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Q&A

Interviews and judicial Q&As through January 21

Updating from last week and the week before. 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 the County Treasurer and District Clerk races. Next week will be Senate District 15 – I’ve tried to get something on the schedule with Candis Houston from HD142 but so far no luck. If it happens later, I’ll publish it later. The week after that will be CD38, and I’ve done a couple of Land Commissioner interviews for after that.

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. 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

Judicial Q&As

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
Judge Chris Morton, 230th Criminal District Court
Judge Tristan Longino, 245th Family District Court
Judge Hilary Unger, 248th Criminal 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

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
Judge Michael Newman, County Probate Court #2

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

Judicial Q&A: Blair McClure

(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.

Blair McClure

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

My name is Blair McClure and I am a candidate for Harris County Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 Place 2. This position was held by the Hon. George E. Risner for some 34 years, and I am honored to be considered to take his place.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The Justice of the Peace in Texas presides over the Justice Court, which has jurisdiction in civil matters in which the amount in controversy is not more than $20,000, and in eviction cases. The criminal jurisdiction of the Justice Court includes misdemeanors punishable by a fine only, the most common being traffic offenses and Class C misdemeanors such as public intoxication, disorderly conduct, simple assault, and theft of property valued at under $100. The Justice of the Peace also presides over the Truancy Court, conducting cases where a child has been absent from school without excuse. And, the Justice of the Peace has a vast array of administrative duties, for example, dangerous dog determinations, determinations of the rights of owners of towed vehicles, and applications for occupational drivers’ licenses.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

The Justice Court is almost always a citizen’s first contact with the justice system, and I want the opportunity to serve the citizens of this community by bringing a common sense approach to equal justice for all. I want to promote dignity in court proceedings, processing cases timely and efficiently.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

While I am not a lawyer, I plan to bring my life experiences, and my willingness to work hard to this position. I have served the Justice Court Precinct 2 Place 2 as a community outreach liaison which has allowed me to become familiar with the laws and procedures governing Justice Courts; and I have 35 years of work experience with IBM as a project manager that has given me the practical knowledge and people skills which I can use to competently deliberate and decide the various types of disputes filed in the Justice Court.

5. Why is this race important?

The Justice Court is almost always a citizen’s first contact with the justice system, and a Justice of the Peace engages with the community on a grass roots level. I feel it is important to provide court participants with an opportunity to be heard, fairly and impartially, and to render decisions in accordance with the governing procedures and laws. I want to promote dignity in court proceedings, and process cases timely and efficiently.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I feel that I am the most qualified candidate in this race. I have been a resident of the Precinct 2 community for over 50 years. I bring the experience of 35 years as a project manager for IBM, and my service as the Court’s outreach liaison. I bring the understanding of the nature of the justice court as a place where citizens can go to assert their claims acting pro se. And, I want the opportunity to work hard to serve the citizens of the Precinct 2 community by brining a common sense approach to equal justice for all.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Natalia Oakes

(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 Natalia Oakes

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

My name is Natalia Oakes, Judge of 313th Family (Juvenile) District Court and worked as a lawyer in Juvenile Court for 18 years handling juvenile delinquencies and CPS (Child Protective Services) cases before being elected judge to the 313th Juvenile Family District Court in 2018. Previously, I was a secondary school teacher.

I was born in Beaumont, Texas and raised in a big civic-minded family. I graduated from Tulane University with a B.A. in English Literature with a Teacher's Certificate and awarded my law degree from Thurgood Marshall School of Law of TSU. My parents stressed education. I am grateful for the honesty and integrity they taught me through example.

I worked in Juvenile Court as a lawyer for 18 before being elected judge. I joyfully interacted daily with lawyers, judge, clients, probation officers, court staff, assistant district attorneys, assistant county attorneys, detention officers, interpreters and bailiffs.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 313th hears Juvenile delinquencies, Child Protective Services cases, adoptions and child immigration cases.

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

What we have accomplished in 3 years is a source of pride: We have implemented more rehabilitation measures to help prevent recidivism. Therapeutic services have been introduced to address the trauma that many of the youth have experienced. Multi Systemic and Family Functional Therapy are used to address the family's needs in dealing with the youth and helping the family deal with each other. This service is done in the home for better accessibility. Diversion programs, for non-violent offenders, are used so youth do not have to come to court; parents don't have to miss work nor, youth school.

Also, in 3 years we have developed many community partners who have input and output to redefine youth justice, who support the youth in their neighborhoods. There is a dual status docket concentrating on youth who are in the CPS system and delinquency system. The 313th presides over GRIP (Gang Recidivism Intervention Court) with MAGO (Mayor's Anti Gang Office) showing noted success in support for: education, family, substance abuse, counselling, relocation, mentoring). Houston Endowments for the Arts have come to the Detention Center to expose youth to ballet class, opera, music, slam poetry and other creative measures. Also, we are keeping the youth close to home and not sending all violent offenders to TJJD (Texas Juvenile Justice Department) Harris County has a placement for violent offender treatment and families can more easily visit, too.

There are fewer certifications, giving youth the opportunity to rehabilitate.

As for the CPS cases, keeping the family together and best interest of the child is the goal.

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

I want to continue to implement the rehabilitative programs that have been so successful. I want to add more trade and cultural programs. I want to broaden youth's exposure to new outside interests. I want to continue to forge the many relationships that I have made over 21 years practicing juvenile law for the benefit of the youth. There are many entities the juvenile judge deals with and a judge can harm the youth if any of the groups are alienated.

I would like to promote gun control, awareness, education in Harris County. The youth have so much access to guns that curbing the gun violence is difficult without some concerted effort from government and authorities.

5. Why is this race important?

When the youth benefit, we all benefit. When our communities are safe from teenage crime, communities thrive.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I am dedicated to Juvenile Law. I am very open to suggestions and have an open door to new ideas. The morale in the 313th Curt is very high. The court staff is polite, organized and efficient. They serve the public well and promptly.

I want to continue to promote programs that produce results for youth and families of Harris County.

Judicial Q&A: Judge David Patronella

(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 David Patronella

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

My name is David Patronella and I’m running for County Civil Court #4. I was elected to four terms in the Texas Legislature and was appointed to Justice Court Precinct 1 Place 2 where I’ve served eight terms. I’m a native Houstonian, proud graduate of Houston public schools, and a graduate of the University of Houston Honors College and the University of Houston Law Center. I’m also a husband, and father of two adult children living in a household with a total of four canine and feline companions-three of which are rescues.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court hears civil cases where the amount in controversy is less than $200,000. This jurisdiction includes civil appeals from justice courts ranging from small claims to eviction suits to debt claims.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I’m running for County Civil Court #4 because the court hears appeals from justice courts so my experience gives me a strong foundation to continue to serve. I’ve loved serving Precinct 1 and honored to have been elected eight times by the voters, but I am excited by the chance to work in a countywide capacity. I have been highly rated in Houston Bar Association Judicial Qualifications Polls for my legal knowledge, docket management skills, and judicial demeanor. In the most recent HBA Polls of attorneys expressing an opinion our court had the highest very good and excellent ratings among all justice courts and the second highest of all trial courts in the county. With the bench coming open this election cycle, I am uniquely qualified to step into this role.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

Prior to my years of serving as judge, I practiced in the district and county civil courts, trying both bench and jury trials. Since 1989, I have served as Justice of the Peace for Precinct One, where I try civil cases and criminal misdemeanor cases. I also conduct administrative hearings—including seizures of neglected and abused animals.

In addition to my years of service on the bench, I’ve taught judges and court personnel through the Texas Justice Training Center for 25 years throughout Texas. In 2019, I was named Texas Judge of the Year by the state association.

I am currently serving my seventh year as a member of the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, which hears complaints of judicial misconduct and disciplines judges who violate canons of ethics. I am the only elected Democrat currently serving on this body. Prior to my appointment as commissioner, the Commission asked that I serve as a mentor to several judges to assist with ethics issues.

I have also served as Chairman of the Justice Courts section of the State Bar of Texas and have served four times as Presiding Judge for the 16 justice courts. In addition, I have completed over 1500 hours in continuing legal education-more than three times the amount required-to keep abreast of changes in procedural and substantive law. I have also authored Texas CLE presentations and participated in CLE planning committees.

I was appointed by the Texas Supreme Court to a six-year term on the Texas Judicial Council and chaired committees on Judicial Campaign Reform and Promoting Diversity in the Judiciary.

I am fluent in four languages including Spanish which is invaluable in handling court dockets as Harris County is one of the most diverse counties in the country, and parties often appear without translators.

5. Why is this race important?

Every race in the upcoming primary is important but, the county civil benches often receive less attention than criminal benches because we don’t sentence offenders accused of serious crimes. However, in this time of housing insecurity, the eviction matters we hear are of grave concern, as we determine whether someone may be left homeless. And in this time of job loss and food insecurity we enter civil judgments which impact many people who are teetering on economic despair. I have been proactive in bringing Gulf Coast Legal Aid and the Alliance and the Houston Volunteer Lawyers as well as the Houston Apartment Association in Zoom hearings to attempt to resolve these matters and often avoid an eviction judgment. Through this collaborative approach, nearly 80% of our nonpayment eviction cases were nonsuited or dismissed. It is important that the judge follows the law but also rules with compassion and recognition of how parties may be impacted. I bring both the knowledge and the sensitivity necessary to administer justice in this court.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I have more experience than any other candidate in this race. Furthermore, my solid public record demonstrates that I will follow the law, administer justice and treat everyone with courtesy and respect.

Additionally, the recent Houston Bar Association Judicial Evaluations Poll showed that, of those who expressed an opinion, our court had the highest rating of any Justice of the Peace Court in the county – and was in the top two highest of all trial courts in the county. I have the legal knowledge and judicial temperament to serve Harris County.

Lastly, I am proud to be endorsed by Mayor Sylvester Turner, Senator John Whitmire, Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, Congressman Al Green, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Representative Senfronia Thompson, Representative Hubert Vo, former Mayor Annise Parker and a host of current and former public officials at the city, county, state, and federal levels. A full list of endorsements is available at our website. www.Judgedavidpatronella.com If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at [email protected] and follow us @JudgePatronella.

I hope to earn your support in the March 1st Primary.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Greg Glass

(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 Greg Glass

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

My name is Greg Glass, and I preside over the 208th District Criminal Court of Harris County, Texas. I am on the Democratic Party Primary Ballot in March of 2022.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This Court hears and handles felonies of all kinds, from State Jail Felonies at the bottom, all the way to and including Capital Murder at the top.

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

The main accomplishments during my three years on the bench have all been Covid-19 related. I have been intimately involved in the creation of the GOB (General Order Bond) that allows the automatic release on bond of those persons accused of less-serious, non-violent felonies. A major consideration was the Covid Emergency affecting the inmates in the Harris County Jail, so
that releasing non-violent alleged offenders would reduce the jail population, and accordingly, the spread of Covid among the jail population.

Another main accomplishment has been the resumption of jury trials during Covid, in spite of the limitations imposed upon the Courts regarding the creation and installation of appropriate health and safety protocols.

I, unlike some other felony courts, have also continued to use Zoom and not require each Defendant or attorney to appear in person every setting, as some courts do. I feel the safety of all persons is important, especially as relates to possible Covid infections. Also, it reduces overcrowding in the Crimnal Justice Center.

I also take time, when requested by counsel for either the State or the Defense, to review defendants’ bonds. I believe in being equally fair to both the prosecution and the defense, and I have repeatedly shown that fairness.

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

It is my intention to continue to provide the fair and equitable administation of justice in my courtroom while trying as many cases as possible, while keeping attorneys, defendants and jurors safe from Covid. Further, I and other judges now on the bench, are trying to standardize the various types of case settings for all the felony courts so that attorneys and defendants will know what should be accomplished by each court setting.

5. Why is this race important?

It is important because neither of my Democratic Primary opponents is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, as I have been since 1983. One is a prosecutor who lives in Harris County, but for the past number of years has been a prosecutor in Montgomery County and whom I have never heard of until shortly before her filing for the primary. The other opponent would not be eligible to run under the law which was recently passed but does not go into effect until after this primary cycle, as she has not been licensed for the length of time required by the new law. Additionally, she only this year was approved by the Board of Judges, myself included, to handle up to second degree felonies by way of appointment. Before this year, she could only be appointed to State Jail Felony and third degree felony offenses, or to Motions to Adjudicate Guilt or Rovoke Probation. She is not qualified for appointments to handle first degree felonies or capital felonies.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

As I mentioned, I am the only Board Certified Democratic Primary candidate in the field of Criminal Law. I have experience in handling lawyers, defendants and cases in general, which none of my opponents have. I have handled all the docket problems associated with Covid in a manner designed to both protect lawyers and defendant’s, but also to move as many as possible of the oldest and most serious cases to trial.

Judicial Q&A: Chris Watson

(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.

Chris Watson

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

My name is Chris Watson and I am running for Harris County Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1 Place 2

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court hears community based issues such as small claims, evictions, and truancy.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I have been working for a better quality of life in this community for many years. This position will allow me to have an immediate impact on the people in our community. I feel this position offers me a great chance to touch lives and have immediate impact in this community in a positive way. For example, truancy cases, in particular, can give me the chance to positively touch the lives of our community youth, maybe before they are committed to lives of continuous crime. I would like to institute creative, positive ideas to deal with truant students and their parents.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

Besides meeting all the stipulated legal qualifications for the Justice of the Peace in Texas, my experience as a licensed Texas mediator, legal researcher for more than 15 years and community activist in this community for more than 25 years, has uniquely prepared me to serve the people of this community as a Justice in our community court.

5. Why is this race important?

In these trying times of COVID and economy, the community court has and will continue to play a crucial role in helping this community navigate through these turbulent times. In helping people to keep their homes and reestablishing their quality of life, there will have to be a community court that is fair, creative and compassionate and the justice that is in this court needs to be one who is prepared to be creative and compassionate enough find ways of compromise, within the law, to keep to bring our community together for the common good.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

Chris Watson is the one to vote for because of his long time commitment to building the quality of life in this particular community. He has worked alongside many of the community leaders and has been endorsed by leaders who know his commitment to our community. State Representative Jarvis Johnson, State Representative Senfronia Thompson, Senator Borris Miles, State Representative Alma Allen, and many other local leaders and activists have attested to Chris Watson’s dedication to this community and endorsed his campaign. He will serve in fairness and compassion as the Justice of the Peace and will work every day to improve the quality of life in Precinct 1.

Interviews and judicial Q&As through January 14

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 Commissioners Court Precinct 4. Starting Monday will be the County Treasurer and District Clerk races, and the week after that will be Senate District 15 and (I hope – it’s still in the works) Candis Houston from HD142. After that is CD38, and probably statewide candidates.

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. 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

Judicial Q&As

Judge Abigail Anastasio, 184th Criminal District Court
Lema Barazi, 189th Civil District Court
Judge Scott Dollinger, 189th Civil District Court
Judge Chris Morton, 230th Criminal District Court
Judge Tristan Longino, 245th Family District Court
Judge Hilary Unger, 248th Criminal District Court
Judge Chip Wells, 312th Family District Court
Teresa Waldrop, 312th Family District Court
Judge Natalia Oakes, 313th Family District Court>,

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
Judge Michael Newman, County Probate Court #2

Judge Lucia Bates, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2
Herbert Alexander Sanchez, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2

Judicial Q&A: Judge Michael Newman

(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 Michael Newman

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

My name is Michael Newman. I am the incumbent Judge of Harris County Probate Court Two. I have over 41 years of legal and trial experience. I have tried over 110 cases as a trial lawyer and judge. During my career, I have conducted thousands of contested hearings, represented thousands of clients in complex disputed matters including will contests, elder abuse and financial exploitation, common law marriage and child visitation disputes, contested guardianships and personal injury and insurance defense cases.

As a certified mediator, I have conducted over 500 mediations, settling over 80% of the cases that I mediated. I have been married to trial attorney Deborah Newman for over 36 years.

Our daughter Caitlin, 28, is a manager in the hospitality industry. We have two rescue dogs, Bridget and Chloe. I received my JD Degree from the University of Houston Law center in 1980, where I served as associate Editor of the Houston Law Review. I received a B.B.A in management with Honors from the University of Texas at Austin in 1977

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Probate Court 2 is a trial court. We try and hear contested cases involving will contests, challenging the validity of wills, the testamentary capacity of testators and undue influence and fraud; breach of fiduciary cases, elder abuse and financial exploitation, common law marriage disputes involving the characterization of community and separate property, contested guardianship cases, personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death and real estates and business disputes. The non-contested matters include the probate of wills, uncontested heirships, and guardianship cases.

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

Since being elected, I have quadrupled the number of weekly ancillary dockets from one to four. Ancillary dockets are the ones where the judge handles disputed hearings. As a result of the increased dockets, the number of contested hearings have increased by over 100 percent and the waiting time for contested hearings has also been reduced for lawyers and litigants During my term, the number of trials conducted has increased by a factor of five.

I have significantly increased the diversity of the court staff over sixty percent of new court staff have been qualified minority candidates. I rule timely, rarely take cases under advisement since I read all paperwork filed prior to hearing and have not been reversed on appeal, as of yet.

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

I will continue to provide the public, lawyers, and their clients with equal and timely access to the courts, render prompt and correct rulings in accordance with the law in a fair and nondiscriminatory manner to avoid unnecessary costs and delay. I will continue to treat all people that appear in my court with the dignity and respect each deserve. I will continue to read all motions and paperwork in advance of all contested hearing and trials, as well as work as hard as I can serving the public in a just and fair manner and will proceed with my recruitment of additional qualified minority candidate for court staff positions.

5. Why is this race important?

Harris County Probate Court 2 is first and foremost a trial court. Trials are now set on Thursdays and Fridays in addition to Mondays because of the heavy volume of contested cases that are filed and to accommodate lawyers and their clients.

It is essential that the lawyer elected to serve as probate judge have the necessary trial experience and substantive knowledge of the many diverse areas of laws that this courts hears so that proper and time rulings can be made. The cases heard in probate court effect the lives including the emotional and financial wellbeing of the people that seek judicial relief. In addition to judicial temperament, the judge of probate court must have the substantive knowledge and necessary experience of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, the Texas Rules of Evidence, the Texas Estates Code, the Texas Guardianship code, the Texas Family Code, the Texas Trust Code, among other codes and statutes.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I seek reelection because I am the candidate running for this court with the necessary years of experience in just the types of cases and issues that are litigated in probate court. I draw on that experience every day. Lawyers with minimal experience can and do run for judge, but a law license does not make one qualified to make the kind of decisions probate court judges make every day. As my literature states, “Experience matters”.

I have over 41 years of trial experience as a trial lawyer and trial judge. I have represented thousands of clients in disputed cases, I have conducted thousands of hearings and have tried over 110 trials as a lawyer & judge. I have conducted over 600 meditations as a lawyer and certified mediator. I have been committed and will continue to be committed to providing equal and timely access to the courts for hearings & trials in a fair, impartial and non-discriminatory manner.

Literally hundreds of lawyers that practice in my Probate Court 2 strongly support my reelection. They have seen my commitment to providing court access; they have observed my patience and preparedness; and observed my commitment to do the right thing. I know that rulings can greatly affect people’s lives, their families, finances and loved ones.

I have spent years arguing before judges; now lawyers argue before me in Probate Court 2. I know how hard they work and the stresses of their clients. I try to keep people at ease. My court has been present to serve those who need access. We are there because we are needed, and I make sure the staff keep that in mind.

I am a judge who likes and cares about people. That coupled with my experience, my record and my temperament are the reasons that people should vote for me in March. Because I wanted to serve in a way that all judges should. I have the experience to rule accurately, to follow the law and to understand the effects of rulings on peoples’ lives.

As a judge I am diligent, prepared, and attentive. I treat those who come to probate court 2 equally and with respect. My first tenure as a judge has been personally fulfilling. I have been a lawyer in court and know that it can be a difficult job. I respect the lawyers and their clients and give the time and attention required to make the best decisions I can, while following the law. I read what lawyers file; and I treat everyone with respect. My legal experience, knowledge and integrity are unmatched.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Andrew Wright

(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 Andrew Wright

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

My name is Andrew A. Wright, I am the Judge of Harris County Criminal Court at Law Number Seven (#7).

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This Court is one of 16 Misdemeanor Criminal Courts in Harris County. This court handles primarily Class B and Class A Misdemeanors. The duties are to handle various criminal cases, typical in this court are Driving While Intoxicated cases, Burglary of Motor Vehicle cases, Thefts, Assault cases and various other cases. In addition to this, sometimes these Courts hear Class C (JP and Municipal Court) appeals. In addition to the above, there are various administrative duties of the position. This court can also hear Chapter 33 bypass hearings.

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

My main accomplishment was when myself and my colleagues implemented misdemeanor bail reform in the County Criminal Courts at Law. We helped create the presumption of a pr bond in the vast majority of non-violent misdemeanor cases. In addition to this we created the Office of Managed Assigned Counsel to make sure that misdemeanor criminal appointments are done free from the Judge’s involvement. We want to make sure the Court Appointment system is raised to a higher bar than ever before, yet free from Judicial involvement.

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

One of the things I hope to accomplish moving forward is to create a system of guidelines to keep cases from just laying stagnant for a long period of time. Something like a Docket Control Order, or scheduling order is one method I am contemplating for doing so. This will create clear and defined expectations to which all parties are aware of. There is a great deal of cases that cannot move forward because of issues that prolong this case without any clear expectations.

5. Why is this race important?

What happens in misdemeanor court affects peoples lives. I know plenty of people just look at it and thinks “its just a misdemeanor” or gives it less importance due to not being a felony court. But what we do each and every day in Court 7 affects many people’s lives. This race is important because those people need to have a judge that fairly, accurately and competently administers justice in their case. The judge needs to know what they are doing and knows the relevant law applicable to their case. The person on the bench needs to be able to step forward on January 2, 2023 and administer justice and not have a “on the job training.”

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

As above, this race is important as it affects people’s lives. The judge in this race needs to be able to have the relevant experience, knowledge and skill to effectively administer justice in a fair and non-biased way. I am that candidate. I have been a practicing attorney for 14 years and have tried many criminal cases. I am board certified in Criminal Law. I have the relevant experience, knowledge and knowhow to make sure that what happens in Criminal Court 7 is the right thing according to the laws of the State of Texas. This bench is a trial court bench, we try cases. Since taking the bench I have been at the top, if not the top of judges in trial. We do not have the time for this bench to be a learning curve or on the job training for a candidate that does not have the necessary experience to gain. I am the best and most qualified candidate for Harris County Criminal Court at Law Number Seven and I hope to continue to serve in that capacity. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Chris Morton

(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 Chris Morton

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

I am Judge Chris Morton of the 230th District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court hears Felony Criminal Cases.

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

I have implemented policies and procedures that deal with bail and bond in a fairer more equitable way and in a way that more closely aligns with the constitutional laws of Texas.

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

I hope to implement a fairer system of appointing attorneys to indigent defendants and I hope to move bail and bond practices closer to a point were dangerous individuals are detained and others are released without bankrupting their families.

5. Why is this race important?

The first virtue of every social institution is justice. Neutral objective judges are crucial to justice. Judges cannot be prosecutors on the bench. They cannot trade away justice merely to create security. Judges are currently being attacked from every angle in an effort to make authoritarian security supersede the virtue of justice. I'll stand with the law and with justice.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I have a proven track record of standing firm against those who will use the law as a means of oppression and who would subvert judicial independence. I stood up to Governor Greg Abbot when his executive orders sought to strip the judiciary of independence and to strip people of substantive statutory and constitutional rights by finding his executive orders unconstitutional. I stood up to the legislature when they sought to create a constitutional crisis in issuing arrest warrants for their colleagues by accepting a writ of habeas corpus from one of those beleaguered law makers. I have not been intimidate nor swayed from applying the law in a fair and equitable fashion by attacks from right wing organizations or attacks in the media. I have not been swayed or intimidated by criticism from fellow Democrats or left wing activists. I stand solidly with the law and with justice.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Kelley Andrews

(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 Kelley Andrews

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

My name is Kelley Andrews and I am the Presiding Judge of Harris County Criminal Court at Law No. 6

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Court 6 is a misdemeanor court, so we hear cases that involve offenses that can potentially lead to county jail sentences. Assault, DWI, DWI 2nd, Assault Family Violence, Animal Cruelty, Criminal Mischief, Criminal Trespass, and Thefts up to $2500 are some examples of the cases that are heard in misdemeanor courts.

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

Since being elected and taking the bench in January 2019 I, along with my colleagues, immediately began working on bail reform. The O’Donnell lawsuit that was costing the county excessive amounts of legal fees was dismissed, we worked, and continue to work, together to change and create local rules that affect bail reform, so that no one is left in custody, or feels forced to enter a plea, simply because they can not afford to get out of jail. I helped create and preside over the misdemeanor Mental Health Court and I represent the misdemeanor courts on the Harris County Mental Health Standing Committee. As presiding Judge of Court 6, I have focused on addressing the underlying conditions that factor into a person entering into the criminal justice system. Conditions such as mental health issues, substance abuse and addiction, housing and educational insecurity, and health care. I tailor conditions of bond and community supervision to the individual person, so that those conditions address the underlying issues that landed that person in criminal trouble in the first place. It has been my experience in the last 14 years that I have worked in the area of criminal law, as both an attorney and now a judge, that addressing these issues can truly help people to get out of the criminal justice system permanently. Every single person that comes into Harris County Criminal Court at Law No. 6 is treated with respect, dignity and compassion.

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

I would like to continue with the work that I have started, begin to work with some of the other agencies and judges involved in the criminal justice system on developing some community outreach that shows people the courts can be places to get help and work to help put people in need of services in contact with those services, and I’d like to expand the Mental Health Court, so that I am able to help more people in this area.

5. Why is this race important?

Misdemeanor courts are one area of the criminal justice system where you have a real shot at helping someone to turn their life around because it is often the first time an adult ever has contact with the criminal justice system. Helping people work towards getting out of the criminal justice system helps the person, and it also helps the community. Judges need real experience in the area of law that their courts preside over in order to help people make these types of changes. Experience facilitates alternative dispositions in the criminal arena because with that experience comes a real time working knowledge of options available under the law, of resources currently available in Harris County, relationships with the attorneys, agencies, and departments that work within the criminal justice system and are necessary to help effectuate the desired outcome.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I truly care about my job and the people that find themselves in Harris County Criminal Court at Law No. 6. I believe in criminal justice reform and work every day with the goal of getting the people that find themselves in criminal trouble out of the criminal justice system permanently because helping them do that helps the entire community.

Judicial Q&A: Teresa Waldrop

(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.

Teresa Waldrop

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

I am Teresa Waldrop. I’ve been a resident of Harris County for 25 years. I am Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and have practiced law for over 30 years. I am running as a Democratic candidate for the 312th Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This Court hears divorce cases, suits affecting parent-child relationship, adoptions, name changes, and enforcements. This court also hears Child Protective Services cases.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running to unseat the incumbent. The incumbent ran for judicial office 4 times for 3 different family law benches over a span of 8 years. The blue wave landed him a bench in the 2018 election cycle. He has touted his experience, compassion and common-sense approach when responding previously in this blog to questions about seeking judicial office. He failed to mention shortcomings in the areas of professionalism, temperament and emotional outbursts. Over the course of my career, I have had my share of judges who did not like me, my client, my argument, or my side of a case. I have witnessed judges lose their cool. Getting dressed down by judicial bullies has been part of my job for 30 years. But what took place in my 3-day bench trial before the incumbent was new-level different. Not only do Harris County citizens and their lawyers doing business in this Court deserve to be treated with professionalism, dignity and respect, the judicial canons require it. I have the temperament, demeanor and experience to run a professional family law court, the type of court one would expect to encounter in Harris County, Texas.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have practiced law for over 30 years. I have been Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 2009. Ninety-eight percent of my practice is devoted to family law matters. I have handled all phases of litigation from intake to trial, both jury and bench, and post-trial matters, including several appeals. My last jury trial lasted 12 days. My longest non-jury trial was 9 days. I have been the trial lawyer in three family law cases of first impression in the State of Texas. I am a graduate of Leadership Houston (Class XXII) and a Past President of the (Houston) Association of Women Attorneys. I have both the professional experience and leadership underpinnings needed to run this Court in a patient, dignified and courteous manner.

5. Why is this race important?

Because bullies don’t belong on the bench. Humiliation, sarcasm and snark are a judicial bully’s tools of oppression. Harris county citizens access this Court in times of crisis. Those citizens and their lawyers pay the salaries of our Harris County family law jurists. They deserve to interact with a judge who is patient, dignified and courteous when they find themselves in family law court. Every. Single. Courtroom. Day.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I am the most qualified candidate for this job. The incumbent has had a judicial term to demonstrate his experience, compassion and common-sense approach, and he’s come up short. Judicial incumbents who have shown themselves incapable of managing the job you gave them should now be returned to private practice. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, ‘when people show you who they are, believe them’.

Interviews and judicial Q&As through January 7

Putting these in one place for your convenience and mine. I’ll try to do this on a weekly basis so you don’t have to hunt for the previous engagements I’ve had with candidates. It’s going to be pretty much wall-to-wall through the primary period. Next week I’ll be running the Commissioners Court interviews, and the week after that will be the Treasurer and District Clerk interviews. After that will be SD15 and hopefully HD142, and I’m working on CD38 as well. After that, I will probably be reaching out to some statewide candidates.

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. Let me know if you have any questions.

Interviews

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

Judicial Q&As

Judge Abigail Anastasio, 184th Criminal District Court
Lema Barazi, 189th Civil District Court
Judge Scott Dollinger, 189th Civil District Court
Judge Tristan Longino, 245th Family District Court
Judge Hilary Unger, 248th Criminal District Court
Judge Chip Wells, 312th Family District Court
Judge Natalia Oakes, 313th Family District Court>,

Porscha Natasha Brown, County Criminal Court At Law #3

Judge Lucia Bates, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2
Herbert Alexander Sanchez, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2

Judicial Q&A: Judge Abigail Anastasio

(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 Abigail Anastasio

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

I am Judge Abigail Anastasio, presiding of Judge of the 184 th District Court. I have nearly 20 years of experience in public service as a Judge, teacher,
defender, and prosecutor. You can find out more at JUDGEANASTASIO.COM.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court handles all felony prosecutions ranging from Capital Murders to state jail felonies. I have handled thousands of cases during my time on the bench, including charges of capital murder, child abuse, sex abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, weapons offenses, animal cruelty, and various financial crimes.

Felony courts also handle special misdemeanors that deal with official oppression. I handle post conviction writs and some appellate matters. Probation revocations, adjudications, and administrative law are also included within my jurisdiction.

The District Court Judges also handle extensive administrative duties. I am the Chair of both the Docket Management and Justice Technology Committees. I also serve in many capacities including development and staffing of backlog trial courts and developing procedures to aid other judges in running their dockets more efficiently. Under my leadership, the court clearance rates increased significantly to rates higher than those even prior to Hurricane Harvey. I also serve on the Special Projects Committee, Standing Committee, and Bail Bond Committee.

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

I have accomplished many things during my time on the bench including the following: efficient court procedures leading to lowest backlog, lowest age of case, one the highest number of jury trials conducted, one of the highest successful probation completion rates, advancement of rehabilitative programs, creation of more courts… among many other things. I have been operating under emergency conditions the entirety of my time on the bench and have still been able to improve the court and successfully hold trials.

Additionally, and as simple as this may sound, the current felony court Judges had one guiding principle coming in: to ensure the law was followed. We have done that.

Many of my accomplishments are tangible. I (more often than not) have the lowest felony docket and backlog. I inherited a docket in the middle of then pack, but I worked hard to improve those numbers and to make things run efficiently despite Harvey and COVID-19.

My efficiency has led to the 184th having the lowest average age of case and one of the courts with the lowest number of individuals detained pretrial and on bond. The 184th also takes less actual number of court settings/appearances to resolve cases than nearly any of the Criminal District Courts.

I have presided over, to date, the most felony trials during the pandemic and have one of the highest number of felony cases tried during my 3 years on the bench. I was one of the first judges in Texas to implement safety procedures and try a felony case during the pandemic.

The key to public safety, overpopulation in jails, and access to justice for victims and the accused alike, is timely disposition (resolution) of cases. And you can do all of this while being fair and balanced. It takes a lot of hours and hard work, but, as I have proven over the past 3 years, it can be done.

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

We hope to stay on the same trajectory, disposing of cases timely and getting people their day in court as quickly as possible. I’d like to continue to work with the other Judges to improve the efficiency of our dockets and create new courts. We would also like to focus on creating more therapeutic and rehabilitative programs to those suffering from addiction and for those without support systems. I would like to see a reduction in recidivism, which can only come by providing these services.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because it is essential that good, fair, qualified judges who have proven themselves remain on the bench. Consistency and knowledge of the cases is key. Now that we have experienced judges on the bench, it’s important to keep them there if they are doing a good job. I have extensive experience in my field and have kept the court functioning properly even during the seemingly impossible challenges of Covid. I encourage the voters to compare the experience levels, qualifications, and accomplishments of each candidate. I feel assured that the people will see that I am the right candidate to remain in this position.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I have kept my promises to the electorate and beyond.

Always a champion of the people, I dedicated my life to public service in Harris County early in my career. I have served close to twenty years as Judge, assistant district attorney, teacher, and defender for the indigent. I taught English at Cesar Chavez High School in Southeast Houston for seven years.

I spent most of my childhood overseas, mainly in the Middle East, with much travel through Europe and Northern Africa. This left a lasting appreciation for diverse communities and an affinity for the cultural and demographic wonder of Harris County.

I am a fighter and understand the value and necessity of hard work.

In 2004, I was diagnosed with cancer, specifically Hodgkins Lymphoma. I underwent chemotherapy and radiation, and beat it, going on to become a licensed white-water rafting guide on the Kennebec River in Maine, and eventually completing the Ironman race subsequent to my battle and recovery. I remain cancer free 18 years later.

While working full time, I graduated from the University of Houston, and while working as a teacher in HISD attended night classes part-time to earn my law degree from South Texas College of Law.

After graduating law school and passing the bar exam, I served as an Assistant District Attorney for Harris County, prosecuting thousands of cases at that post. I always held that helping everyone was key: both victims of crime as well as those deserving of a second chance.

With that noble mission in mind, I left the DAs office to work complex defense cases, representing with fervor and integrity the indigent and others who stood accused of crimes. I quickly made a name for myself in my practice, being chosen as a Texas Super Lawyers Rising Star in 2017 and 2018.

Serving from both sides of the aisle, and now on the bench, has given me a unique perspective as both prosecution and defense; attorney and judge. This gives me a paramount ability to be fair, balanced, and impartial when compared to those who have only served on the side prosecuting those who are innocent unless proven guilty.

I have served years on the bench; years representing the accused; and years advocating for those seeking justice.

Collectively, I have tried close to 100 jury trials and handled thousands of cases, including charges of capital murder, child abuse, sex abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, weapons offenses, animal cruelty, and various financial crimes.

Of all the Criminal District Courts in Harris County, the 184th District Court, under my leadership, has the smallest backlog of cases. The court has one of the shortest dockets of individuals awaiting trial, and one of the shortest lists of people on bond. I consistently have one of the highest case clearance rates of all the Criminal District Courts (as of 12/20/2021) and have maintained the highest case clearance rate in over a decade for the 184th District Court. 

I treat every case individually and effectively and don’t waste your valuable tax dollars. My no-nonsense professionalism and efficient approach to case processing leads to wider access to justice for all, ensuring Harris County communities stay safer.

You, and those you love, can have faith that someone experienced and accountable is working swiftly to administer fair and unbiased justice on your behalf, all the while making sure due process and the rule of law remain.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Hilary Unger

(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 Hilary Unger

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

Judge Hilary D. Unger, 248th District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Criminal – felony cases.

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

First and foremost, we kept the courthouse open during the continuing renovation and repairs from Hurricane Harvey through the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. All of the judges went back to the Criminal Justice Center before the renovations were complete and each of us had to share a courtroom. When we finally were able to get back into our courtrooms, we were deep into the pandemic and I came to the courthouse every day, just trying to help keep the system afloat. When we were finally able to start trying cases, we had to contend with both Covid and building related issues. We have had to share jury rooms and we still have to deal with Covid related setbacks; I’ve had to stop two jury trials because of Covid exposure. None of us complained and we all did what we had to do.

Since I’ve been the judge for this court, the number of probationers who have successfully completed probation has doubled; people are no longer going to prison for minor technical violations.

Individuals who come before me, and who are proven to have committed serious and violent crimes, are punished appropriately under the law, and I have meted out very harsh sentences where called for. However, it is my belief that the community is protected, taxpayer costs are reduced, lives are salvaged and the community’s productivity improves when recidivism is diminished. In appropriate situations, I actively engage with social workers, organizations, and community leaders in an effort to find alternatives to incarceration, with an eye towards rehabilitation, and a reduction in recidivism, while emphasizing an increase in community safety. I try to steer these defendants into programs where they can better themselves, and become law abiding and positively contributing members of society.

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

I stay very involved with the people whom I have sentenced to probation/deferred adjudication. I will continue those efforts if I am re-elected for a second term. I encourage probationers, and I offer guidance when needed. I also stress to them the importance of education and trade certificates, and I frequently offer incentives to probationers who complete such programs. I believe that my efforts have worked as measured by the fact that the number of people who have successfully completed probationary sentences has doubled in this court since I took the bench.

I also would like to expand my partnership with the various organizations who work with defendants pretrial; these organizations include psychiatric medication providers, substance abuse treatment providers, and counselling providers. I would continue to arrange emergency housing for individuals as well as emergency mental health treatment, when needed. I would continue to
request assistance from the social workers at the Re-Entry program, which is located at the Harris County Sherriff’s Office, in an effort to connect defendants with services. Finally, I would continue to reach out to community organizations and leaders who have offered to help provide support for young adults who appear before me.

5. Why is this race important?

All citizens of the US, the State of Texas and Harris County deserve fair, and equal treatment before the law. We do not want to head backwards, to a climate where abuses in the administration of justice, notably in the manner in which the criminal justice system treated some members of society differently than others, were accepted as the norm in the 248th District Court. We have made great strides in removing some of the inequities, but certain pundits have tried to conflate the nationwide rise in crime with Democratic judges’ insistence on the preservation of due process rights for all; this revival of soft-on-crime rhetoric ultimately serves to perpetuate the lie that the current Democratic judges are weak or bad and that we do not consider the safety of victims, or of society as a whole. These accusations are simply false.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

Since taking the bench in 2019, I have made it a priority to treat everyone who appears before me with respect and to ensure that due process rights are not forfeited for expediency’s sake. Yet, I am always mindful that public safety is of paramount importance.

I have criminal court experience as a DA and a defense attorney in two of America’s largest cities – Houston and New York. As a prosecutor, I prosecuted complex narcotics and conspiracy cases and as a defense attorney I represented clients in both state and federal courts. My experiences have enabled me to critically assess positions taken by both the State and the defense.

Although my primary practice area has been criminal law, the experiences that I’ve had handling CPS cases and civil involuntary commitment hearings have proven extremely useful in giving me perspective into how criminal cases affect families and children.

Through my work with civil involuntary commitment patients in mental health hospitals, I saw the devastating effects of mental illness and also how well medications help. I also learned about the unique challenges facing mental health patients. Given that the Harris County jail is the largest mental health provider in Texas, this experience has proven invaluable. Similarly, through my work with CPS parents and children, I saw firsthand, how addiction affects families and also about the long-term effects of trauma on the childhood brain.

All of these experiences have provided me with significant insights and extensive experience that my opponent does not have. These insights in turn allow me to better understand the needs and hurdles of those who appear before me as defendants as well as the particular circumstances, feelings, pain and loss of crime victims.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Lucia Bates

(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 Lucia Bates

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

I am the Presiding Judge of Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Place 2. My court is located in Baytown. I was elected November 2018.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

I preside over a variety of cases including:

Small Claims and Debt Claims up to $20,000
Evictions
Only Court in Harris County handling the Driver’s License suspension dockets
Mental Health Docket
Magistration
Truancy
Jury Trials for Criminal Citations

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

o Cleared a backlog of 20,000 cases in 3 months
o Conducted Eviction Workshops with Houston Apartment Association to educate the Landlords and Tenants on procedures.
o Hosted Virtual Truancy Workshops via zoom due to the Pandemic. Facilitated by the Assistant. District Attorney, there were over 147 Triad officers in attendance.
o Streamlined court access to the public.
o Elected on the Harris County Juvenile Probate Board- Just re-appointed. (15 students graduated in the summer).
o Goose Creek CISD Communications Academy Advisory Board
o Partnered with Exxon Mobile to facilitate a Teen Summit to be held in Spring, 2022
o Established a very good relationship with the various School Districts, helping with youth initiatives.

Actively involved in the Precinct 3 Community

✓ Board Trustee for HCA Hospital -Southeast-just re-elected for 3 more years
✓ Galena Park ISD Community Leadership Council
✓ Membership Board Committee of the North Shore Rotary
✓ Nominating Board Committee of the North Channel Chamber of Commerce (Former Board Chairman)
✓ Top Ladies of Distinction-Baytown Chapter
✓ Vice President- Home Owners Association
✓ Collaborated on 6 Food Drives throughout the Community including 3 at the Courthouse Parking lot.
✓ Sponsored a Bicycle giveaway at Christmas
✓ Collaborated with the City of Baytown on many initiatives
✓ National Junior Honor Society Induction
✓ Member of Crosby/Huffman, Baytown and Highlands Chamber of Commerce.

Spoke to various groups:

▪ North Shore’s Annual Certification Day
▪ Friends of Crosby Library
▪ Baytown Lions Club
▪ Black History Program at Lee College
▪ Kiwanis Club
▪ Young Professional Council-Baytown Chamber of Commerce
▪ Baytown Optimist Club
▪ Northshore Senior Networking meeting.
▪ Highlands Elementary (guest speaker)
▪ Houston Chronicle “Lunch & Learn Guest” Celebrating Women’s History month.

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

Continue to provide the best solutions to everyone who enters the Courtroom.
Continue to be fair in my rulings.
Complete the backlog of Jury trials, put on hold during the pandemic.
Continue to Educate myself by attending all classes pertinent to the Justice of the Peace Court.
Continue the positive relationship with my constituents and keep the Court “The People’s Court”.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because I am committed to this job and community. I still have initiatives to complete. The Community has trusted my judgement and fairness and I would love to continue to be the positive change agent at “The People’s Court”.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I am the only candidate in this race that has experience. I am successfully running an efficient court. In my 1st term, I have cleared over 20,000 backlog cases, made the court accessible to all citizens and I work hard every day to better the lives of those most in need.

I would like to continue advocating, leading and finding solutions for my community, whether it be Truancy, Evictions, Food distributions or educating the public on the numerous legislative changes.

Judicial Q&A: Glenda Duru

(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.

Glenda Duru

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

My name is Glenda Duru. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas and am a proud Houstonian. I am honored to run for judgeship for the 313th Juvenile District Court of Harris County Texas.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 313th Juvenile District Court hears both criminal (juvenile delinquency) and civil (family child protection) cases.

3. Why are you running for this bench?

I am running for this bench because I have a passion for children, youth, and families. I believe that Harris County continues to need representation in the judiciary, particularly when it comes to the juvenile courts. I believe that there is a need for change in the 313th District Court. The change I seek to bring will balance fairness, impartiality, and protection of the community.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I bring a wealth of professional experience in social work, child welfare, and the law that will serve me well in this position. I am a graduate of the University of Houston’s Masters of Social Work program as well as a graduate of Thurgood Marshall Law School. Earning my degrees from both of these outstanding Houston institutions prepared me for both theoretical and practical application of the practice of youth and family services, social work, and the law. For more than 10 years I have worked on the ground to support thriving families through social work and legal advocacy. For the last 4 years I have been particularly focused on child welfare law. As an experienced trial attorney, with over 250 trials, I have developed an expertise in advocating on behalf of a child or family, in service of the best interest of my client. In gaining this practical experience, I now impart this knowledge onto students as a trial advocacy professor at Thurgood Law School. I continue to be an avid learner of the law and committed to upholding the principles that govern our courts – to use the letter and spirit of the law for the greater good.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important to me because I have civilly prosecuted in 313th since 2018, and in my years in the court I have witnessed many things that have led me to see a need for change. There is a need to remove bias and prejudice that can so easily remove objectivity from the court’s ruling. Too often I have witnessed how the current court’s judgement has left the permanency of children in limbo. The court must be fair and make judgements based on the law. Too often I see that children have been made to be voiceless despite knowing that they are our future. The court is held to the highest levels of accountability to make sure that both children and families are protected by all means within the law.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I am an advocate who seeks to bring change to the court that will support those who have been made most marginalized. Harris County citizens deserve a judge that is familiar with and a representation of the community; one who is fair, objective, and experienced. I will bring my years of experience to the bench to make impartial judgements that put the best interest of the children, youth, and families in my court first. Additionally, my work will not only be limited to the court room. I will continue to serve the community on the frontlines of education, community engagement and child protection. A vote for me, is a vote for the right Candidate.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Tristan Longino

(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 Tristan Longino

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

Tristan Harris Longino, 245th District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Family law (Divorce, Parent-Child Relationship, Protective Orders where court has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over a child or dominant jurisdiction through a pending divorce).

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

a. First family court to implement online scheduling (created myself as the county did not yet have any pilot program available) to allow litigants and counsel to conveniently pick settings that worked with their schedules and free up staff time (otherwise spent on the phone and e-mail responding to scheduling requests) for other responsibilities to increase court efficiency.

b. Eliminated trial dockets which were an inefficient use of court’s resources and litigants’ money and attorneys’ time (sitting through large dockets being called to hear other’s announcements without knowing if the court could have time to reach you if you were ready for trial).

c. Implemented a number of policies, such as prove-up of agreed divorces/orders by affidavit or unsworn declaration without the need to appear in person (saved litigants time & money), creating a submission docket where non-evidentiary matters were required set by submission (increasing court availability for evidentiary hearings like temporary orders and trial settings), etc. A number of these policies were adopted by the other family courts at the outset of the pandemic as they allowed cases to progress while the family bar/litigants/the courts ibecame familiar with Zoom for remote hearings.

d. Second highest rated presiding judge on 2021 evaluation by our local bar association (https://www.hba.org/docDownload/1871299).

e. Highest clearance rate in 2021 and second lowest docket size in family division (excluding the 507th as that is a more recently created court with a smaller docket as a consequence of having fewer post-judgment cases) (https://www.justex.net/dashboard/Family).

f. Have continued to conduct many proceedings by Zoom due to efficiencies created by medium (reduced travel time means less time off work and elimination of unproductive billing time for travel, increased participation in the process by parents navigating protective service cases, etc.) combined with increased safety for participants involved during multiple waves of ongoing pandemic while continuing to ensure the court remains open to the public by streaming proceedings.

g. Coordinated with two other family courts in the county (who also implemented online scheduling) to adopt joint policies to try and move toward simplifying practice by attorneys in Harris County by having shared policies between those three courts.

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

Continue to look for opportunities to innovate to increase efficiency and access to the court to ensure litigants can have their disputes disposed of timely.

5. Why is this race important?

To quote my predecessor, the Hon. Roy Moore, from our endorsement interview with the Houston Chronicle in 2018, family courts have “power over property, people, and liberty.” I think anyone would agree it’s important to have a jurist on the bench who knows the law, will apply it fairly to the facts, and work diligently to get matters heard and out of litigation so litigants are not kept hostage in an expensive and emotionally toxic process longer than necessary.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I’m experienced (I’m a board certified family lawyer and will have four years on the bench) and have brought innovation to the courts that have increased efficiency while reducing barriers to access. Read more about what I’ve done and why I’m running again at www.longinoforjudge.com.

Judicial Q&A: Lema Barazi

(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.

Lema Barazi

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

My name is Lema “May” Barazi and I am running for the 189th District Court in Harris County, Texas.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This is a civil district court that hears civil matters in which the amount in controversy is $200 or more.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

Throughout my legal practice, I have always advocated for fairness and impartial justice in the courtroom. I am running for the 189th District Court because I believe my legal and personal experiences have equipped me to serve the residents of Harris County impartially, yet compassionately.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

In addition to my degrees and extensive legal experience representing individuals and businesses in various different areas of law, I also have a unique skill set that allows me to bring diverse perspectives to the bench.

Education:
BA, English/Political Science, The University of Houston Honors College, 2003
JD, The University of Houston Law Center, 2006
MBA, Texas Tech University, 2014

Experience:
I have been a trial attorney for 15 years. I have served as a felony prosecutor, plaintiff’s attorney, and defense counsel in both state and federal courts throughout my career.

Specifically, I have practiced in the following areas over the course of the last 15 years:
1. Criminal prosecution;
2. Criminal defense;
3. Family law;
4. Immigration law;
5. Civil rights litigation;
6. Commercial litigation as a plaintiff’s attorney;
7. Commercial litigation as defense counsel;
8. Personal injury litigation as a plaintiff’s attorney;
9. Personal injury litigation as defense counsel;
10. Health law litigation as a plaintiff’s attorney;
11. Health law litigation as defense counsel;
12. Intellectual Property litigation as a plaintiff’s attorney;
13. Intellectual Property litigation as defense counsel;
14. Real Estate litigation as a plaintiff’s attorney;
15. Real Estate litigation as defense counsel;
16. Mass torts as a plaintiff’s attorney;
17. Pharmaceutical litigation as a plaintiff’s attorney;
18. Medical Device litigation as a plaintiff’s attorney;
19. Civil appellate law.

Skills:
I have native, professional proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing Arabic. I am proficient in multiple dialects and can converse with Arabic speakers across numerous countries spanning the Asian and African continents.

I also have a working knowledge of Spanish.

An additional skill set I have is that I am an educator. I have served as an Adjunct Professor teaching Business Law and Constitutional Law to university students for the past four years.

5. Why is this race important?
This race is important because I firmly believe that the lower the race is on the ballot, the closer the race is to our doors. We have all been impacted by the judicial system or will be impacted at some point in our lives and it is important to elect a judge that is qualified, representative, and a staunch advocate for fairness and impartiality.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

People should vote for me because I am a qualified attorney, a compassionate educator, and a wife and mother who is in tune with the concerns of Harris County voters. A vote for me is a vote for fairness, equality, and justice.

Judicial Q&A: Herbert Alexander Sanchez

(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.

Herbert Alexander Sanchez

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

My name is Herbert Alexander Sanchez, I am 37 years old, a husband, and a father to 3 children ages 4 to 19 years old. I am the son of Silvana and Oscar, two hard working people, who taught me the value of hard work, service, and dedication. I am a small business co-founder on the East Side of Harris County and an elected School Board Trustee. I believe that being a public servant requires an unshakeable conviction in the principles of equality and justice for all. There is no greater calling than to be of service to others by diligently working for the greater good of our communities by building coalitions and building up individuals through effective interventions when they are introduced to the justice system. These interventions must aid citizens to be productive members of society. I am currently running for the office of Harris County Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Place 2.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The Harris County Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Place 2 court hears civil cases that rise to $20,000 in argument. The Justice Court hears Class C misdemeanor criminal cases, traffic cases, and landlord/ tenant disagreements. The JP Judge may preside over driver’s license suspension, revocation, or denial hearings, occupational licensing hearings, and gun license revocation, denial, or suspension hearings. The Justice of the Peace also performs marriage ceremonies, may conduct hearings relating to tow and storage of vehicles, and may conduct inquests. The JP Court has a JP Liaison who assists with offenses that include juvenile truancy.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for this bench because I feel that I am the most qualified candidate. I understand the issues our community faces on a daily basis. Being a father to 3 young children, a husband, and a son to elderly parents, I long for a safe and prosperous community. Presently, our community is experiencing high levels of crime and poverty. I have witnessed firsthand the detrimental impacts of inequality in public services. I believe in building bridges instead of walls, providing a hand up not a handout, and closing the gap between the public and the officials who serve them. For many citizens, the Justice of the Peace Court is their first experience with the justice system, and it must be an experience that ensures the best possible outcomes for the citizens of Precinct 3 and Harris County.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

In order to have a strong, vibrant community, it is imperative that the Harris County Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Place 2 be a highly qualified individual. As a member of this community, a business owner, and public official, I have worked hand in hand with our local law enforcement, local organizations, community leaders, and directly with our community members on a daily basis, allowing me to understand the needs in our area and better understand areas of neglect.

Serving as an elected Galena Park ISD Board Trustee has also provided me with crucial insights regarding the direct impact living in an underserved community has on our children and their future. It is clear that our community deserves servant leaders who have the competencies and clear understanding of the needs of our community. I possess the qualifications, skills, and abilities that the office of the Justice of the Peace requires. My educational attainments, business experience, and community involvement have prepared me to best serve our community. I have earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration with a concentration In Homeland Security and Disaster Management from Sam Houston State University, a Bachelor’s Degree in Administration of Justice Cum Laude from Texas Southern University and an Associate’s Degree in Social and Behavioral Science from San Jacinto College. I am also actively pursuing a Law Degree. I have served in in law enforcement capacities from Police Intern Trainee, 911 Dispatch, Jail Deputy, and finally Patrol Deputy. All of these experiences have given me invaluable insight into the criminal justice system.

5. Why is this race important?

As a youth growing up in an impoverished area, I too experienced the feelings of frustration and helplessness as a result of imbalanced public services in our communities. People living in these situations often feel as though public servants are working against them rather than for them. This race is important because the Justice of the Peace Court can be the first and final experience within the justice system by promoting firmness, fairness, and compassion to strengthen citizens and deter them from a life of self-defeating, community-damaging poor choices. It is crucial that JP Judges implement sensible and lawful avenues of serving justice to serve the people. Effective interventions at this level can help prevent a citizen’s progression to the higher criminal court system, and help maintain safety and strength in our communities.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

A Justice of the Peace Judge must be prepared for the various challenges our community faces, must understand our community’s needs, and must respond to these needs through the implementation of programs aimed at building bridges instead of walls through accountability, deterrence, and rehabilitation. I understand the needs of our community. I have fought and continue to fight for a safe and more resilient community. I have the qualifications and the desire to change our community in a more positive way. The status quo serves no justice and is a revolving door that leads to higher levels within the justice system. Your vote in March will ensure firmness, fairness, and compassion, with equal justice for all.

Judicial Q&A: Porscha Natasha 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.

Porscha Natasha Brown

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

I am Porscha Natasha Brown, a Public Defender and Criminal Justice Reform proponent. I have been a Public Defender since 2016. I graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Criminal Justice from Sam Houston State in 2011, received my law degree from Thurgood Marshall School of Law in 2015, and my Master’s in Public Administration from University of Texas in Arlington in 2018. I am a proud graduate of the Gideon’s Promise Core Training for Public Defenders and I actively work on multiple committees that work to mentor newer public defenders and better indigent criminal legal services.

I am seeking to be the next Judge of Harris County Criminal Court No. 3.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Harris County Criminal Court No. 3 hears misdemeanor criminal cases. Misdemeanor criminal cases are low level offenses such as Resisting arrest, Evading on foot, Driving while Intoxicated 1st offense and 2nd offense, Assault Family Violence, and small possession of drugs. Misdemeanors are divided into three different levels which are Class A Class B, and Class C misdemeanors. Harris County Criminal Court No. 3 hears only Class A and Class B misdemeanors, while Municipal Courts handle Class C misdemeanors such as traffic tickets. The difference between Class A/B misdemeanors and Class C are that Class A/B are punishable by possible county jail time. Class A misdemeanors may be punishable with probation of up to 2 years or confinement in the county jail for no more than a year and a fine not to exceed $4000, while Class B misdemeanors may be punishable with probation of up to 2 years or confinement in county jail for no more than 6 months and a fine not to exceed $2000.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running to be a Judge because I care. I care about the rights and lives of those accused of a crime, victims of crime, and the community. As a Public Defender, I have seen what types of Criminal Justice reform are successful in real-time and I can also see where we are able to improve to better the chances of successful returns to court and reduce the rate of recidivism. As a crime victim, I have felt unsafe and I don’t want that feeling for anyone else. People should be held accountable once there has been a fair trial and/or sentencing. Unfortunately, even in 2021, there are still unfair trials and disparities in sentencing along racial, gender, and income level. I believe that in pretrial and sentencing we can push for more comprehensive services that provide for future success such as resources that address mental health, substance abuse, and homelessness. I believe that I can be a part of the solution for Harris County and provide a court that is efficient, follows the law, and is fair for all.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have been an attorney for 6 years, most of which has been as a Public Defender. I have been to trial on cases ranging from misdemeanors, felonies, and 1st degree felonies, as well as I have worked on high profile media cases, complex mental health and competency cases. I have handled heavy and fast paced dockets. I participate on committees and groups that work with Public Defenders and groups that work to enhance the knowledge of the Criminal Law codes. Currently, I serve as the Course Director of the Future Indigent Defense Leader’s Steering Committee. I am also a member of the State Bar of Texas Legal Services to the Poor in Criminal Matters Committee. Lastly, I am one of four hosts who lead a weekly Criminal Defense Study Group with attorneys throughout the state of Texas that are currently reviewing and discussing each section of the Code of Criminal Procedure, as well as legislative updates and other pertinent timely criminal issues.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because the lives of the people who are affected in this court are important. It is essential that those who are accused, those seeking justice as crime victims, and the community know that they will be taken seriously and that they will be treated fairly by each of the 16 misdemeanor courts. Currently, Harris County Criminal Court No. 3 has the lowest number of active cases out of the other 16 misdemeanor courts. It is important that Harris County continues to make sure that cases, justice, and the community are swiftly served by the courts. Even though misdemeanor courts cannot result in prison, the cases that are heard in this court can still be life changing.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

People should vote for me because I care. I care about the rights and lives of those accused of a crime, victims of crime, and the community. I am currently a Public Defender in Harris County which has afforded the opportunity to see first-hand what types of pretrial and sentencing methods work best to promote success and lower instances of recidivism. As someone who has also been a victim of a crime, I know that victims want their day in court and to be treated with importance by law enforcement. People should vote for me because I can relate to the people that are coming in the court, whether those are people who are charged with crimes, victims, and/or the community. I know that it is imperative that people who are accused of crimes know that the person who is presiding over their case is someone who doesn’t have a one-sided background or is unable to put themselves in their shoes. Judges must be able to be fair to all and follow the law. Based on my legal background, my experience as a Public Defender, and my past experience as a crime victim, I feel that I am best to see both sides in the Court and provide fair and just rulings for all of Harris County. Harris County has made tremendous strides in Criminal Justice Reform but we are not done yet. A vote for me, is a vote to push to be efficient and fair in a way that ultimately provides equality in reducing recidivism, enhancing victim solutions, reducing poor policing habits, and increasing success of the accused.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Scot Dollinger

(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.

Scot Dollinger

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

I am Scot “dolli” Dollinger, Judge of the 189th Civil District Court, Harris County Texas.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Harris County divides its 61 District Courts into four parts: civil (24), criminal (23), family (11) and juvenile (3).

The 189th Civil District Court hears every kind of case except those involving criminal, family or juvenile matters. The court hears mostly personal injury and commercial litigation disputes but also handles other kinds of cases like employment, civil rights, defamation and property tax cases. The court also has the power to issue injunctions – orders which prevent people from taking certain actions.

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

I more than doubled the number of jury trials tried every year. My predecessor normally tried 10 jury trials per year. My first year on the bench I tried 26 jury trials. In 2021, I tried more jury trials than any other civil district court judge.

I am polite to everyone and know people need prompt fair decisions. I consistently either rule from the bench or within five days of the hearing.

I am 100% paperless and sign every ORDER electronically which reduces the time for the ORDER to be viewable on the District Clerk’s website.

When COVID-19 came, I joined with my other civil judges in holding hearings via zoom technology and plan on keeping zoom as a valuable tool to make hearings easier to conduct.

I marry same sex couples. Before I took the bench, the presiding judges would not marry same sex couples. I conduct marriages for all people eligible to be married.

I make pies for all my juries. It’s my way of saying “thank you for your service.” Good government is about bringing people together to solve problems. That’s what juries are – problem solvers. Nothing brings people together like homemade pie.

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

Going forward, I want to build upon the work of the last three years and continue to try a large number of cases and implement case evaluation systems to better manage the court’s docket to help reduce backlogs caused by limited courtroom space created by Harvey and COVID-19.

5. Why is this race important?

Who your judge is matters.

This race is important because we need experienced trial judges on our benches. I am the most experienced candidate running for this position. I have been licensed to practice law for over 34 years. I am Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law – Texas Board of Legal Specialization. I am a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) – one must be an experienced trial lawyer to gain membership. Before taking the bench, I tried over 30 jury trials. Since taking the bench, over the last three years, I tried 45 jury trials. I have been doing the work of this court for over 34 years. I am dedicated to the right to trial by jury. The only thing that slowed us down in terms of jury trials was COVID-19, but even then we adapted and eventually returned to a high rate of trying cases.

This race is important because of diversity on the bench. The Civil Ten – elected in 2018 – consist of an incredibly talented diverse group of people: seven women and three men. Two judges are African-American, two are Hispanic, one Vietnamese, one Pakistani and one LGBTQ+. I am the only white heterosexual male of the 10. I am a piece of the diversity rainbow. A vote for me is a vote for diversity.

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

I am the more qualified candidate with a heart for the people having received endorsements in 2018 from the following groups:

• Houston Chronicle
• Houston Association of Women Attorneys
• Pasadena Bar Association
• Mexican American Bar Association of Houston
• Houston Lawyers Association
• Texas Democrats with Disabilities
• Bay Area New Democrats
• Area Five Democrats
• Tejano Democrats, Harris County
• Harris County Labor Assembly C.O.P.E., AFL – CIO
• Communications Workers of America 6222 (CWA)
• Houston GLBT Political Caucus
• Our Revolution – Harris County Chapter
• Texas Coalition of Black Democrats – Harris County
• Houston Black American Democrats
• Texas Progressive Executive Council
• Bay Area Democratic Movement.

The endorsement process has just started and so no group has yet made endorsements for 2022, but I hope to obtain renewed support from the above groups. As endorsements are made, I will post them on my website: www.dolli4judge.com.

Any positive my opponents have, I have also but more and better. For example, I believe I have tried more civil district court cases, handled more appeals from the district courts and clerked with a federal judge. I am board certified, I have run my own firm and I have consistently hired diversely.

I have a strong work ethic which I bring to every task including campaigning and understanding what is necessary to win in Harris County. I have been campaigning for over a year. In 2014, when I was on the ballot in Harris County running for Civil Court No. 2, I made more phone calls than any other Democratic candidate.

Before I took the bench, I represented individuals, not institutions, virtually my entire practice. I worked as a defense lawyer for eight years being hired to defend people who were accused of hurting others. So, I understand the law from a defense lawyer’s perspective. I worked as a plaintiff lawyer for 22 years before taking the bench helping people who had been hurt. So, I understand the law from a plaintiff’s lawyer perspective. I clerked for a federal judge and worked as a District Court Judge for almost three years. So, I understand the law from a judge’s perspective.

I am a proven product. You know what you are getting when you vote for me.

I understand the courts belong to all the people. Judges are trustees of the judicial power given to our courts. That power must be exercised with the utmost good faith and checked at every turn to battle against the tendency for power to be abused.

I understand the law is here to protect the weak from the strong and powerful. The law levels the playing field. The end of all government is justice for all – equal protection and fairness are corner stones of the house of justice. There are two things difficult for any person to accept:

– Being unjustly harmed/wronged;
– Being unjustly accused.

For every matter at issue, our courts must be respected and known for properly sorting out which is which. If a person has been unjustly wronged, then the courts must give and provide proper remedies. If a person has been unjustly accused, then the courts must release the wrongly accused and deny the accuser the remedy sought.

My work and life experience have prepared me for this job. If re-elected, I am ready, willing and able to continue serving my community well. Please vote for me. I am asking for your vote. Thank you.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Chip Wells

(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 Chip Wells

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

I am the Presiding Judge in the 312th Family District Court. I was first elected to the Court in November 2018 and ascended to the bench January 2019. I was first licensed to practice law in June 1977 after graduating from South Texas College of Law. I have practiced law in the state of Texas for 42 years prior to my election to the bench and will have been licensed 45 years in June of this year. Before my election I practiced law with my law partner for over 28 years. I am married, divorced, married, divorced and married again. Together my wife of more than 27 yrs and I raised her two children and one of our own. We presently have three grandchildren. Because of my legal experience and my life experience I am without question the most qualified individual to serve in this Court. Family Courts have traditionally been Courts of equity where we seek to do what is best for the family and especially for the children involved. I do that work every day on the bench in the courthouse where I was elected to serve.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 312th hears the entire range of family law cases including but not limited to divorce, modification of prior orders, child support enforcement and modification; original suits affecting the parent child relationship; contempt; paternity; adoption; terminations; cases involving children in the care of CPS/ TDFPS. These case descriptions have the effect of minimizing the broad range of cases this Court hears. I have cases involving allegations of murder, vast financial resources, physical and emotional abuse, and complex jurisdictional issues involving marital estates. A Family Law Judge does not serve in a vacuum but in an arena of life experiences acquired through life and years of practice.

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

I am very proud of the fact that the 312th has been open and in-person every day that we have had access to the Courthouse. I had a staff including my lead Clerk, Court Reporter and Associate Judge who desired to be in the Courtroom where we were elected to serve and expected to be found. We followed all protocols and moved our docket effectively, safely and efficiently. From the beginning I adopted discovery procedures intended to effectively streamline the time associated with discovery hearings. The ability to create time saving policies came as a result of my extensive experience in other areas of the practice of law. In the 312th we have attempted every day to provide a Courtroom where lawyers could try their case in a meaningful way in compliance with the rules of civil procedure. The HBA Bar Poll rated the 312th 80% Satisfactory, Very Good and or Excellent. The Associate Judge appointed by me was among the highest rated among her peers. Our lead clerk was recognized as the Professional of the Year.

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

Going forward I would like for the 312th to successfully continue to resolve its docket so that cases are handled in a timely, efficient manner. The 312th Court Coordinator is constantly combing through the docket to identify cases that have stalled and are no longer being actively prosecuted. We want to clear those cases to allow for appropriate attention on those cases being actively prosecuted. Additionally, every week we work diligently to improve the movement of cases involving CPS participation. Our children must receive better and more effective protection. Often these cases due to the sheer size of the docket fall between the cracks and the children are suspended in foster care with no real hope of family reunification or permanent placement. It is a tragedy. Judge Baughman and I work every day to move through our docket more efficiently to allow attention to be given to those cases ready to go forward and to relieve lawyers of time wasting delay. When we identify shortcomings in our process we address them. We are committed every day to improve the service we provide to the citizens of Harris county.

5. Why is this race important?

I began seeking election to the bench as a Family District Court Judge in 2009. At that time Judicial candidates were recruited to campaign based upon their recognized experience and ability to handle the job in the event they were elected. So long as we are electing judges in the state of Texas it is necessary that we elect those judges who not only have the experience but have the ability to serve in a state district court. I have been recognized as such an individual by my peers and by the people of Harris county. I am the candidate of choice by my colleagues and peers serving in the family law division. The very worst thing that we could do would be to elect Judges based upon gender, color, or ethnic background. I am the most competent candidate; the incumbent and I should be returned to the bench for 4 more years.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

The answer to 6 is reflected in 5. I am a fully paid member of the HCDP Coordinated campaign. In every race that I have participated in since 2010 I have received the endorsement of each of the major endorsing entities. I not only support the Democratic Party but I support the individuals in our community that in-turn share common interests with the Democratic party and who seek to be judged by those of similar experiences. I have more legal experience than any other candidate. I have more life experience than any other candidate. I have more judicial experience than any other candidate. The 312th is among the highest rated of the Family District Courts. There is no justification for the replacement of the current Judge and staff serving the citizens of Harris County in the 312th.

HCDE Q&A: Jose Rivera

As noted before, I am doing written Q&As with candidates for HCDE Trustee Position 7, At Large, whose nominee will be selected by Democratic precinct chairs in August. This is the third and (barring any unexpected late entrants) final entry in this series.

1. Who are you and why are you running for this office?

Jose Rivera

My name is Jose Rivera and I am a candidate for the Harris County Department of Education, Place 7, At-Large. My roots are from Puerto Rico. My family moved to the continental mainland when my father joined the Navy which would lead to a 20 year career in the military in North Florida. My mother would anchor our family throughout my father’s multiple deployments while building her professional career. I moved to Texas in 2003 to attend the University of Houston and to be with my then girlfriend and now wife, Tanya Makany-Rivera. Houston is our home and the city where we are raising our two sons.

When we relocated to Florida, it was a challenge for me; I only spoke Spanish and at the time ESL programming and resources were not the norm. The reality of being labeled by the educational system as a lot of people of color have been and being given low expectations was something that I focused on overcoming. If it wasn’t for the music program in my middle school which provided a creative outlet for me, I may not have graduated high school.

Working part-time jobs and making slightly above minimum wage, I was fortunate to receive the support of a small scholarship from a new employer that allowed me the time and resources to attend a community college and complete my Associates’ Degree. I was able to transfer hours to the University of Houston where I received my Bachelor’s in Sociology. I was determined to further my education and completed the Executive Masters in Public Administration program from Texas Southern University.

I decided to run because I want to be a voice for kids, who like me, have been labeled and may not be aware of the resources that are available to them. With over 15 years of work experience in both the non-profit and public sector, I’ve had the opportunity to work in our communities and have a true pulse on the challenges we face. Educational equality is a major underlying factor that needs to be addressed for the children and adults in our community. I hope to be the bridge to provide educational opportunities for all children of Harris County.

The Harris County Department of Education is a part of that solution as a support system for the 25 surrounding school districts. I support HCDE’s goals to provide Head Start programming, therapy services, CASE after school programming, and alternative school programs which include the only substance rehabilitation high school in the region. HCDE is a vital resource for our youth and it is important that we support and raise awareness about the existing available resources.

HCDE is also the largest provider of Adult Education in the region with 9,500 participants through ESL, GED, and Workforce support programs. The majority of these participants are from our Latinx and Black communities. I strongly believe inclusive programming for our youth is a vital and important investment. It will also create opportunities for their parents and adults within our community.

2. What background or experience do you have with public education?

I have two sons, Anthony who is 11 yrs old, and Dominic who is 7. Both have attended public schools and are currently students in the Houston Independent School District.

My professional experience has afforded me the opportunity to work with local school districts, from the start of my career in public service at the Mayor’s Anti-Gang Office, to the juvenile court counseling program. I have had both the privilege and challenge of working with 9th-graders who had excessive absences at Northside High School in the Near Northside. I’ve worked on establishing collaborative partnerships with local school districts that included HISD, Aldine ISD and Lone Star College. I’ve worked on creating programming and job training opportunities and resources to support our area students and families with BakerRipley and in my current role at the YMCA.

3. What experience have you had with the HCDE?

My experience with HCDE started through my work at Congressman Gene Green's office. We routinely would send support letters and help raise awareness of programming initiatives offered by the HCDE to government entities and the community. In my non-profit work, we have collaborated in the past in promoting programs for the families we serve primarily for Head Start and Adult Education initiatives.

4. What would your top three priorities be as HCDE Trustee?

● Ensure we are providing equitable funding resources and programs to our communities.
● Make sure decisions are made in an open and transparent manner.
● Create a community advisory board with the representation of our diverse community to "listen", and identify community challenges and opportunities to bring to the board.

5. What did you do to help Democrats win in 2018, and what are you doing to help Democrats win in 2020?

● Volunteered on the Adrian Garcia, County Commissioner Pct. 2 race
● Tejano Democrats
● Deputy Voter Registrar- have helped register voters over the years in multiple election cycles in Harris County.
● Became a sustaining member of the Harris County Democratic Party.
● Have worked with and currently work with non-partisan organizations on voter engagement awareness and registration to help increase voter turnout.

6. Why should precinct chairs pick you to be the nominee and not one of your opponents?

It is critical that the board of the HCDE have someone who is ready to hit the ground running on day one and understands the programs and services that the organization provides. I have established relationships with area nonprofits, school districts and elected officials at the city, county and federal level which will help to market the existing programs and expand based on the needs of our community. I believe that my unique life experiences, education and professional experience make me the best candidate for this seat.

For more information about my candidacy you can visit my page at: www.facebook.com/joseforhcde7.

HCDE Q&A: David Brown

As noted before, I am doing written Q&As with candidates for HCDE Trustee Position 7, At Large, whose nominee will be selected by Democratic precinct chairs in August.

1. Who are you and why are you running for this office?

David Brown

My name is David Wayne Brown. I’m a first-generation high school and college graduate born and raised in Houston. I’m a proud husband and father of three. After graduating from college I became a full-time entrepreneur and community activist, to help bring change to the communities that gave me so much as a child. As a first-generation high school and college graduate, I understand whole-heartedly what our students need to become well educated productive citizens in society. As an HCDE Trustee, I will always put our children and families first and not outside interests.

The thing that differentiates me from the other candidates in my race is my community activism. My opponents are great hard-working people, but I feel like my community service sets me apart because I have first-hand experience assisting those who I seek to represent. I am also a health educator with Change Happens, a nonprofit organization located in 3rd Ward and more importantly, I am a father of three school-aged children. As a parent, it is my goal to ensure my children have the greatest chance to succeed. I want to take that drive to HCDE to ensure that all of our students across the county have someone to advocate for them the way I advocate for my children.

2. What background or experience do you have with public education?

I’m currently employed as a Health Educator with a nonprofit organization in 3rd Ward. I’m in schools daily fostering meaningful relationships with our youth that will last for generations to come. Educating them on the importance of healthy relationship building, managing their anger, the importance of mental health and avoiding risky behaviors.

3. What experience have you had with the HCDE?

Prior to the pandemic of COVID-19. I’ve been attending HCDE board meetings that are held on the 3rd Wednesday of the month at 1 p.m. I’ve been attending these meetings for about a year now. Taking things in and appreciating the platform of HCDE and how it serves our youth and also those responsible as well for making it possible.

4. What would your top three priorities be as HCDE Trustee?

Public Safety in Schools:

  • Increasing the number of mental health counselors on each HCDE campus.
  • Creating a coalition of parents, educators, and law enforcement to meet quarterly to identify ways to help better assist in the social development and safety of our children.
  • Introducing protective technology into all HCDE classrooms.

Educational Equity:

  • Expanding ethnic studies across all HCDE campuses.
  • Ensuring that all school-aged children in Harris County have access to a quality head start and after school program.
  • Providing 21st-century diversity training for all HCDE staff and educators.

Improving Child Literacy Across the country:

  • Working with third-party partners to embed literacy into other programs currently active across the county.
  • Establishing a school/city/HCDE collaborative to improve communication amongst the three entities to share ideas, insights, and innovations that will help us better educate our children.

5. What did you do to help Democrats win in 2018, and what are you doing to help Democrats win in 2020?

In 2018 I became a VDVR and volunteered at local events to help register people to vote. I blocked walked for Democratic candidates, phone banked and joined several Democratic organizations that requires a paid membership. I understand the importance of grassroots campaigning and how it is great to volunteer but also vital to donate.

6. Why should precinct chairs pick you to be the nominee and not one of your opponents?

The precinct chairs should most definitely pick me to be the nominee and not one of my opponents because of my passion, dedication, experience, values, heart and willingness to fight for our youth and our community. I’ve given so much even when I’ve had so little. I come to my people as a vessel, ready to build, learn and create! I also received the most votes than any other candidate aside from Andrea Duhon who was already appointed to the board and cannot hold two positions. I’m the only candidate that actually works with youth and supporting staff in schools. This has granted me an opportunity to truly learn the needs of our students. They are all unique and brilliant in their own way. It’s only right we deliver an educational system that provides quality and equity for all across the board!

HCDE Q&A: Obes Nwabara

Obes Nwabara

As you know, there are two races on the November ballot for which Democratic precinct chairs will be selecting the nominee in August. One is for County Clerk, and the other is for HCDE Trustee Position 7, At Large. As a precinct chair and as a Democratic voter, I wanted to get to know the candidates running for the HCDE spot a little better, so I sent them a written Q&A, similar to the ones I send to judicial candidates. Under other circumstances I might try to do a regular interview, but given time and other constraints, I thought this was the best option. There are three candidates running that I know about (a fourth, Sonja Marrett, informed me that she had withdrawn from the race), and I have received responses from each to these questions. I’m printing their answers in the order I received them. Hope you find this useful.

1. Who are you and why are you running for this office?

My name is Obes Nwabara, and I’m running for HCDE Trustee because education is deeply personal for me. The reason for that actually starts long before I was born and far from here.

In late 60’s Nigeria, the Biafran War was ravaging the nation. My paternal grandfather, with a wife and five children, needed to get his family out of the country.

He was in luck, though, because of his position as a college professor at the University of Nigeria. The school — which had been started in conjunction with Michigan State University — made it possible for him to save his family from the war by sending them to the United States.

His youngest son went on to get his own education, get married, have three sons, and eventually move to Texas. The eldest of those three is me.

So, as you can see, without education I would not be here. While most of the personal stories of our students don’t include escaping a civil war, getting a quality education can mean the difference between life and death, between hope and despair, and that’s a lesson that has been passed down through the generations in my family.

2. What background or experience do you have with public education?

I’ve volunteered at schools to read to young students, and I’ve worked with organizations like LVEC (the Latino Voter Empowerment Coalition) to get public school students registered to vote.

And in my own life, I’ve been a public school student, including getting my bachelor’s degree at the University of Houston.

3. What experience have you had with the HCDE?

Since I’ve been running for this seat I’ve attended meetings and spoken with several sitting board trustees.

4. What would your top three priorities be as HCDE Trustee?

My top 3 priorities would be to:
1. Expand Head Start (HCDE’s pre-K program) throughout the county so more families can participate,
2. Increase the number of programs organized through CASE (the Center for Afterschool, Summer, and Enrichment) to ensure kids aren’t slipping through the cracks outside of the school day, and
3. Increase access to student therapy services so that more students have a safe place to express their feelings and learn how to deal with life’s challenges

5. What did you do to help Democrats win in 2018, and what are you doing to help Democrats win in 2020?

In 2018 I was a block walk captain for the Beto O’Rourke campaign in Dallas and I block walked for the Dallas County Democratic Party. What I remember most from that was the sense at each door that this might be the year, and one in particular stands out in my mind. I remember ringing a doorbell in an apartment complex and a woman answered the door. She was already supporting Beto but there was a feeling of hope in her eyes to vote for him that I’d never seen in Texas Democrats before. It was a feeling that said “we can do this!”

I’ve never forgotten that feeling and it continues to drive me to do whatever I can, wherever I can, to elect Democrats and turn this state blue. We can do this.

During the Beto campaign I was also a phone bank captain. Thus far this cycle, outside of running for office myself, I’ve written campaign letters and postcards for several campaigns, I’ve shared voting information on my social media, and I’ve advocated for Democratic candidates to win over their Republican opponents by joining and participating in several Harris County Democratic clubs.

6. Why should precinct chairs pick you to be the nominee and not one of your opponents?

Precinct chairs should pick me because I have the best platform for students in Harris County, I’m a committed Democrat, and in the last year since I started pursuing this nomination I’ve shown that I’m willing to put the time in anywhere I can to make sure that there’s someone advocating for the children of Harris County and the educational opportunities they ALL deserve.

Runoff reminder: Judicial races

Previously: Statewide, Congress, SBOE and State Senate, State House, county races.

Let’s begin with this, because if you only vote in one judicial primary runoff, this is the one to vote in.

An incumbent judge who is under indictment and is battling for her bench maintains that her 12 years of judicial experience better qualify her in the race. But her challenger claims that someone needs to restore integrity and ethics to Harris County’s 164th Civil District Court.

Judge Alexandra Smoots-Thomas and Cheryl Elliott Thornton are the two candidates in the Democratic Primary runoff race for the Houston-based court. Whoever wins will face Republican candidate Michael Landrum in the November election.

Thornton claimed that because her 33 years practicing law has earned her the respect of colleagues, that both public officials and sitting judges asked her to run for the 164th District Court.

“Harris County needs someone whose ethics are not questioned and who is ready and who is able to serve, both legally and through her qualifications, as the next judge,” Thornton said. “What differentiates me from my opponent is not just the respect that people have for me, it’s also my integrity and my ability to let others be heard.”

Smoots-Thomas was suspended in November 2019 from her court by the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct after federal authorities charged her with seven counts of wire fraud. Claiming this is a political prosecution, she’s pleaded not guilty in the case, which alleged she embezzled over $26,000 in campaign contributions and used them for personal expenses like her mortgage and private school tuition for her children.

Smoots-Thomas said that she’s presided over the 164th District Court for 12 years and in that time she’s handled more than 200 jury trials and countless bench trials. She wrote that after Hurricane Harvey damaged Harris County’s courthouse, she used her chambers as a courtroom space so she could keep up her court’s efficiency and allow litigants their day in court. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s helped groups distribute masks and personal protective equipment around the county, she wrote.

“Throughout my years on the bench, I have been given several awards from various groups honoring my service and commitment to the legal community and larger Harris County community,” she wrote. “In short, I believe in and strive to exemplify judicial experience, efficiency, and adaptability.”

It’s possible that this is a politically motivated prosecution against Smoots-Thomas. I can’t prove that it isn’t, and if it is there’s no way to restore equity to Judge Smoots-Thomas. But I can’t take the chance. I’ve known Judge Smoots-Thomas since she was first a candidate in 2008. I like her personally. We’re friends on Facebook. I sincerely hope she beats these charges. I can’t vote for her with them hanging over her. I will be voting for Cheryl Elliott Thornton. I will note that Stace disagrees with me on this one. I also note from the Erik Manning spreadsheet that third-place finisher Grant Harvey was the Chron endorsee in March, so I presume we will see them revisit this one.

There’s one other District Court runoff in Harris County, for the open 339th Criminal Court, featuring Te’iva Bell and Candance White. Bell took nearly all of the organizational endorsements and was endorsed by the Chron as well.

The other judicial race on the ballot in Harris County is for the 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7, Tamika Craft versus Cheri Thomas. That’s another one for the Chron to redo, since they went with Wally Kronzer in round one.

The judicial Q&As that I received from these candidates: Cheri Thomas, Tamika Craft, Cheryl Elliott Thornton. You can watch Thomas, Thornton, Smoots-Thomas, and Bell participate in a judicial candidate forum with Civil Court Judge and all-around mensch Mike Engelhart on the estimable 2020 Democratic Candidates Debate Facebook page. Texas Lawyer covers Bell versus White here and Craft versus Thomas here.

Finally, there is one judicial primary runoff in Fort Bend, for the 505th Family Court, between Kali Morgan (44.6%) and Surendran Pattel (30.3%). I don’t have any information about them, but the Texas Lawyer profile of their runoff is here.

And with that, we bring this series to an end. Hope it was useful to you. Get out there and vote, in as safe and socially-distant a manner as you can.

UPDATE: Today the Chron endorsed in the judicial runoffs, recommending Cheri Thomas and Cheryl Elliott Thornton, and re-endorsing Te’iva Bell.

Judicial Q&A: Veronica Rivas-Molloy

(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.)

Veronica Rivas-Molloy

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

My name is Veronica Rivas-Molloy. I am honored and proud to ask for your support to become a Justice on the First Court of Appeals, Place 3.

I am a wife, a mother of three young sons, a proud immigrant to this country, and a practicing attorney of almost 20 years. I am the first person in my family to graduate from college, the first to obtain an advanced degree, and the first attorney. If elected, I will be the first judge in my family, the first Democratic elected Hispanic attorney to serve on the First Court of Appeals, and only the second Latina to serve on the court in 128 years, bringing much needed diversity to our appellate bench.

I have a degree in Criminal Justice and Spanish (with honors) from the University of Texas at El Paso. I graduated with honors and at the top of my law school class from the University of Houston Law Center. After graduation, I secured a highly coveted position as a judicial clerk in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, gaining invaluable experience. For the last 17 years, I have worked at top-tier law firms representing my clients in litigation and appellate matters in Texas and other jurisdictions in the United States. I have handled hundreds of complex litigation matters involving various industries and areas of the law, tried over 20 jury cases (including civil, criminal, and immigration matters), and counseled my clients on a variety of appellate matters. My experience is extensive and it has prepared me well for the position I now seek.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

There are 14 Courts of Appeals in Texas, each presiding over a specific geographic territory. The First Court of Appeals is located in Houston, Texas. The Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices preside over the court and hear civil and criminal (except death penalty) appeals originating from trial courts in 10 counties: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Grimes, Harris, Waller, and Washington counties.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I want to serve my community and give back to the legal profession that gave me a voice and the opportunity to advocate on behalf of others. I have a passion for what I do, and I want to use my skills and experience to give back to our community and serve our judicial system, for which I have profound respect. I also want to bring my wealth of experience and diverse voice to our appellate bench, where I feel I can make a meaningful contribution.

On a personal level, I also want to set an example for my children and diverse youth who may be considering a career in law. I want them to know the importance of civic duty and service, and for them to grow up knowing that immigrants, mothers, and diverse attorneys can be Justices and serve our communities with integrity, excellence, and hard work.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have practiced law for almost 20 years, handling a wide-variety of complex business disputes throughout Texas and other jurisdictions in the United States. I have represented numerous clients in state and federal courts, including county courts at law, district courts, appellate courts, and before domestic and international arbitral tribunals in disputes involving oil and gas operations, real estate, healthcare, construction, personal injury, employment matters, trade secrets, non-compete and restrictive covenants, and a diverse range of complex contractual and business-related matters. I have met the highest and most rigorous standards at all levels of my legal profession: student, law clerk, and legal practitioner.

I graduated with honors from the University of Texas at El Paso with a double degree in Criminal Justice and Spanish. I graduated from the University of Houston Law Center with honors and at the top of my law school class, where I served as an Article Editor on the Law Review, a Prosecutor on the Honor Court, the Vice President of the Hispanic Student Bar Association, and a Class Representative for the Student Bar Association.

After graduation, I secured a highly coveted position as a judicial clerk working for the Honorable Ewing Werlein, Jr. in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, where I gained invaluable experience working on a significant number of civil litigation matters. I worked on procedural and substantive matters assisting the court with trials, dispositive motions, jurisdictional disputes, evidentiary hearings, expert challenges, injunction hearings, pre-trial matters, jury charges, findings of fact, and conclusions of law. I engaged in rigorous legal analysis and extensive brief writing, drafting recommendations on the myriad of cases and legal matters presented to the court over the course of two years.

Working in court also helped me understand not only the importance of having open access to our courts and the significance of the rule of law to our democracy, but also the importance of staffing and administration of a court’s docket to ensure efficient, fair and prompt resolution of pending cases. I also understood very early on that judges are servants of our judicial system, and, that as such, they have a duty to rule with impartiality, justice, equality, and with utmost respect for our judicial system. I learned the importance of having proper judicial temperament, and the importance of excellence, hard work and integrity.

Following my clerkship, I worked at the law firm of Baker Botts, LLP, where I continued to work on various litigation matters helping further refine my analytical, oral, and written advocacy skills. I represented clients across different industries in matters involving general commercial litigation and complex business disputes. I also served as a volunteer prosecutor for the City of Houston, where I managed the docket of the court (first-chair) once a week, engaging in various matters, such as plea bargaining, interfacing with defense counsel, working with court staff, officers, and witnesses, and trying numerous cases to the jury involving administrative and criminal matters.

For the last 10 years, I have worked at the law firm of Jones Walker, LLP, advocating for my clients and representing them on a diverse range of complex business disputes and appellate matters. I represent clients in state and federal courts across Texas, and other jurisdictions in the United States, including county courts at law, district courts, appellate courts, and arbitral tribunals. I have first-chair experience handling a significant number of bench and jury civil matters, helping my clients develop legal strategy and conduct fact discovery and investigations, motion practice, depositions, preparation and presentation of witnesses and experts, evidentiary hearings, expert challenges, legal briefs, jury charges, pre-trial matters, mediations, arbitrations, trial, and appeals in a wide-variety of complex business disputes.

My significant experience in civil litigation makes me uniquely suited to be a Justice on the First Court of Appeals, because more than half of all appeals filed before that court involve civil matters, including complex business disputes like the ones I have been handling for years. It is important to elect judges who have a robust civil litigation practice and experience in trial courts, from which these civil appeals originate. I have that experience. In addition, it is vital that we elect judges who have strong written advocacy skills. As a litigator and former law clerk, a significant part of my practice has been devoted to rigorous legal analysis and extensive written advocacy.

In addition to my litigation practice, I work directly with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) providing pro bono representation to unaccompanied minors in their immigration and asylum proceedings. I also serve as General Counsel for Holy Trinity Episcopal School of Greater Houston, where I provide pro bono legal advice and representation to the school on various matters. I am also actively involved in my sons’ schools, having served on their parent teacher organizations, volunteering on multiple committees and special projects, and volunteering as their catechism teacher at our church.

5. Why is this race important?

Our courts of appeals hear significant cases that affect not only the parties before the court, but our communities at large. The decisions appellate courts render also influence our jurisprudence on a statewide level because they set the precedent our lower courts and legal practitioners apply and follow in their daily practice. It is important to elect judges who have a proven record of success, high qualifications for the job, and a commitment to doing the hard work necessary to give each case the attention it deserves for the parties, our communities, and the integrity of our judiciary and system of laws.

It is also vital that our courts reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. No attorneys of color presently serve on the First Court of Appeals, which presides over some of the most diverse counties and cities in our country. It is imperative that we improve the diversity of our appellate bench. Diversity not only enhances our judiciary by ensuring that different life perspectives and experiences form part of the decision-making process when ruling on significant legal issues, it also helps enhance the public perception and legitimacy of our judicial system.

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

I have significant experience and the skill set necessary to be an excellent Justice on the First Court of Appeals. My record of success is a testament to the quality of work and commitment I will bring to the bench.

I have a strong work ethic and self-discipline, both of which have served me well and have resulted in my success as an attorney. I have achieved not only academic success in my career, graduating with honors and at the top of my law school class, but also professional success, securing a federal clerkship and working at top-tier firms, providing legal advice to my firm clients and also giving back by representing indigent clients on a pro bono basis in various matters. I will bring that same work ethic and discipline to the bench to ensure diligent, fair, and prompt resolution of matters before the court.

I have a reputation for producing high caliber legal work, and for professionalism, always working with the utmost respect for my colleagues, clients, and adversaries. I strive to work with integrity and the highest ethical standards at all times—values that are the foundation of my legal career and should be at the core of any judicial candidate or jurist. If excellence, hard work, and integrity are values that resonate with you, then I ask for your vote. Those values have defined me as a person and professional, and they will guide me as a Justice on the First Court of Appeal serving you and our community. I hope to earn your trust and your vote. It will be a privilege to serve you and our judiciary.

Judicial Q&A: Colleen Gaido

(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.)

Colleen Gaido

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

My name is Colleen Gaido and I am running for the Harris County 337th Criminal District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 337th hears all manner of felonies, from state jail felonies like burglary of a building and possession of a controlled substance to first degree felonies such as murder and aggravated robbery.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I was actually on maternity leave when colleagues from both the Defense bar and the District Attorney’s office reached out to me to let me know that the current judge, Judge Ritchie, was retiring and to encourage me to run. I am running because I care deeply about criminal justice in our community and I believe that I have the experience, temperament and progressive values to be an excellent judge for the residents of Harris County.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

Since graduating from the University of Houston Law Center in 2007 I have practiced criminal law exclusively. I began my career at the District Attorney’s Office where I tried dozens of jury trials, including capital murders, robberies and sexual assaults of children. I was also asked to teach at the state and local level on trial skills and prosecutorial ethics. In 2017 I left the District Attorney’s office to practice criminal defense. I have dedicated my practice to solely representing those who cannot afford counsel. This work has brought me a welcome change in perspective on the criminal justice system, the bail system and the effects of mass incarceration on our communities.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because Harris County has made great progress in its criminal justice system and that progress needs to continue. The judge in a criminal court must ensure several things, including ensuring that people’s Constitutional rights are protected; that bail is not used to punish defendants pretrial or as leverage to get defendants to plead guilty; that their court runs efficiently, goes to trial regularly, and gives scheduling priority to those accused who are being held pretrial; that defendants have access to excellent and zealous representation; and that everyone who appears before them is treated with dignity and respect. When a judge fails to do these things the system fails the community, and the community loses faith in that system.

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

First, I’ve worked extensively in Criminal District Courts. I’ve handled hundreds of felony cases as a prosecutor and defense attorney, and practicing on both sides of has given me knowledge and a unique perspective that will assist me in being an informed, impartial judge. While that experience means that I know the law, it has not made me blind to the criminal justice system’s faults or weary of striving to make the system better for everyone involved.  Lastly, I have the temperament to treat everyone who comes before me with dignity and respect, and the work ethic to keep working diligently for the county long after I am elected.

Judicial Q&A: Amparo Monique Guerra

(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.)

Amparo Monique Guerra

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

My name is Amparo Monique Guerra and I am running for Justice, First Court of Appeals, Place 5. I am a lawyer, judge, mom of three children, and wife. I am the first Hispanic partner in my law firm. I have 17 years’ experience as a litigator, at both the trial and appellate levels, in state and federal courts throughout Texas and the U.S. I handle complex cases for a wide range of clients, from individuals to large multi-national corporations. When I was originally appointed to be a Municipal Judge for the City of Houston in 2005, I was the youngest sitting judge on the court, having been appointed at 28 years old.

I am a graduate of Rice University (double-major in Sociology and Latin American Studies), where I was on the President’s Honor Roll. I obtained my J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center, which awarded me a Dean’s Merit Scholarship, as well as Public Interest Fellowships to work with Texas Rural Legal Aid, and with Farmworker Legal Services in Michigan.

I clerked for a U.S. District Judge immediately following law school. I look forward to bringing my background, strong work ethic, and experience as a lawyer and a judge to the Court of Appeals.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The intermediate courts of appeals hear civil cases (including, but not limited to, business, family, probate, and personal injury) and criminal cases (except death penalty cases, which are appealed directly to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals) from the trial courts throughout a ten-county district, which includes Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Grimes, Harris, Waller, and Washington Counties.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

Public service has always been a passion of mine. My mother (Retired Justice Linda Yanez) was the first Latina on a court of appeals in Texas. I was a federal judicial law clerk for U.S. District Judge Filemon Vela immediately following law school. Judge Vela showed me that the duties of a judge include being an excellent jurist, but should also extend beyond the courtroom to the community it serves. He often had us law clerks speak at schools and at naturalization ceremonies. In addition, we were instructors in a pre-law academy for undergraduate students. He and my mom instilled in me how one can use a law degree to serve the community, and so as soon as I could be a judge, I became one at 28 years old. As a judge, I treat everyone with dignity and respect no matter who they are or where they come from.

I am the first Hispanic partner at my law firm, and I have been promoting diversity on the bench for years. When I saw that Democrats could win seats at the courts of appeals here (which essentially had not happened in about 20 years), I was ecstatic, but when I looked at the composition of the bench, I noticed that the court sorely lacked the diversity that I know this community embodies. Houston is the most diverse city, and Fort Bend is the most diverse county in the country; however, our courts of appeals have no African American and no Hispanic justices. This is the perfect opportunity for me to utilize my unique background, education, exceptional legal skills, and experience as a judge to serve my community in a greater capacity.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

In addition to the qualifications listed in response to Question 1, I am eminently qualified to be a justice on the court of appeals because I have a wide breadth of experience as a lawyer handling cases throughout Texasin federal and state, trial and appellate courts, and other states, and I have judicial experience in a criminal court.

My most notable strength is my ability to dive into complex legal issues, and quickly master and apply the law to the facts. I have a varied background representing all types of clients from individuals and families, to business of all sizes, including sole proprietorships and large multi-national corporations. In fact, for the past four years, I have served as lead counsel for the largest corporation in the world in state and federal courts in Texas and Colorado.

I have experience as a federal judicial law clerk, and as a trial court judge, having presided over many trials. Therefore, I know firsthand what it means to make decisions from the bench that effect litigant’s lives, and the profound responsibility that entails. I have a deep respect for the rule of law, and I strive to apply the law in the most just way possible.

I handily won the State Bar of Texas Judicial Poll, which shows that more lawyers prefer me and find me more qualified than my opponent in the primary. I am humbled by the outpouring of support I have received during this campaign from elected officials, and highly respected members of the bar, including criminal defense lawyers, civil litigators, personal injury lawyers, legal aid lawyers, appellate practitioners, criminal law and appellate law professors, in-house counsel, and a former Justice on the Court of Criminal Appeals (the highest criminal court in Texas).

5. Why is this race important?

As stated in my response to Question 2, this is a court of general jurisdiction that hears civil and criminal cases from its ten-county district. Unlike the Texas Supreme Court (Texas’ highest court for civil cases), and the Court of Criminal Appeals (Texas’ highest criminal court), which decide which cases to accept on a petition for review, the intermediate courts of appeals must issue opinions regarding each and every case that is appealed to them. Because fewer cases are appealed to our two supreme courts, and those courts do not accept review of every case, the intermediate courts of appeals are often the last word on many important legal issues. Where there is no opinion from the two supreme courts on an issue which an intermediate court of appeals is called to decide, that appellate opinion controls the lower/trial courts within the court of appeals district.

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

I have a wide breadth of experience in my seventeen years of practice, in addition to being a judge. I have worked in legal aid clinics, municipal and federal courts, as well as law firms of all sizes—small, mid-size, and large. I am the only judge, the only woman, and the only person of color in this race. I am the first Hispanic partner at my law firm. I have 3 children, 2 jobs, and a husband who is a tremendous partner.

I have an outstanding reputation among my peers for excellent research and writing and oral advocacy skills, as well as a keen ability to dive into complex legal issues, swiftly master and apply the law to the facts, and successfully advocate for my clients. I do all of this in an environment where I am typically the only woman and/or the only person of color among my colleagues and opposing counsel.

I have demonstrated I have judicial temperament on the bench. I am a vetted and trusted public servant. I was repeatedly reappointed to serve as a municipal judge because of my impeccable record of integrity, impartiality, and strong work ethic (I handle a demanding law practice full-time, and I serve on the municipal court part-time).

I have represented all types of clients from individuals and families, to businesses of all sizes, including sole proprietorships, small businesses, and national, as well as multi-national, corporations. In fact, I have been lead counsel for the largest corporation in the world for the past four years, handling cases for it in state and federal courts in Texas and Colorado.

I have experience handling very complex (and typically very high-dollar) matters, not just run-of-the-mill cases, in the following areas: business disputes including business torts and breach of contract cases in various industries, such as energy, oil & gas (including Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act matters), medical care, real estate, and insurance; employment and ERISA litigation and advice; consumer litigation; insurance coverage and bad faith; civil rights; receivership; Carmack Amendment; toxic/mass tort; and personal injury, including wrongful death. I also serve as a guardian ad litem in personal injury cases involving minors.

My education has been in highly competitive academic environments. I have always been a studious person ever since I was very young. When I was in seventh grade, I was selected based on my exemplary achievement test scores by the Duke University Talent Identification Program to sit for the SAT with high school students. My scores prompted interest in me by an organization called A Better Chance (ABC), which places academically gifted students in selective college preparatory schools throughout the country. Through ABC, I was accepted to and received a full scholarship to attend St. George’s School in Newport, Rhode Island as a boarding student. I attended St. George’s for all four years of high school and graduated with distinction. While in high school, I worked during one summer with Mano A Mano, a March of Dimes organization in Brownsville. I worked in medical clinics for indigent people in very impoverished areas on both sides of the border, and did community outreach to educate and disseminate information to women regarding proper prenatal health. This program was, in large part, a response to the prevalence of encephalitic births on both sides of the border. Working in clinics in Mexico and Brownsville without electricity or running water, and witnessing the lives of those much less fortunate than I impacted me greatly and reinforced my interest in public service. That experience showed me two worlds – one of extreme wealth in New England, and another of extreme poverty on the U.S.-Mexico border. That juxtaposition has stayed with me and informs much of what I do and how I think about social justice issues.

I am multi-lingual—an invaluable asset in this most diverse area of the country. I am fluent in Spanish from my family background and formal education. I have a Superior Certification in Legal and Commercial Spanish from the Chamber of Commerce in Madrid, Spain. I also speak Portuguese and Italian.

When I set my mind on a goal, I give it my all. My candidacy is no exception. My hard work is one of the many reasons I have been awarded every organizational endorsement granted to date in this race. My organizational endorsements are in addition to my many individual endorsements from elected officials and well-respected lawyers.

My election will change the face of the court of appeals where we sorely lack diversity. This court of appeals district includes ten counties, including Harris and Fort Bend. It is well-known that Houston is the most diverse city, and Fort Bend is the most diverse county in the country; yet, our courts of appeals do not reflect our rich diversity. We need diversity, not for diversity’s sake, but to have a mixture of backgrounds and ideas at the table on this multiple judge court. My mother, Retired Justice Linda Yanez, was the first Latina to serve on a court of appeals in Texas. She left a legacy I would be honored to continue here on the Houston court of appeals.

I will apply my strong work ethic, unique background, education, exceptional legal skills, and experience as a judge when I am elected to the court of appeals, where I will continue to be a hard-working judge ruling on cases expeditiously with respect for the rule of law.

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.)

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 7. I am a 15-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?

In 2017, I applied for and was selected to be a staff attorney for the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, the same court for which I am now running. In that position, I worked on over 50 civil and criminal appeals, reviewing the record, conducting legal research, and drafting recommendations on various legal matters for the court’s consideration. I know how the court works, and I know what it takes to review appeals accurately and efficiently.

The 2018 election brought new justices to the court, with fresh perspective and a variety of backgrounds. Because the court reviews a wide variety of legal subject matters, justices with different backgrounds act as resources to one another in cases that touch upon their experience. On the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, many of the new justices have experience in criminal law and experience in small firm or solo civil practice. My experience working on complex civil matters in litigation and on appeal will serve as a helpful and necessary resource, balancing the variety of experience on the court.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

In the last few years, I have worked on more appeals than all my primary opponents combined during the same time period. Not only do I have significant appellate experience, I have significant 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 and appellate matters, in state and federal courts all over the country. In 2016, I became a Partner at Stuart PC. I have managed cases at all stages of litigation. My experience as a litigator will give my appellate decision-making depth.

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?

Except for death-penalty cases, all cases appealed from district and county courts in the ten counties listed above 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 must review 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.

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

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.

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. I am the only candidate in my race that attended a top-ranked law school or graduated with honors. I am the only candidate that has worked at a leading international law firm or made partner at a law firm. I am the only candidate that has worked in an appellate court (or any court). I was named a “Rising Star” by the Texas Super Lawyers magazine five times, and I was recently elected as a Fellow to the Texas Bar Foundation. 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.

Judicial Q&A: Natalia Cornelio

(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.)

Natalia Cornelio

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

I am Natalia “Nata” Cornelio. I am an experienced, bilingual, Latina attorney. I am running for the Harris County 351st District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This is a Criminal District Court responsible for presiding over felony level cases. This includes presiding over trials and making decisions relating to pretrial release or detention, pretrial motions, sentencing, and certain post-conviction matters.

The Court is also responsible for making decisions and establishing procedures that are distinct from hearing cases, but that have a substantial impact on the community and on individuals appearing before it. For example, the Court has responsibility for case management and courtroom procedures, the appointment of counsel in indigent cases, and for bail-related schedules or policies.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running because I have the ability to apply the law in a manner that will improve the public’s confidence in our courts and their decisions.

I will work tirelessly to improve case management systems, to demonstrate an exceptional understanding of the law, to always respect the Constitution and people’s rights, and to thoughtfully consider people’s experiences when applying the law.

I am also running to bring desperately needed diversity to our criminal bench. I am a qualified Latina attorney who has directly served the communities that are often hit hardest by our justice system. Of the 38 criminal courts in Harris County, there are zero Latina judges serving on these courts. This is in spite of the fact that the population in Harris County is over 43% Latino.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have over 13 years of high-level legal & courtroom experience. I have substantial experience working directly with communities most impacted by the criminal justice system and have a clear, profound understanding of the consequences that judicial decisions have in these communities.

I received my law degree in 2006 from the University of Chicago Law School. I succesfully defended my first murder trial and suppressed evidence in two additional cases while a student at the Law School’s Mandel Legal Aid and Juvenile Justice Clinic.

I then served as a staff attorney for the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for nearly four years, where I drafted judicial opinions for federal appellate judges in criminal, immigration, and habeas corpus cases. I disposed of all legal arguments from both sides while applying the law and considering the record in each case.

Between 2011 and 2017, I was a Federal Public Defender here in Houston. During these years, I was in court handling criminal cases almost every day. I represented hundreds of clients charged with serious felony crimes through every phase of their trial proceedings. I litigated hundreds of bail and probable cause hearings. I successfully challenged a case on double jeopardy grounds before federal judge Lee Rosenthal, and successfully challenged a case where speedy trial rights were violated. I developed significant expertise in criminal law and procedure and developed a strong understanding of the immigration consequences that attach to criminal proceedings. While there, I also conducted Continuing Legal Education classes for other practicing attorneys regarding bail proceedings and on defending criminal immigration offenses.

From 2017 until 2019, I was Director of Criminal Justice Reform at the Texas Civil Rights Project. I managed a team of attorneys and litigated prominent, complex civil rights cases relating to our criminal justice system under Section 1983 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. I investigated cases under the Fair Housing Act and Title IX. I successfully represented, on a pro-bono basis, parents forcibly separated from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border under the federal government’s zero-tolerance policy, the medically vulnerable prisoners held in swelteringly hot and cruel conditions in the Texas prison system, prisoners who have been in continuous solitary confinement for over 20 years, a man who was criminally charged in Greenspoint with “standing on the sidewalk,” and a mother in El Paso who was jailed while pregnant for being unable to pay traffic tickets. I was involved in panel discussions, training sessions, and media presentations regarding this work and our criminal justice system.

In the summer of 2019, I became the Director of Legal Affairs for Harris County Precinct One, where I helped negotiate and draft the final settlement agreement in the misdemeanor bail lawsuit against Harris County. This agreement was critical to ensuring and end to the Harris County practice of detaining thousands of misdemeanor arrestees each year prior to trial simply because of their inability to pay a cash bond. I serve as Co-chair of the Harris County Racial and Ethnic Disparities Committee. This committee is tasked with developing strategies to reduce racial disparities in our justice system. My experience in this rols has made me familiar with the resources available to our leaders to support the development of better policies and practices on critical issues relating to race, bail, and incarceration.

I also teach a course on trial advocacy to law students at The University of Chicago Law School for two weeks each year.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because we must always strive to elect judges who will improve the public’s confidence in our courts based on a demonstrated ability to apply the law.

While this includes any aspect of the court’s work, one critical issue facing our courts today is whether the law and Constitution will be faithfully followed on bail decisions and procedures. Federal Courts across the country have now held that criminal courts must not detain people simply because of their economic circumstances. In Harris County, the Fifth Circuit has found that we have harmed thousands of people, their families and their communities by solely relying on ability to pay in making bail decisions. These policies have perpetuated racial disparities in our justice system and act as a force in too often making innocent people plead guilty.

We need leaders who are committed to making changes in order to always comply with the law and Constitution. These changes will require hard work and a willingness to make difficult decisions. I am committed to ensuring that the law and Constitution are followed in all cases including in bail decisions and policies, and to ensure that all people receive equal justice under the law.

Diversity is also a pressing issue facing our courts. The lack of a Latina judge in our 38 criminal courts serves to undermine the public’s confidence in our courts. We have an opportunity to change that.

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

I will bring integrity, accountability, diligence, and a respect for the law and legal processes to the bench. I will base my decisions on law and fact. I will respect all members of the community, work hard, and never stop learning. I will always strive to build the public’s confidence in our courts. I ask for your vote.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Amy Clark Meachum

(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.)

Judge Amy Clark Meachum

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

My name is Judge Amy Clark Meachum, a three-term district court judge from Travis County, and I am running for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The Supreme Court of Texas is the court of last resort for civil appeals (including civil cases, family law matters, administrative appeals, probate and estate matters, child protection cases and juvenile justice cases) in Texas.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

It is time for a new generation of judicial thought leaders to bring much needed balance to the all-Republican Supreme Court. Texas has never elected a woman chief justice to its highest court, and I am proud to be the first woman to ever run for this office. We need a system of justice that respects the Constitution, protects the vital role of citizen juries, and addresses the economic barriers that too often prevent women, persons of color, and working families from seeking and obtaining justice. We need to elect judges who put public service and fairness over special interests.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

As presiding judge for the 201st District Court in Travis County, I have general jurisdiction and have presided over cases at the trial level for almost a decade. I am currently the Civil Presiding Judge for all civil and family courts in Travis County, and serve on the Administrative and Public Law Council for the State Bar of Texas. I am a guest lecturer on legal ethics, active on the CLE circuit, and a board member with Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas. Before taking the bench, I practiced civil litigation at two of the best firms in Texas. I graduated with honors from the University of Texas School of Law in 2000, where I was a member of the Texas Law Review, and graduated magna cum laude from Southern Methodist University in 1997.

5. Why is this race important?

The Supreme Court of Texas has been controlled by the Republican Party for over 25 years. SCOTX is considered by legal watchdog groups to be one of the most ideologically conservative in the nation, consistently ruling in favor of large corporations and insurance companies and against individuals and everyday Texans. I am committed to returning the state’s highest civil court to a much more balanced center — and affording all persons equal justice under the law. Even the skeptics agree that 2020 is the best opportunity for Democrats to win statewide in 25 years, and we have the opportunity to possibly win four seats on a nine-member court. This is the most consequential election in our lifetime. Now, more than ever, we need a system of justice that respects the Constitution and values the role of our judiciary and the rule of law.

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

When you compare my nearly decade of judicial experience to my primary opponent’s one year, any reasonable person will conclude that I am the more qualified and experienced candidate. When you investigate my judicial record, it will show a decade of standing up for the values of fairness, equality and justice under the law. After winning a contested Democratic primary in Travis County in 2010, I ran for reelection unopposed in 2014 and 2018. Not a single Democrat nor a single Republican ran against me in 2014 or 2018. That speaks to the quality of my work and the fairness of my rulings. In the most consequential election of our lifetime, let’s do something bold and give the voters a clear choice next November. I don’t exactly look like or sound like my primary opponent, my general election opponent, or any of the men who have previously been elected Chief Justice. I am making an important statement for women in the law and women in our party in 2020 and I would appreciate your support!

Endorsement watch: The judges

After a couple of Republican endorsements, the Chron gives us a slate of judicial candidates for the Democratic primary in the district courts. A brief summary:

Singhal in Democratic primary for 1st Court of Appeals, Place 3

We recommend Dinesh Singhal, 52, who has tried more than 25 cases and handled 19 appeals.

Hootman in Democratic primary for 1st Court of Appeals, Place 5

We recommend Tim Hootman, 57, an experienced appellate lawyer who is known for having an atypical legal approach.

Robinson in Democratic primary for chief of the 14th Court of Appeals

We recommend Jane Robinson, 46, who is board certified in civil appellate law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

Kronzer in Democratic primary for 14th Court of Appeals Place 7

We recommend Wally Kronzer, 65, who has extensive appellate court experience in state and federal courts.

Weiman in Democratic primary for 80th Harris County District Court

We recommend incumbent Larry Weiman, 64, who has been on this bench since 2008.

Harvey in the Democratic primary for the 164th Harris County District Court

We recommend Grant J. Harvey, 55, who is a highly regarded litigator who has participated in numerous trials and appeals.

Daic in the Democratic primary for the 165th Harris County District Court

We recommend Megan Daic, 34, for a court that needs a more efficient and decisive judge.

Acklin in the Democratic Primary for the 176th Harris County District Court

We recommend Bryan Acklin, 34, who is a former prosecutor and is now a criminal defense attorney.

Martinez in the Democratic Primary for the 179th Harris County District Court

We recommend Ana Martinez, 39, who gained a sterling reputation as a human trafficking prosecutor before she became a defense attorney.

Moore in the Democratic Primary for the 333th Harris County District Court

We recommend incumbent Daryl Moore, 58, who may be the most respected incumbent running in Harris County.

Kirkland in the Democratic Primary for the 334th Harris County District Court

We recommend incumbent Steven Kirkland, 59, who has been on this bench since 2016 and served on another civil bench and a municipal bench before that.

Gaido in the Democratic Primary for the 337th Harris County District Court

We recommend Colleen Gaido, 39, who is a respected former prosecutor and current criminal defense attorney.

Bell in the Democratic Primary for the 339TH Harris County District Courts

We recommend Te’iva Bell, 39, who has served in the felony courts from three perspectives – as a prosecutor, a criminal defense attorney and a public defender. H

Powell in the Democratic Primary for the 351th Harris County District Court

We recommend incumbent George Powell, 54, who was elected to this bench in 2016.

Phillips in the Democratic Primary for the 507th Harris County District Court

We recommend C.C. “Sonny” Phillips, 59, who has been practicing family law, and occasionally appellate law, for 34 years.

They did actually say more about the candidates they recommend, and they noted who else was on the ballot. Go read all that for yourself. As noted, Weiman, Moore, Kirkland, and Powell are incumbents, while Harvey (Alex Smoots-Thomas), Daic (Ursula Hall), Acklin (Nikita Harmon), Martinez (Randy Roll), and Phillips (Julia Maldonado) are running against incumbents. Here are the Q&A’s I’ve run from candidates in these races:

Tim Hootman, 1st Court of Appeals, Place 5
Jane Robinson, Chief Justice, 14th Court of Appeals
Wally Kronzer, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7

Grant Harvey, 164th Civil Court
Megan Daic, 165th Civil Court
Bryan Acklin, 176th Criminal Court
Ana Martinez, 179th Criminal Court
Judge Steven Kirkland, 334th Civil Court

Q&A’s from candidates not endorsed by the Chron:

Tamika Craft, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7
V.R. “Velda” Faulkner, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7
Lennon Wright, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 7

Cheryl Elliott Thornton, 164th Civil Court
Jimmie Brown, 165th Civil Court
Judge Randy Roll, 179th Criminal Court
Judge Julia Maldonado, 507th Family Court
Robert Morales, 507th Family Court

Q&A responses from Natalia Cornelio (351st Criminal Court) and Cheri Thomas (14th Court of Appeals, Place 7) are in the queue and will be published in the next couple of days. The Chron will do endorsements for the Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals separately, and will not be endorsing in the County Court, Justice of the Peace, and Constable races. That’s one way to get through this long list of candidates and races in a (mostly) timely fashion.

One last thing: As is often the case with these judicial endorsements, I agree with some and not so much with others. The one that surprises me is the endorsement of Judge Powell. After the big deal the Chron made about not endorsing any judge or judicial candidate who didn’t support bail reform in 2018, it’s a bit jarring to see no mention at all of that subject in this context.