.

Joe Jaworski

No question, Joe Jaworski would be a compelling candidate for Texas attorney general even if he weren’t the grandson of Texas legendary lawyer Leon Jaworski, best known for being Richard Nixon’s handpicked Watergate prosecutor who ended up arguing successfully for the release of damning tapes that outed Nixon’s involvement in the scandal and led to his resignation as president.

But it sure is poetic to have the grandson of a man famed for his conscience, for being the “chief defender of the nation’s scruples,” as Texas Monthly put it in 1977, running against Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican infamous for his lack of scruples, perpetual scandals and never-ending indictments.

“That’s not enough to vote for me,” Jaworski, 59, a mediator, former Galveston mayor and three-term city councilman, said about his grandfather’s legacy. “But it’s a damn good reason to consider me, because his integrity is in my DNA.”

And consider him we did, along with the rest of the impressive candidates on the Democratic slate, which includes Harris County criminal court-at-law judge Mike Fields, Brownsville attorney Rochelle Garza and Lee Merritt, a nationally known civil rights lawyer.

All of them say they can beat Attorney General Ken Paxton and restore integrity to an office that hasn’t seen it in seven years. They share many priorities, including protecting voting rights and women’s right to choose. Several vowed to use the office both legally and as a bully pulpit to advocate for legislative reforms including expansion of Medicaid.

[…]

Jaworski says he’d waste no time turning “Paxton’s voter fraud” division into “Jaworski’s voter access division,” because, as he told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, “you ought to be able to call the government when your voting rights are being impeded or damaged.” He’d also take small but important steps to champion the voting franchise, including sending letters to all Texas high schools reminding them of the Texas law that requires access for eligible seniors to register to vote.

He’d create a civil rights division at an agency that shamefully lacks one. On border security, rather than targeting individual immigrants and families, he’d go after the cartels that operate exploitative human smuggling operations, in part by funding special assistant U.S. attorneys across the border — a tactic he says was last used by then-AG John Cornyn.

Jaworski also plans to advocate for legalization of cannabis for recreational use in Texas, a priority that might seem minor, all things considered, but that carries weightier significance: Removing “wasteful, petty prosecution from the books,” he says, would “usher in long-overdue social and criminal justice reform.” We agree.

I’ve known Jaworski for a few years, going back to his time as Galveston Mayor and his 2008 run for State Senate. He’s terrific, and it’s not possible to overstate how much better he’d be in the job than the piece of crap felon who’s there now. The other candidates merit consideration as well, with Rochelle Garza being the standout among them. It’s a legitimately tough choice.

They go on to endorse in four more judicial races, and if their intent was only to do the criminal courts, then I believe they’re done. We’ll see about tomorrow. Three of these races were challenges to incumbents, the other is for the new 482nd bench. In order:

Judge Chris Morton in the 230th.

Morton, 49, was elected in 2018 and has presided over high-profile cases in his first term. When the man accused of murdering Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal appeared before him in October 2019, he ordered him held without bond. Last August, he issued an order shielding Texas House Democrats — very briefly, it turned out — from civil arrest by the House sergeant at arms, following the lawmakers’ quorum-busing walkout. And when prosecutors charged a Cy-Fair ISD mother for child endangerment, after she was seen letting her 13-year-old out of her locked trunk at school, he resisted the easy call and told prosecutors they hadn’t made their case.

Agree with them or not, those rulings suggest to us an independence that suits a judge well. And while [challenger Joseph] Sanchez is right to urge more focus on reducing the backlog in Morton’s court, the count there is below the average number in Harris County courts. We recommend Morton in the primary.

My Q&A with Judge Morton is here. I did not get responses from challenger Sanchez.

Judge Hilary Unger in the 248th.

Harris County criminal district court judges are increasingly under scrutiny for bond decisions in cases where the defendant, once out of custody, commits a new crime, including murder. Judge Hilary Unger of the 248th District Court is one of them, given a string of incidents where defendants in her court bonded out and went on to commit serious crimes.

Some would argue that such cases make Unger, 59, unworthy of re-election. We disagree. She is the best choice for Democrats in the March 1 primary for two reasons: Her overall record on the bench is a strong one, and because we do not believe her challenger would do better.

Unger supports the bail reform movement, and insists that nearly every defendant deserves a hearing to consider his or her terms for pre-trial release. But her court has the 10th-highest (out of 23 courts) pre-trial detention number, which suggests she weighs those decisions carefully. She would have fewer defendants in detention if she indiscriminately gave personal recognizance or low bonds. She’s also improving her clearance rate, which in the past three months has been 101 percent.

My Q&A with Judge Unger is here. Her opponent is Linda Mazzagatti, who works in the district attorney’s general litigation office, and has not sent me Q&A responses.

Judge Amy Martin in the 263rd.

Judge Amy Martin has earned Democrats’ support in the March 1 primary after one term on the bench in this criminal district court. Martin, 45, was a defense attorney representing mostly impoverished clients, and with experience in death penalty cases, before she was elected in 2018. We endorsed her then, believing that background would serve her well on the bench.

It turned out to be a solid bet. She’s accessible, big on pre-trial diversion programs for people with mental health or substance abuse cases and has ideas for how to expand those efforts to include people on bond.

Despite those progressive ideas, Martin also has sounded warnings that the “spirit of bail reform” that was behind mostly ending cash bail for misdemeanors has bled over into the way felony judges approach bail. In our conversation with her about her approach to setting bonds, we found her thoughtful, balanced and, well, judicious.

I did not get Q&A responses from either Judge Martin or her opponent Melissa Morris, about whom the Chron also said nice things.

Veronica Nelson in the 482nd.

Democrats are choosing among three candidates with the winner set to face Republican Maritza Antu, the current judge in the 482nd who was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to preside over the new court and is unopposed in her party’s primary.

Of the three Democrats seeking the seat, we were impressed with two, Veronica Nelson and Alycia Harvey. We urge voters to choose Nelson, 40, a staff attorney for the county criminal and civil court judges.

She is a former Harris County prosecutor who, over 10 years, gained valuable trial experience as chief prosecutor in the misdemeanor and felony divisions.

As a staff attorney for the judges, she said she spends a lot of time “teaching judges how to be judges.”

She said prosecutors should more often ask for bond hearings, and that judges can be blamed unfairly. Bond is far higher for murder charges than it used to be, she says, and no matter how high judges set it in some cases, defendants are making bail.

My Q&A with Nelson is here and with Harvey is here. I did not get responses from the third candidate, Sherlene Cruz.

The full list of Chron endorsements is here. I’m hoping they will still do the Family court races, but I’m not expecting it. The Erik Manning spreadsheet tracks a gazillion endorsements, so maybe that will help some. Good luck sorting it all out.

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.

Judicial Q&A: Dolores Lozano

(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.

Dolores Lozano

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

My Name is Dolores Lozano, and I’m running to be your next Justice of the Peace in Precinct 2, Place 2.

Like so many Mexican-American families, I was born to working-class parents who entered the workforce straight out of high school. I’m the proud daughter of Precinct 6 Chief Deputy Lillian Lozano and 37-Year Local Union 551 Member Jose Lozano.

As the eldest of three girls, I grew up watching my parents exhaust whatever resources they had to make ends meet. And from an early age, my parents taught me the value of hard work and emphasized the importance of education.

I ended up attending a magnet elementary school in River Oaks—30 minutes west of my birth home near Reveille Park. I later attended KIPP: 3D Academy in Fifth Ward and received a full scholarship to Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart for high school. As a result, much of my early life was spent in transit between my family home and my daily student life. It was clear to me, even then, that your zip code should not determine your future.

I earned a scholarship to Baylor University in Waco, where I became a first-generation college graduate with a degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders.

Post-graduation, I spent a few years in speech pathology working with children in underserved communities. I later expanded my career in sports and entertainment, planning and coordinating large-scale events and community initiatives. My work included special projects for events like Super Bowl LI, NCAA Final Four tournaments, NBA All-Star games, TEDxHouston, and more.

Over the years, I have empowered thousands of students to become civically engaged. At KIPP Voyage Academy for Girls, I worked closely with staff to evaluate and enhance programming for their annual Young Ladies’ Leadership Conference. I convened groups of volunteers, designed workshops and panels, secured sponsorships for meals and goodies, and captured the event for two years following my first conference in 2016.

My passion for Quality Education and Gender Equality was instrumental in launching Impact Hub Houston, a locally rooted, globally connected nonprofit organization working to make Houston a role model for how the world solves its most pressing issues.

During my tenure at BakerRipley, a nationally-recognized community development organization, I played a vital role in the response and recovery of the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting local, state, and national task forces that determined where dollars would be allocated to best serve those in need.

As a small business owner, I currently enhance the image, brand, and impact of nonprofits and businesses across the country. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I have helped small business owners secure over $500,000 in relief funds. I consistently leverage my relationships to drive impact for others. And I have repeatedly shown understanding of the necessary give and take in relationships that allow for both parties to derive value.

Active in the Houston community, I serve as a member of the KIPP Texas Board of Directors and Garden Villas Civic Club Board. I am an Aspen Institute Ideas Scholar and have participated in fellowships with Management Leadership for Tomorrow, Latinos for Education, Colorwave, HTXelerator, and New Leaders Council.

In my spare time, I serve as a Child Advocate, Young Friend of AVDA (Aid to Victims of Domestic Violence), Houston Area Women’s Center Young Leader, and Junior League of Houston Head Active & Assistant Editor of the Houston News.

As a survivor, speech therapist, journalist, and every role in between, I have protected our most vulnerable and opened doors of opportunity with confidence and strength. I look forward to becoming the first Hispanic and first woman to be elected to the bench as the next Harris County Justice of the Peace in Precinct 2, Place 2.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The current Justice of the Peace system was imagined by King Edward III in the fourteenth century as rural populations began to grow – The position became necessary “to decentralize the administration of justice so as to bring justice to every man or woman in sparsely settled communit[ies].” The goal was to settle the disputes among neighbors and to prevent friction where possible.

In short, it was “to keep the peace.”

PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES:
● Class C Traffic Tickets
● Evictions
● Small Claims up to $20,000
● Truancy
● Bad Check Disputes
● Public Nuisances
● Writs
● Occupational Licensing

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for Harris County Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2, Place 2, because it’s time for a change. We deserve a courtroom that is Convenient, Compassionate, and Community Centered. The sitting Justice of the Peace in Precinct 2, Place 2, has been in the seat for over 35 years. In these years, our community has felt the impact of rising eviction rates, a lack of access to social services, and a continuous struggle to close the school to prison pipeline.

No student should feel silenced within the education system, because truancy intervention programs should be more intentional and focused.

No family should feel like eviction is inevitable, because the judge “just wouldn’t listen.”

No one should feel the burden of entering the courtroom without a translator, because everyone should be able to self-advocate in the language that feels most comfortable for them.

I am running to reinvest in my community and bring humanity back into the courtroom. Most notably, I am running to have working class people leave my courtroom better than when they left.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

With an extensive background in communications and community development, a lengthy history working with multiple stakeholders – especially elected officials and media – and a deep dedication to equity for all, I am prepared to serve as the next Harris County Justice of the Peace in Precinct 2, Place 2.

I have dedicated my entire life to public service with positions across the nonprofit and education sector. My expertise explores a fusion of problem-solving and innovative techniques that impact communities and create pathways to systemic change.

During my years in sports and entertainment, I developed strategic partnerships with schools, businesses, and nonprofits. My experience in public affairs and advocacy aided my appointment to serve on the launch team of Impact Hub Houston, a locally rooted, globally connected nonprofit organization working to make Houston a role model for how the world solves its most pressing issues.

Throughout my work in education, I saw challenges and created solutions to empower youth across the city of Houston. Most recently, I became one of the first alumni to guide decision making for students of color as a member of the KIPP Texas Board of Directors. I currently oversee the major transformation of our schools focused on the review and revision of policies, procedures, and systems.

My unconventional, strength-based approach has been instrumental in promoting civic engagement in Texas. Over the years, I have been asked by leaders in my region to participate and volunteer in an array of advisory boards and committees. With that, I played a vital role in the response and recovery of the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting local, state, and national task forces that determined where dollars would be allocated to best serve those in need.

I currently devote my time to organizations that affect change in quality education, holistic housing, gender equity, and disaster recovery.

Without question, I continue striving to make my community more equitable and resilient because I can relate to the lived experience of many. Some of the most memorable highlights in my career have changed the trajectory of my family and neighbors. From becoming a first-generation graduate to serving at the Houston Area Women’s Center and helping the community through disasters like Hurricane Harvey and the present-day pandemic, my efforts to become a better leader are relentless.

I am certain that, by incorporating my strength to build partnerships and drive impact for others, I can illustrate effective and consistent leadership as the next Harris County Justice of the Peace in Precinct 2, Place 2.

5. Why should people vote for you in March?

I believe I am the most qualified and experienced candidate for this position, and I will dedicate my term to modernizing our courtroom. If elected, I will serve Harris County by assuring a convenient, compassionate, and community centered courtroom. Early voting starts on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, so show some love and Vote For Dolores Lozano. Election day is March 1, 2022.

We don’t really need more prosecutors on the bench

Ugh.

Kim Ogg

On a winter afternoon nine months into the pandemic, Harris County district attorney Kim Ogg held a Zoom meeting with felony judges and prosecutors to discuss the backlog of cases caused by COVID-19 shutdowns at the downtown Houston courthouse. But the backlog wasn’t the only issue to come up that day. For years, the Democratic DA had been publicly criticizing local judges who set what she deemed insufficiently high bonds for defendants accused of violent crimes. Now her office would deliver a direct warning. First assistant district attorney David Mitcham, Ogg’s top lieutenant, informed the judges that there would be a “reckoning” if they didn’t start setting higher bonds.

“My reaction was like, ‘Wow, that was bold,’ ” said Joe Vinas, the president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, who was on the call representing the criminal defense bar. “One of the judges asked if Mitcham was threatening him.”

Many in Houston’s legal community have thought back to that moment, now that fourteen Harris County prosecutors and one DA investigator have filed to run for criminal court judgeships this year—eight in Democratic primaries, seven in Republican primaries. It’s not unusual for prosecutors to run for judgeships, but the high number in this election cycle has raised eyebrows. In 2020 not a single Harris County prosecutor ran in any of the nine local criminal court races; in 2018, which featured 31 races, just one prosecutor ran. But with Ogg linking a sharp rise in homicides to the bail practices of reform-minded judges elected in recent years, perhaps it’s no surprise that so many of her prosecutors are challenging the 29 Democratic incumbents up for reelection this year.

[…]

In 2019 Harris County agreed to a sweeping set of reforms, including the elimination of cash bail for the vast majority of misdemeanor defendants. Instead, defendants would be released before trial on so-called “personal bonds,” which require no up-front payment. The landmark settlement, the first of its kind in the U.S., was endorsed by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and every other major county-wide Democratic officeholder—with the exception of Ogg, who warned that letting defendants out on personal bonds would threaten the public by giving judges “unfettered and unreviewable discretion” to delay trials or excuse defendants from ever appearing in court.

In the wake of Harris County’s settlement, Travis County also eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanor offenses. Two recent academic studies have found that this reform has been effective. Fewer defendants are now incarcerated before trial and those released on personal bonds have proven unlikely to be rearrested. But that hasn’t stopped some politicians from arguing that more lenient bail policies are endangering public safety. And Republicans, who have not won a county-wide race in Harris County since 2014, hope to capitalize on the issue to regain some judgeships and other offices in 2022.

The concerns about bail reform have been exacerbated by local and national spikes in violent crime over the past two years. Between 2019 and 2020, murders jumped by nearly 30 percent across the country—the largest year-over-year increase in at least six decades—and homicides rose again in 2021 (although the FBI hasn’t released its final data). That trend has held true for Houston: there were an estimated 469 homicides in the city last year, an increase of 71 percent from 2019. That’s still well below the 701 killings in 1981, the city’s deadliest year, when the population was nearly one million less.

Violent crimes such as assault have also increased since 2019, both nationally and in Harris County, although nonviolent crime is down. While the national homicide rate remains below its historic peak in the early nineties, the rapid increase has received intense attention in local media, with crime stories frequently leading television news. Houston’s Fox 26 features a recurring segment called “Breaking Bond”—created in collaboration with nonprofit group Crime Stoppers of Houston—about felony defendants who are rearrested while out on bail. The series regularly features prominent local Republicans blasting Democratic judges for their bail practices.

Criminologists disagree on the reason for the rising crime, but most agree that pandemic-induced frustrations, the surge in gun sales during the coronavirus outbreak, and a general police pullback in reaction to protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd have something to do with it. There’s little evidence to connect bail reform with the surge in homicides, but one notorious case last September added fuel to the argument. After judge Greg Glass set bonds of $10,000 and $20,000 for two drug charges against thirty-year-old Deon Ledet, the Harris County man went free and allegedly killed one police officer and injured another. Prosecutors had asked Glass to hold Ledet without bond because he had twice been convicted of a felony. In March, Glass (who did not respond to an interview request) faces two primary challengers, one of them a Polk County assistant district attorney; if he prevails, he’ll face one of Ogg’s Republican prosecutors in the fall general election.

There’s a lot in here to annoy me, starting with the conflation of the reforms to misdemeanor bail reform and complaints about the amounts of bail being set by felony court judges. The simple fact of the matter is that if your system allows for any possibility of bail, sooner or later someone, whether out on ten dollars bail or ten million dollars bail, is going to commit a crime. You could have a system that’s right 99.9% of the time, but given the thousands of people that go through the courts each year, that means multiple times each year when that happens. Unless your solution is to lock everyone up from the time they’re arrested until the time their case is completed in whatever fashion, no matter what the charge or their circumstances or anything else, then you need to accept this basic fact of life.

(Such a solution would be blatantly unconstitutional, of course. So is simply charging everyone more for bail, since that makes bail only accessible to the wealthy, and punishes others for being poor. Which is what the misdemeanor bail lawsuit was all about. That does introduce some risk as noted, but we’re trying to balance it against the enormous wrong of locking up people who have not been convicted of any crime. Sometimes these things don’t have simple answers.)

Look, you can read the various judicial Q&A responses I’ve published from incumbents and candidates. I’ll have run over 40 of them by the time all is said and done. I’ve no doubt some of these assistant DAs would be fine judges. But this isn’t a good look, and I’m not at all inclined to view their time in that office as a positive because of it. And speaking as someone who has voted for Kim Ogg in each of the past two primaries, I’ll be looking very carefully at my other options in 2024.

Judicial Q&A: Veronica Monique Nelson

(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.

Veronica Monique Nelson

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

My name is Veronica Monique Nelson and I am running to be the first elected Judge of the 482nd Criminal District Court in Harris County, Texas

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 482nd Criminal District Court hears felony offenses ranging from State Jail to 1st Degree offenses within Harris County, Texas. The Court handles all pre-trial and trial procedures including pre-trial release, bail hearings, pre-trial motions, docket settings, bench and jury trials, motions to adjudicate and revoke probation hearings, post-conviction writ hearings, Pre-Sentencing Investigation hearings, issuances of orders and findings of fact and conclusions of law, assignment of attorneys for indigent clients, overall docket management and the courts’ Local Rules.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

The 482nd is a brand new District Court bench created by legislators to begin having dockets in September 2021. When the 482 nd District Court bench became available, I was approached by numerous judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys encouraging me to run for the open bench due to my experience and current position as being an ideal person to bring integrity and knowledge to this position. After careful thought and consideration, I believed I would be the best person to serve on this bench as I have the most judicial experience and temperament. My goal would be to bring new programs and ideas to the felony court that have already proven to work well in both our misdemeanor courts and other jurisdictions, in addition to handling the case back log that currently is clogging all courts in Harris County.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Legal Studies major where I studied both Domestic and International legal systems including best practices in sentencing, drug rehabilitation versus extended drug sentencings, and mental health crisis within the judicial system. After graduation I attended Law School at the University Of Alabama School Of Law where I received best paper in Sentencing Guidelines, Family Law and Criminal Law.

I have been practicing criminal law for over sixteen years (2 years at a Public Defender’s Office as an intern and 14+ years in Harris County) and have extensive trial experience ranging from class C speeding tickets to non-death Capital Murders. I have been a Chief Prosecutor in both misdemeanor and felony District Courts, which means I have supervised junior attorneys while also maintain my own caseload and handling daily dockets. While District Court Chief in the 182nd and 180th , I was able to have over 100% clearance rate due to the reasonableness of my recommendations. While at the District Attorney’s Office, I was a senior prosecutor in the Juvenile, Intake, Trial Bureau and Mental Health divisions. So I have experience dealing with youthful offenders and those with mental health issues. In addition I have taught prosecutors, law students, officers, and judicial officers, on various topics ranging from probable cause, search warrants, mental health orders, juvenile magistration, and case filings.

In 2019, I was selected by the current county court judges to be the first African American Staff Attorney for the Harris County Courts. In that position, I am able to continue my studies of best practices all while guiding/training the judges on various topics ranging from Pre and Post-conviction Writs, Judicial Canons, O’Donnell Consent Decree and Bail, Mental Health orders, any new Legislative Updates, Docket Management, and Managed Assigned Counsel.

5. Why is this race important?

This race will set a foundation with a unique opportunity for voters to select the first elected Judge to a brand new District Court bench. The elected Judge’s experience, integrity, philosophy and knowledge of the position will be vital to the future of this court within the criminal justice system. Harris County judicial system has made great progress in that past three or four years but there is still work that needs to be done to ensure “justice for all” isn’t a catchy phrase but a reality. A reality that is backed by the confidence and support of the community served.  Now more than ever, voters understand how important it is to have judges who are fair, competent, unbiased, and uphold the integrity of the office. In order to have a strong foundation for the 482nd , the Judge should be well versed in the job and the upcoming matters both in and out of the courtroom.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

First, my legal education, courtroom experience and knowledge, along with my current position, uniquely qualify me as the best candidate for this position.  I would be able to make an immediate impact both on and off the bench. Second, my commitment to working for the community as a public servant and through community service.  As mentioned above, I have been a public servant since 2005 both as a law student and lawyer.  In law school, I was awarded the Order of the Samaritan which is the highest public service award bestowed by the University of Alabama School of Law. To earn this award, a student must complete at least 90 hours of volunteer work, with at least 50 of those hours spent doing pro bono/law-related service.  My community service has also continued through sports, as I volunteered with many travel softball organizations.  Within the last year, I have educated individuals at the Judson Robinson Jr. community center on various legal topics.   I have also had the privilege of serving as a volunteer guest lecturer at TSU Law School. Lastly, my upbringing, as a former collegiate and professional athlete as well as an NCAA Champion.  My background in athletics helped me develop several skills that are important for this position. Playing sports my entire life has taught me to 1. Work with people from diverse backgrounds, 2. Successfully multitask 3. Exhibit the appropriate judicial temperament, treating people with integrity and respect, especially in under pressure situations, and 3. Cultivate successful relationships.  My background has given me the training, knowledge and unique perspective that will allow me to be ready for the bench on the first day.

Endorsement watch: Finally, some judicial races

There are so many contested judicial races on the primary ballot, but we’re just now starting to get some judicial race endorsements from the Chronicle. Let’s being this roundup with three criminal district court races, in which the Chron went with the incumbents. First up, Judge Chuck Silverman in the 183rd.

Judge Chuck Silverman

When Chuck Silverman ran for the 183rd Criminal District Court in 2018, his main flaw as a candidate was his lack of criminal law experience. Now, Silverman has three years on the criminal bench under his belt, and while there are still areas where Silverman can improve, we recommend Democratic primary voters give him a chance to defend his seat this fall.

One of the chief criticisms leveled at Silverman, 61, is his relatively high pre-trial detention rate among district court judges. With the Harris County Jail already overcrowded, it’s critical that judges aren’t just locking up indigent defendants without cause. But in Silverman’s case, we believe the numbers don’t tell the whole story. He has built a reputation as a reformer and in 2020, filed a motion to join the historic lawsuit challenging cash bail in the felony court system, saying he wanted “to make the cash bail system obsolete or to make it work better.” We believe he is sincere in his desire for a fairer bond system and that his pre-trial detention figures require greater context.

“Individuals are entitled constitutionally to bail, and they’re given bail, but then the question becomes, what happens when those individuals violate the bond conditions? People are taken back into custody, and then my numbers may go up,” Silverman told the editorial board.

My Q&A with Judge Silverman is here. I did not receive responses from his opponent, Gemayel Haynes.

Next, Judge Abigail Anastasio in the 184th.

Judge Abigail Anastasio

Four years ago, we thought Abigail Anastasio was a qualified, enthusiastic, yet inexperienced candidate for the bench. Now, with three years as a district judge under her belt and a reputation for running an efficient, balanced courtroom, Anastasio has more than earned the chance to defend her seat in the general election.

A former high school teacher, defense attorney and prosecutor, Anastasio, 41, has proved to be a quick study as a judge.

At a time when the case backlog in Harris County remains stubbornly high, Anastasio consistently maintains one of the county’s lowest dockets. Her 101 percent clearance rate for the past year is third-highest of any district court judge and she also has a remarkably high trial rate, even with the COVID-19 pandemic grinding many court proceedings to a halt. She’s accomplished this in part by implementing a scheduling order issuing deadlines for attorneys to meet over the life of a case. Perhaps most impressively, Anastasio has managed to both maintain a low pretrial detention rate and the third-lowest bond population of any district court, proving that efficiency and public safety aren’t mutually exclusive.

Anastasio sets high expectations for how her courtroom should operate, which has won her the respect of both prosecutors and defense attorneys.

My Q&A with Judge Anastasio is here. I will have a Q&A with her opponent, Katherine Thomas, on Monday.

And then there’s Judge Jason Luong in the 185th.

Judge Jason Luong

Jason Luong has faced unprecedented challenges in his first term as judge, juggling myriad duties amid the backdrop of a global pandemic, while maintaining a reputation as a fair jurist. Voters should give him an opportunity to return to the bench.

Luong, 47, a former prosecutor and civil lawyer, didn’t even have a courtroom when he first began presiding over the 185th District Court due to the extensive damage at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center from Hurricane Harvey. Months after the building finally opened back up in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shut down the court system. Luong was part of the group that established the jury selection system at NRG Stadium, allowing courts to resume operating.

Even with those obstacles, Luong still managed to preside over the county’s Felony Veterans Treatment Court, chair the felony district courts’ Bail Bond Committee, and keep his docket relatively efficient, with a stellar 101 percent clearance rate over the past three months. However, we’d like to see Luong preside over more trials, as he’s only held 10 in three years.

I did not receive Q&A responses from Judge Luong for this election. I did get responses from him in 2018, which you can see here. He has two opponents, Andrea Beall and Kate Ferrell, and I received responses from Beall that you can see here.

There are two races among the five they focused on that only feature Democratic challengers. First we have William Demond for the 14th Court of Appeals, Place 9.

William Demond

We recommend William Demond, a Houston constitutional rights attorney, as the best choice for the March 1 Democratic primary for Place 9 on the 14th Court of Appeals. The winner will face Justice Randy Wilson in the fall.

The Texas Courts of Appeals serve as the kitchen sink of the judiciary. When lawyers think something went wrong at the trial level, it falls on the appellate justices to set the legal record straight and ensure that the law is applied properly.

Demond, 44, has the breadth of experience that would fit this court perfectly. He has a background in civil litigation, covering everything from breach of contract cases to administrative law. Not many attorneys can say their case work has helped establish constitutional rights. Demond has done it twice in cases before the Fifth Circuit Court, including the right to film police officers. Recently, he was appointed to represent Harris County inmates in a case concerning their constitutional rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He’s already established relationships with some of the sitting justices on the court of appeals and believes he’d be able to fit in seamlessly with an ideologically diverse panel. Demond also assured us he wouldn’t take an activist approach as a judge.

Demond was a candidate for the Court of Criminal Appeals in 2020. I don’t have Q&A responses from him or his opponent Chris Conrad.

Finally, there’s Kyle Carter for the 14th Court of Appeals, Place 2.

Kyle Carter

After 13 years as a civil district court judge in Harris County, Judge Kyle Carter, 45, tells us he’s ready for a new job. “I am asking voters for a promotion,” he said.

We think he’s earned Democrats’ vote in the March 1 primary for Place 2 on the 14th District Court of Appeals in Harris County. The winner will face Justice Kevin Jewell in the fall.

Carter’s Democratic opponent, Cheri Thomas, 43, is a lawyer with an impressive background. She’s worked as a defense attorney focusing on criminal appeals, and for two years was a staff attorney at the 14th District Court of Appeals. She says she made presentations to the justices there in nine cases, and has more recently argued before the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in a still-pending case. On Thursday, she was endorsed by the Houston Association of Women Attorneys.

That laudable background doesn’t match the experience Carter has gained on the bench. Thomas told us that Carter’s experience as a trial judge doesn’t necessarily prepare him for the more cerebral role appellate justices must play. While it’s true that a justice’s effectiveness greatly depends on legal knowledge, reasoning and writing skills, there are few better ways to prepare for a role in shaping and interpreting the law than 13 years of having to implement them daily.

Carter as noted has been the judge of the 125th Civil District Court since 2009; we was elected in the first Democratic wave of 2008, and has won re-election three times since then. I received Q&A responses from him for this race, and they are here. Cheri Thomas was a candidate for this court in 2020, and I will have Q&A responses from her on Wednesday.

Those of you who have more direct experience with these judges and attorneys, please feel free to leave a comment.

Judicial Q&A: Manpreet Monica Singh

(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.

Manpreet Monica Singh

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

My name is Manpreet Monica Singh and I am a native Houstonian. I am a 20+ year attorney with over 100 trials and love the courtroom. I am running for Harris County Civil Court at Law #4.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This Court’s jurisdiction has recently been raised to $250,000 for the amount in controversy. This encompasses cases regarding contract disputes, car accidents, evictions, condemnation cases and many other cases. And what I’m most excited about is conducting marriages.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I was driven to run for this newly vacated seat after many years of appearing before Judges in County Court that did not reflect our Democratic values and the rule of law. Being elected to this seat would also round out the four County Courts with experienced and bright judges who champion inclusion and diversity. Over the years attorneys stopped filing cases in the County Courts to avoid the unpredictability of the entrenched Judges there were before. Now with an increasing number of competent Judges who are fair and principled, I believe cases will be filed in County Court again, expediting the process of a case from start to finish. I want to be part of the solution and serving in this capacity is an important way I can improve the court system. Finally, my election to this bench would afford Harris County the historic opportunity to elect the first Sikh female Judge in the United States.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

From the first week of being sworn in as an attorney, I have routinely practiced in the courtroom, having tried over 100 cases in the last 20 years. My experience helps me understand the frustrations of clients and attorneys as they move through the Court system. As a result of the past stalling of cases in the County Courts, I became more innovative in ways to resolve my cases. I have brought the most difficult attorneys to the table to help find a middle ground. In fact, over the past 10 years at my current firm, I have settled over 700 cases in litigation. I have always been a leader in the number of settlements finalized, while simultaneously going to Court for trials that lasted sometimes for weeks. Amicable settlement of cases and trial are both essential parts of the efficient resolution of disputes in the court system. Judges must ensure their courts are administered in a way that allows for both processes to occur in a timely manner.

Over the years I have also attended and completed many leadership academies. I completed Leadership Houston’s Signature Program (Class XXXVIII), ABA Leadership Academy, 2016-2017, Harvard Leadership Program, 2014, FBI Citizens Academy Graduate, 2013, and Certified Sikh Coalition Advocate, 2011. Professionally, I was certified in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in 2002, Certified Court Ad Litem in 2002, and Certified in Mediation in 2001.

The most flattering ask in our profession is to teach Continuing Legal Education classes. I have taught on numerous occasions for the American Board of Trial Advocates, University of Texas Law School, State of Bar of Texas, and before the Harris County Judiciary. I have coordinated many CLE classes, finding speakers and arranging logistics. Notably, in February 2020 with a co-chair, I arranged a highly successful full day CLE for the Houston Lawyer Association and various other diversity bars.

5. Why is this race important?

Too many judges have become career judges. Year after year, entrenched in how things have been done in the past. Much as the city has grown more diverse and inclusive, so should our judicial system, while embracing new ideas and views. This race is important because it is time to have our great courts reflect our great city.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

Of my opponents, I’m the most qualified and have been “boots on the ground” to have the most in-depth understanding of the inner workings of what is needed and how to manage this job. I have always lead my life with sweat equity and I will serve the citizens. My experience being on the other side of the bench all these years will be an invaluable and unique perspective which allows me to see the pain points from both the client and attorney, and for both plaintiffs and defendants. The mere number of cases that I have both tried as well as settled means that I, uniquely, have the best grasp on how the law is currently practiced and what litigants are asking for when they entrust the court system to resolve their disputes. I intend to bring my experiences to the bench to help attorneys and clients find efficient and effective resolutions and access to justice that has been missing for so long. That is why I have been endorsed by the Houston Black American Democrats, the Mexican American Bar Association, Greater Heights Democratic Club, Bay Area Democratic Movement, and Fired Up in the 559 thus far.

Equally important, I have been a community activist and organizer. My support and commitment to the community is a part of my fiber as an individual, not a political posture or position formulated in my run for office. The commitment was instilled in me by my immigrant parents and my faith. I have worked closely with various organizations and offices and been an active participant championing the fight for racial and economic equity. I have testified for the HERO campaign, testified before the State Board of Education in regards to their textbooks, written numerous articles, and appeared on many TV programs to further our platform for these issues. Alongside the endorsement of organizations I have endorsements from community members and politicians that champion change. I am proud to be endorsed by Lizzie Fletcher, Ann Johnson, Ellen Cohen, Gordon Quan, Ron Reynolds, Roy Malonson, and many others in our community.

Now I ask for your endorsement. The endorsement of the people to vote for me!

Judicial Q&A: Steve Duble

(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.

Steve Duble

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

I’m Steve Duble (he/him/his) and I am running for Justice of the Peace Precinct 1, Place 2.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

One of the primary things that JPs do is hear landlord and tenant disputes, which means JP court is the first step in eviction cases. If elected, I will promote eviction and homelessness diversion programs, increase transparency, and bring social services, legal aid, and resources into the court to help people in our community and reduce the harm of evictions that do happen. JPs also hear traffic cases, Class C misdemeanors that are punishable by fine, civil cases with up to $20,000 in controversy, and truancy cases. If elected, I will overhaul sentencing practices to ensure that fines are assessed on an individual basis and are equitably enforced without creating an undue burden on people. I will also work to address racial disparities in sentencing and fee assessment. Finally, JPs can marry people. As the first gay JP in Harris County history, I will welcome all couples and ensure an affirming environment for them to get married.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

In December 2019, I represented members of the Houston Tenants Union pro bono in a Harris County Justice of the Peace court and in their appeals to County Court. Hundreds of tenants, most of whom had to take a day off work or find childcare just to be there, were hoping that the JP court would be their opportunity to be heard. Instead, they were subjected to a confusing, degrading experience that felt like detention. Some of these issues were specific to that particular court, but all of our JP courts must do more to address the eviction crisis and strengthen our communities.

I am not running for this position as a stepping stone on the way to another position, I am running because I know that this court can make a tangible difference for our community. I am committed to sticking around and transforming Precinct 1, Place 2 into a model problem-solving court that emphasizes holistic, sustainable, and community driven resolutions to housing problems.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I’ve represented both tenants and landlords in Harris County JP and county courts. Additionally, I’ve spent over thirty years’ advocating for plaintiffs and defendants in a wide variety of cases. My peers in the legal community have ranked me at the highest level of professional excellence for my legal expertise, communication skills, and ethical standards by granting me an AV preeminent rating with Martindale-Hubbell. Moreover, I am deeply embedded in Houston’s progressive community through my work to advance social justice and Democratic values. Over the past ten years, in my leadership role with the Harris County Democratic Lawyers Association, I’ve worked with community leaders, judges, lawyers, and law students to provide continuing legal education on social justice issues, including a CLE panel on the housing crisis and the role of the JP courts. I have never hesitated to jump into action in support of causes I believe in, from helping organize the “No Ban, No Wall” rally at the Texas Capitol in 2017, to pro bono representation of everyone from activists to tenants. These experiences have helped me learn about the most important issues facing our community and forge meaningful relationships with advocates and experts.

5. Why is this race important?

JP courts are on the frontlines of Harris County’s eviction crisis. The pandemic has exacerbated an ongoing problem created by a lack of affordable housing, stagnant wages, and scant protections for the most vulnerable tenants. Now, the situation is getting worse as pandemic-related rent relief funding is rapidly disappearing. Sometimes evictions are necessary, but oftentimes they can be avoided with rent relief funding, conflict resolution, and resources. Evictions are harmful for tenants, disruptive for landlords, and they weaken the very structure of our communities and neighborhoods. As the largest County in Texas with sixteen fully staffed JP courts, Harris County can and should be leading the charge in Texas by thinking beyond the pandemic to create lasting solutions to reduce evictions and mitigate the harms of this crisis. An effective JP can work with tenants, landlords, and other stakeholders in our community to achieve outcomes that benefit everyone.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I have a progressive vision for the court and the experience needed to realize it. I will listen to advocates, experts, and the people most affected by the issues. I’ll remain open to trying innovative ideas to decrease evictions and create a more equitable, transparent, and accessible court. Being in my court will not feel like high school detention because I will listen to people, not scold them. I won’t use a gavel and I won’t impose dress codes or arbitrary codes of conduct. I will respect everyone’s name, pronouns, and gender expression. JP courts have the potential to do a lot of good in our community, and I will use my position to help connect people with resources they need by working with the county, wraparound services, nonprofits, social workers, and legal aid.

Judicial Q&A: Ieshia Champs

(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.

Ieshia Champs

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

My name is Ieshia Champs and I am running to represent Harris County as judge in the 315th Juvenile District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 315th Juvenile District Court handles two types of cases. Juvenile delinquency cases where youth, between the ages of 10-17, has allegedly engaged in delinquent conduct. In addition to cases involving the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services (“CPS”), where there has been allegations of child abuse or neglect.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

A judge should represent the community they serve. As a Harris County native, a former foster child, a mother of five, and a Child Welfare Attorney, I understand just how impactful the rulings are that come from the 315th judicial seat. These rulings impact individuals, families, and the overall community. I know that with me on the 315th bench, I will have a positive impact by making holistic rulings. It’s not just about applying the law, but also looking intently into the facts in order to make a just ruling that benefits the life of the individual, the family, and the community. The community that raised me and gave me a second chance at life. Because I am a reflection of this community, I made the intentional choice to run for this particular bench.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

After graduating from Thurgood Marshall School of Law, I sought out a career with as a Child Welfare Attorney. I have litigated hundreds of cases where the best interest of the child is always the number one priority. I have engaged in several mediations, statutory hearings, and have mentored and trained new attorneys in the child welfare field. I have attended trainings and CLEs with appellate attorneys regarding child welfare, and have prepared for several jury trials. I have continued to sharpen my skills by taking CLEs and working with seasoned mentors who continue to challenge me on my journey as an advocate.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because Judges are the ultimate decision makers and those decisions are life altering. There should be someone on the bench who has the best interest of everyone as a priority. Electing the right candidate is paramount to the important decisions that will one day an impact on our community. That is why it is important for the community to get out and vote. The law serves The People. This is The People’s Race. I am The People’s Champ!

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

This is real life for me. I have been a juvenile in the system and an attorney representing the system. I am a candidate that has been in the position of almost everyone that comes before me. If elected, my decisions will be made by looking at each case holistically while listening to each set of facts and apply the law with compassion based off of the information in front of me. It is because of these experiences and compassion that I am the right candidate to preside as judge in the 315th District Court!

Judicial Q&A: Paul Calzada

(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.

Paul Calzada

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

I am Paul Antonio Calzada, and I am a Democrat asking to be elected judge of the 312th District Court, a civil court of special jurisdiction over family law cases for Harris County, Texas. I have a degree in psychology from the University of Texas and a law degree from the University of Houston Law Center. I graduated from law school in May of 2003 and received my law license in June of 2003. I was qualified to take the Texas Bar Exam while still a law student based on my academic record. I grew up in a single-parent household of modest means in the tiny town of Huffman, which is near Lake Houston. I was the first person in my family to attend college.

I am a native Houstonian and Spanish speaker with over 18 years of family law experience. Before law school, I worked as a Family Crisis Intervention Specialist for Tarrant County MHMR. After law school, I worked as an attorney at Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA), a non-profit, pro bono law firm representing people in family court. After AVDA, I continued to practice primarily family law. During the first year of the former president’s term in office, I also worked for an immigration law firm representing asylum applicants and Special Immigrant Juveniles. I believed the administration’s immigration policies were immoral and damaging to families, and I needed to do something to help. I have devoted my professional career to helping families in crisis, and I hope to continue to do so as the judge of the 312th.

I live in Houston with my wife of 23 years, Maria Calzada, a child of immigrants and a first-generation American. We have two children who are also native Houstonians, and we raised them here. Our son and daughter have attended HISD schools their entire academic careers. Our son is openly gay and the president of his high school’s GSA club. He recently scored a perfect 1600 on his SAT, and we are very proud and excited to see where he decides to attend college. Our daughter is a talented digital artist and a member of her middle school’s Mariachi Club. My wife, an Infectious Disease Physician Assistant, is a former Democratic Precinct Chair and was recently recognized as a Volunteer of the Year for Pride Houston. She is also an executive board member of our son’s high school PTO and a leader of our daughter’s Girl Scout Troop. I consider my family my most tremendous success. They inspired me to run for public service. I am running for them and our community.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 312th is a state civil district court with specialized jurisdiction over family law matters in Harris County. Common family law cases include divorce, suits affecting the parent-child relationship, modification of family law orders, enforcement of family law orders, paternity determinations, termination of parental rights, adoptions, name changes, registration of foreign family law orders, habeas corpus/writs of attachment, CPS cases, and protective orders.

I have represented clients in all of these types of cases.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

Family law judges should be family law attorneys. I am running because we need a judge dedicated to helping families. I have professional experience with families in acute crisis. I spent part of my legal career devoted to domestic violence victims, immigrants, and I have always represented clients from underserved communities. In particular, I have represented many Spanish-speaking, low-income, and undocumented clients. As a result, I have more experience helping families in crisis than any other candidate in this race.

I am not running for this particular bench because of personal animus towards the incumbent judge. Nor am I running for this bench based on a single case or interaction with the incumbent judge. I am not running against anyone. I am running for the people of Harris County.

I believe the people of Harris County deserve judges who meet the high standards traditionally expected of our courts. These standards include judicial temperament, integrity, and real family law experience. These are not aspirations. Aspiration is something you hope to achieve. These are obligations. Ask my colleagues about me, and you will find that I am an honest, knowledgeable, and caring advocate for my clients and their family. I will bring a respectful demeanor, judicial temperament, legal acumen, and professionalism to the 312th.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have practiced family law for over 18 years, entirely based in Harris County. I am a member of the Texas Bar College and the Houston Bar Association, including the family law section and diversity committees. I am a committee member for the recently revived Houston Bar Association Bar Bench Conference in Probate and Family Law. I have trial and appeals experience in family law. I have trauma-informed care and implicit bias training.

I have both non-legal and legal experience helping families in need. I am a devoted father and husband who knows the importance of family. I know the challenges that life presents to us, and I have personal experience with many of the challenges faced by our communities.

According to the Harris County District Clerk records, from 2000 to now, I have represented 236 family law clients as the attorney of record. The incumbent judge has represented 53 family law clients in the same timeframe. Since 2000, I have represented more Harris County family law clients than any other candidate in this race.

5. Why is this race important?

Family law courts are courts of equity. That means that the judge has tremendous authority to make orders for the just and right division of property and in the best interest of children. The people of Harris Court deserve a judge who has the overall experience to make the best orders possible. This race is important because we have an opportunity to elect a judge who has significant family law experience, relevant non-legal experience, and personal experience to make judgments that lift all parties before the court. Family law is not a “zero-sum” arena. We need a judge who doesn’t see the cases as “win or lose.” We need a judge who can objectively review the facts, set aside their personal feelings towards the attorneys and parties, and craft a nuanced and contemplative order for the people seeking justice.

Family law judges should dissolve tension and discord. Not cause or escalate it. We need a judge who will be respectful to everyone before the court and a judge who will react to disrespect calmly and professionally. This race is important because we need a judge who will solve problems, not cause or exacerbate them.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I will be a family court judge that will make the residents of Harris County proud. I have the necessary family law experience and legal knowledge for the bench. But, I also have non-legal and personal experience to make judgments that are just, right, and in the best interest of every person before the court. I am from here and raised my family here. I have dedicated my career to helping families. I have practiced in every family law court in Harris County, and I have been before every family court judge since 2003. I know what a judge can do for the families before them. We deserve a judge that will exercise the profound responsibility of the court to help families. I will be that judge.

Judicial Q&A: Andrea Beall

(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.

Andrea Beall

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

I am Andrea Beall and I am running for the 185th District Court. I am a lifelong Democrat. I have a background in Community Development and have worked for nonprofits in Houston’s Second and Third Wards. I’m a Child Homicide Prosecutor and an Adjunct Law Professor. I live with my family in Houston, Texas.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court hears every felony case, from State Jail Felonies to Capital Murders.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for this particular bench because I know I can work harder for Harris County to decrease the case backlog in the 185 th District Court. My opponent has only presided over 8 felony cases in a 3-year period, while many of our hard-working Democratic Judges has presided over 8 or more trials just in 2021 alone. The 185th went from a docket of 918 cases in January of 2019 to over 2500 cases, causing the court to be the 4th highest docket out of the 23 District Courts in the Criminal Courthouse. This must be solved by increasing the access to justice in the 185th by ensuring that everyone gets his/her/their day in court.

I am also running for the 185th District Court to create a Youthful Offenders Program in that court in order to provide a more individualized path to rehabilitation for 17-25-year-olds in the adult probation system. According to The Marshall Project, individuals who are incarcerated and released before turning 21 years of age have a rearrest rate of 68%. Statewide, the group with the highest recidivism rate across all degrees of felonies are individuals 24 and younger at their release, according to the State of Texas Legislative Budget Board’s Criminal Justice Data Analysis Team. In Texas, 17-year-olds are considered adults for purposes of the penal code. So, per the data, if a 17-year-old is arrested, incarcerated, and released before they turn 25, that teenager is statistically likely to be rearrested and become part of the revolving door of the criminal justice system. We need to effect real change to stop this cycle and the current tools being used are clearly not working. The Harris County Probation Department has many great resources, but our Probation Officers can only work within the constraints of programs that are already in place; the same programs that have been in place and have failed to curb the recidivism rate for young people.

This is why my Youthful Offenders Court idea is so desperately needed. My recognition of this comes from my work in nonprofits as well as my own personal story. I grew up with one parent in prison and the other with addiction issues. However, my family had social capital, which ensured that I was surrounded by a community of people to ensure I had advocates. Because of these advocates, I never went hungry, always had a roof over my head, completed schoolwork, and had healthy outlets for grief and anger, all of which kept me out of the criminal justice system. Many of the young people who appear in felony court come from households with absent parents, but do not have the social capital I had. There is no one to advocate for these young adults. This leads to a variety of problems such as unstable housing, increased high school dropout rates, a lack of learned healthy ways to address negative emotions, and a lack of sense of belonging. The likelihood of joining groups that mimic perceived “family” structure, such as gangs and street cliques, increases when a young person lacks familial and communal support. When society fails these individuals, they end up in the criminal justice system. By creating a specialty program that involves community buy-in, we can create social capital for these young adults. Through mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, stable housing, mentorships, tutoring, job skills training, and networking, a pathway out of the criminal justice system can be provided. I am running so that I can have the opportunity to create this specialty program within the 185th court’s docket.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have a BA in Political Science from Baylor University, an MA in International Development with an emphasis on Urban Development, and a JD from South Texas College of Law, from where I graduated Magna Cum Laude. I have served the last 4 years as an Adjunct Professor at South Texas College of Law Houston, where I teach law students trial skills in the Mock Trial Litigation course. I also work as a contract employee with the City of Houston as a Search and Seizure instructor, educating future and current police officers on 4th Amendment citizen protections. My primary job, however, is as an Assistant District Attorney, where I currently prosecute one half of all the cases in Harris County in which a child under 14 has been abused and murdered. I have prosecuted everything from traffic tickets to Capital Murders. I have overseen felony court dockets as a District Court Chief Prosecutor in the Trial Bureau. I am the only person in my race who has experience litigating Capital Murders. I have the most experience in my race handling the most violent and serious crimes in our penal code. Prior to my legal career, I worked in nonprofits in Houston’s Second and Third Wards with at-risk youth and young adults. My nonprofit experience, my family history, and my formal education in Urban Development provide me with a unique perspective on social and economic issues affecting those within the criminal justice system.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because our felony justice system needs true change. Our community must have access to fair and efficient justice. How felony courts are run touches the lives of all community members. Felony courts handle cases that carry significant penalties. Our victims and those accused of crimes have a right to have their cases heard fairly.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I have a proven record of hard work and diligence. While one of my opponents has served a Misdemeanor Court Chief, I am the only person in my race who has served as a Chief in Felony Courts, overseeing felony dockets and capital cases. Despite having been licensed for fewer years than the current sitting judge, I have the most relevant experience in serious felony offenses in this race. Neither of my opponents are certified to handle Capital or First Degree cases, yet that is all I handle. I have worked hard to gain the amount of experience I have. My record of hard work is also seen through my prior service with nonprofits in Houston’s Second and Third Wards. I have also shown my work ethic by building my career while continuing to teach for the City of Houston and South Texas College of Law.

In addition to serving South Texas College of Law, I am also involved in various other organizations within the legal community. I serve on the Houston Bar Association’s HAY Center Committee, dedicated to working with foster youth, and the Gender Fairness Committee. I am a member of the Houston Young Lawyers Association, the Houston Democratic Lawyers Association, and the Association of Women Attorneys. I am also a Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation, which is limited to 1/3 of 1% of licensed attorneys and is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a member of the State Bar of Texas.

Most importantly, I deserve your vote because I have a plan to create true change in our justice system by creating Youthful Offenders Court in the 185th . I have already begun speaking with nonprofits and local community leaders in order to provide our teenagers and young adults in the probation system with a true pathway out of the revolving door of the criminal justice system. By creating community buy-in and social capital, true redemption can begin in Harris County. I am putting the work in now to ensure that I can begin this program immediately upon taking the bench.

Interviews and judicial Q&As through February 4

Updating from last week. This is to put all of the interviews and judicial Q&As in a single post for your convenience, in case you missed something. This past week was CD38 plus Candis Houston in HD142 and Chase West in HD132. Next up, for the final week of interviews, will be two Land Commissioner candidates, Jinny Suh and Jay Kleberg. After that, I still have several Q&As and will run them till I run out. As noted before, I will likely do some more interviews for the runoffs.

Here’s the interview list so far, followed by the judicial Q&As. As a reminder, much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. Thanks to CityCast Houston for the recent shoutout in the newsletter and on the podcast. Let me know if you have any questions.

Interviews

Aurelia Wagner, HD147
Danielle Bess, HD147
Jolanda Jones, HD147
Nam Subramanian, HD147
Reagan Flowers, HD147

Ben Chou, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4
Ann Williams, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4
Gina Calanni, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4
Lesley Briones, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4
Clarence Miller, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4

Dylan Osborne, Harris County Treasurer (Incumbent)
Carla Wyatt, Harris County Treasurer
Marilyn Burgess, Harris County District Clerk (Incumbent)
Desiree Broadnax, Harris County District Clerk

Sen. John Whitmire, SD15
Molly Cook, SD15

Duncan Klussman, CD38
Diana Martinez Alexander, CD38

Candis Houston, HD142
Chase West, HD132

Judicial Q&As

Kyle Carter, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 2

Judge Chuck Silverman, 183rd Criminal District Court
Judge Abigail Anastasio, 184th Criminal District Court
Lema Barazi, 189th Civil District Court
Judge Scott Dollinger, 189th Civil District Court
Judge Greg Glass, 208th Criminal District Court
Samuel Milledge, 228th Criminal District Court
Judge Chris Morton, 230th Criminal District Court
Judge Tristan Longino, 245th Family District Court
Angela Lancelin, 245th Family District Court
Judge Hilary Unger, 248th Criminal District Court
Dianne Curvey, 280th Family District Court
Judge Barbara Stalder, 280th Family District Court
Judge Chip Wells, 312th Family District Court
Teresa Waldrop, 312th Family District Court
Judge Natalia Oakes, 313th Family District Court
Glenda Duru, 313th Family District Court
Alycia Harvey, 482nd Criminal District Court

David Patronella, County Civil Court At Law #4
Porscha Natasha Brown, County Criminal Court At Law #3
Judge Kelley Andrews, County Criminal Court At Law #6
Judge Andrew Wright, County Criminal Court At Law #7
Erika Ramirez, County Criminal Court At Law #8
Judge David Singer, County Criminal Court At Law #14
Judge Michael Newman, County Probate Court #2

Chris Watson, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1 Place 2
Blair McClure, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2 Place 2
Judge Lucia Bates, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2
Herbert Alexander Sanchez, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2
Ashleigh Roberson, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2

Judicial Q&A: Judge Barbara Stalder

(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.

Judge Barbara Stalder

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

I am Barbara “BABS” Stalder. My nickname is BABS which I was given by a classmate/friend in first year law school back in the year 2000. The BABS stands for Bad Ass Barbara Stalder. Most of my close friends call me BABS. It’s a fun nickname to have.

I am the presiding Judge of the 280th Family Violence Protective Order Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This Court hears cases orders of protection for victims of family violence, stalking, harassment, human trafficking, forced prostitution and sexual assault. This Court also has exclusive jurisdiction over custody cases where one parent has caused the death of the other parent and there is a family member seeking custody of the children.

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

I am very proud of the work we have accomplished in the past three years and cannot name just one because we have accomplished so much.
a. We instituted best practices in strengthening our gun surrender program when issuing a Protective Order (PO) against a Respondent.
b. We partnered with the Public Defender’s Office in the appointment of pro bono lawyers for Respondents who have an active criminal case to protect their rights in both proceedings.
c. We created court policies and procedures that ensure fairness for both sides in the submission of evidence and witnesses so neither side is ambushed at trial.
d. We reassessed and tightened security measures for applicants appearing in-person in the courthouse.
e. We instituted a trauma informed approach to all cases and have integrated services when a PO is issued. *This was a mandate by the legislature when the Court was created in 2009 but had never been incorporated into the court. We refer both applicants and respondents to community services when needed such as counseling, parenting courses, substance abuse treatment, and battering intervention courses. We also have taken into consideration any low cost or no cost services for the litigants.
This mandate was to help prevent further family violence cases in the court system. We are extremely proud of the work in this area.
f. We instituted a strict “compliance hearing” policy where the Court holds a hearing approximately 90 days after the PO is issued to ensure the Respondent is complying with the Order. If needed the Court will Order further compliance hearings to make sure the respondent understands the seriousness of complying with a Court Order.
g. We created a late call email to assist lawyers who needed to contact the Court if they were running late.
h. We instituted a policy that responds timely to all calls and emails- usually that day or within 24 hours.
i. We employed best practices and appointed Amicus attorneys on a case-by-case basis when a child is name as a victim or protected person in a PO to insure the best interest of the child
j. We instituted a policy to appoint pro bono lawyers on a case-by-case basis if the Respondent shows a mental health or educational challenge to protect the Respondent’s right s. This also include minor who are named as Respondents in PO cases.
k. Began creating a bench/lawyer toolkit for lawyers in prosecuting and defending family violence cases including PO. (Partnered with AVDA, Judge Janet Heppard and law students from across Texas. We hope to complete this toolkit by the Summer 2022.
l. Partnered in 2021 with Judge Janet Heppard, AVDA, UH Law and Ft. Bend County Bar Association and provided a no cost CLE/webinar for lawyers in prosecuting and defending protective orders. We plan to repeat this course in 2022

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

a. expand the pro bono attorney program to ALL indigent Respondents by working with the public defender’s office, the private bar, and our local law school clinics to meet the needs of our Court.
b. create a courthouse therapy dog program to assist with anxiety and fears when the parties return to in person proceedings in Court. This program will assist with providing a calm presence for those testifying in court
c. expand referrals for low cost or no cost services for both applicants and respondents who meet low-income requirements
d. create additional programs that reduce the likelihood of further family violence and repeat court cases as mandated by the legislature

5. Why is this race important?

Family violence cases have increased exponentially over the past three years, especially during Covid. During my first year on the bench the number of filings increased by over 30%. There is no associate judge to hear the overflow of cases and each case is considered a final trial. There are also no jury trials in this Court therefore the Judge of this Court is the sole person who hears these matters. Since 2019 we have disposed of over 4000 cases which includes default cases where a respondent fails to appear, agreements where both sides agree to a PO and bench trials where I listen to the evidence and make a decision based on a preponderance of the evidence. Since this is a specialty court, the only Court of its kind in Texas, the judge of the Court needs special training in family violence issues to effectively preside over these cases. Family violence involves complex family dynamics that go beyond mere physical violence. A Judge must have the skill and knowledge to understand the nuances of the intersections of emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, and psychological abuse.

A candidate who has little or no experience in this area will be ill-prepared to handle the issues and render orders that keep the applicant safe but also help the respondent to make effective changes. A candidate who has only a handful of family violence related cases is not equipped to make the important decisions of this Court. People’s lives are at stake, and we cannot afford to have a Judge who does not have extensive training for this bench. On the job training would be a disaster and our community cannot afford to take a chance with this Court.

We cannot put someone’s life in the hands of an inexperienced judge. It is too risky and too detrimental to our community. We did for the first two election cycles of this Court, and it was a disaster.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I am the only candidate with the education, experience, and training. I am the only candidate board certified in family law which means I am oe of only about 918 lawyers of the over 10,000 lawyers practicing family law that is specialized in this area. I also have over 30 years working in the family violence area, as a volunteer and then for over 16 years practicing law. I am a former mediator where I mediated high conflict family violence cases and I have represented both victims and respondents in family violence cases. I have been appointed to represent children in abuse, neglect, and family violence cases I am a former clinical professor at UH Law where I taught law students in family law cases. I also taught substantive courses in family law and family violence. I have participated as speaker and presenter at numerous local, state, and national conferences on topic of family violence, including the impact on children. I have served and continue to serve on local, state, and national committees or agencies involving family violence topics including the National Association of Women Judges, the National Council on Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the Judicial Engagement Network fellowship of judges who hear family violence matters, and a former member of the Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Kyle Carter

(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.

Judge Kyle Carter

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

I am Judge Kyle Carter, a life-long Democrat and native Houstonian who has served as a District Judge in Harris County for the past 13 years. I am a married father of three, and I wake up every day excited to make a positive difference in the lives of others. I am asking for your vote for the 14th Court of Appeals, Place 2.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The Fourteenth Court of Appeals was created in 1967. The Court is composed of a Chief Justice and eight (8) justices. It has intermediate appellate jurisdiction of both civil and criminal cases appealed from lower courts in ten (10) counties of Texas (see below); in civil cases where judgment rendered exceeds $250, exclusive of costs, and other civil proceedings as provided by law; and in criminal cases except in post-conviction writs of habeas corpus and where the death penalty has been imposed. Counties served: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Grimes, Harris, Waller, and Washington.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I have been a District Judge for 13 years, and am running for this position to continue making a positive difference in the lives of all Texans and serving them through the law. During my time on the bench, I have seen first-hand the need for experienced and qualified justices on the Courts of Appeals. The decision of just one appellate justice has the potential to affect millions of lives. I want to be there making those decisions, and in so doing, improve the lives of all Texans.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have served as judge of the 125th District Court for the past 13 years. I am board certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. I have won awards for my work both on the bench and in the community. Recently I received the South Texas College of Law Public Service Award, as well as the Outstanding Judicial Leadership Award from the Texas Association of District Judges. I have twice been unanimously elected to serve as President of the Texas Association of District Judges. Prior to serving on the bench, I was an associate at the Carter Law Firm. Additionally, I served as general counsel to the Texas House Committee on General Investigations and Ethics as well as the House Committee on Urban Affairs.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is extremely important because appellate justices make decisions that affect millions of people's lives. It is vitally important to have justices who understand the trial process and have served as trial judges. Trial judges understand what has taken place at the trial court level and that the court record is more than just words on a page. The appellate courts are policy courts whose decisions have wide ranging influence on how trials are conducted and the law is applied.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

People should vote for me in the March Primary because I will continue making a positive difference in the lives of all Texans. I am a life-long Democrat and am the most qualified and experienced person in this race. I am an award-winning, board-certified trial judge who has the experience, the record, and the resources to win this race in November. Over the past 13 years I have demonstrated that I am a highly skilled judge who treats everyone who comes before me with equality, dignity, and respect. Additionally, I have a passion for serving those in need in our community. I have created two charitable organizations, Judges at Work in Schools and Judges Out in Neighborhoods and will continue my community work while serving on the Court of Appeals. Vote for better access, better equality, and better justice for a better Texas; vote for Judge Kyle Carter for the 14th Court of Appeals Place 2.