Metrocrest Questions for Judicial Candidates in contested primaries 2018
Submission from judges to this questionnaire are posted below as we receive them.
Click on the judge names to see their responses.
Should judges accept donations from lawyers in their court?
- Besides meeting mandatory Continuing Legal Education requirements, what have you done scholastically in your legal field e.g., Lectures, writing, teaching, any additional training.
- What is the role of the judiciary in assuring that our courts serve the indigent as well as the wealthy? How can this be improved in Dallas County, or in what ways has it already been improved?
- FOR CANDIDATES FOR CRIMINAL COURT BENCHES: On how many jury trials have you been the First Chair (not the 2nd Chair, not assisted in jury selection or preparation) in the kind of court over which you currently preside or are seeking to preside?
- Do you support pay raises for judges? Please explain.
- What piece of legislation from the 2017 legislative session could have a potential impact on the court for which you are running?
- In what ways might a judge improve the judicial system outside of the court?
- Should judges be required to post publicly the time they spend at the courthouse, including time worked (e.g., 8:30am-4:30pm) vacation, sick time, total hours spent working each week?
- Should the wishes of the voters play any role in judicial decision-making? Please explain.
- FOR CANDIDATES FOR CIVIL COURT BENCHES: Knowledge and understanding of the law is a key quality in a judge. What qualifications do you have that would enable you to have a solid understanding of civil law in various areas. How do you differ from your opponents in this body of knowledge?
- What unique experience do you have which would contribute to performing at a high level for the position you seek?
- a: If you are running against an incumbent judge, what is the reason voters should choose you over them?
b: If you are running against non-incumbent candidates, how do you stand out from the others and why should the voters choose you?
Click on the judge names to see their responses.
Johnny Lanzillo IV - Criminal Court of Appeals No. 2
Kristin Wade - Incumbent - Criminal Court of Appeals No. 1
Pamela Luther - Criminal Court of Appeals No. 2
Martin Hoffman - Incumbent - District Judge, Judicial District 68
Carl Ginsberg - Incumbent - District Judge, Judicial District 193
Alison Grinter - Criminal District Judge Court No. 6
Tina Yoo Clinton - Criminal District Judge Court No. 1
Audrey Faye Moorehead - Judge Criminal Court No. 3
Sandre Moncriffe - District Judge, Judicial District 255
Chika Anyiam - Criminal District Judge Court No. 7
Jeanine Howard - Incumbent - Criminal District Judge Court No. 6
Vonciel Jones Hill - District Judge, Judicial District 283
LeDeitra Adkins - Family District Judge, District 304
Thelma Sanders Clardy - Family District Judge, District 302
Roberto Canas - Incumbent - Judge Criminal Court No. 10
Jim Jordan - Incumbent - District Judge, Judicial District 160
Sandra Jackson - Family District Judge District 302
Ken Tapscott - Incumbent - Judge Court At Law No. 4
Melissa J. Bellan - Judge Court At Law No. 2
Stephen Duplantis - District Judge, Judicial District 204
Raquel "Rocky" Jones - District Judge, Judicial District 203
Tanja Martini - Judge Court At Law No. 4
Jennifer Bennett - Incumbent - District Judge, Judicial District 265
Dorotha Ocker - Judge Court At Law No. 2
| Johnny Lanzillo IV - Answers:
- Just like any politician, there is inherent risk in Judicial candidates accepting donations from lawyers who practice in their court. I think generally though, it is ok for a couple of reasons. 1) Judges have to run a campaign, and it cannot be done without money, 2) those attorneys are voters, and if they want to help the person they want to be judge to win, they should be allowed to, and 3) Judges and Lawyers are held to a higher ethical standard than most professions, and while there are bad seeds in every profession, I still believe that most lawyers aren’t making donations to ask for favors from a Judge they may have donated to. As for me personally, I have never had my ethics questioned by a judge, another attorney, or a client.
- I have helped coach competitive student negotiation teams from Texas A&M School of Law, each year since graduation. I have also judged competitions for mock trial, negotiation and mediation at Texas A&M and the American Bar Association.
- The role the judiciary should play is making sure the indigent are being given lawyers, PR Bonds, and quicker days in court. Defendants should not have to spend weeks in jail waiting on an appointment of an attorney. If they aren’t in front of the Judge within 48 hours, then something is wrong. This can be improved by making sure those courts are being managed properly and
Additionally, I think the Judges should work with the Sherriff’s Department and
the District Attorney’s office to make sure that the diversion programs can be
made available to people in jail, and not just those who can afford bond.
- I have 4 criminal jury trials where I was the 1st chair. I also have 6 more jury
trials, where I was not the “1st chair” but I had an extensive role in the trial that
included, full involvement in trial prep, jury selection, opening statement, and
cross and direct examination of witnesses.
- I am not running for political office because of what it pays. Judges should run
because they want to serve the people. It should be up to the people to
determine if Judges have earned a pay raise.
- House bill 3016 would be one of the most impactful. County Court of Criminal
Appeals No 2 hears a large number of nonviolent misdemeanors, including
driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges. Previously DWI charges were never able
to be sealed, however this house bill, which went into effect on 9/1/17 now
allows for even those defendants who take convictions to be eligible to seal their
records. This will have an impact on how cases are handled.
- I think one way a Judge can improve the judicial system outside the courtroom
is through community outreach. Speaking at schools, and teaching students how
to handle encounters with law enforcement.
- Judges serve the people. I think the people should be able to know if their elected officials are doing what they were elected to do.
- While dialogue between voters and judges is important, I do not think voters should have any say in the decision-making a judge should have on the bench. Judges are there to uphold the law, and rule based on the law.
- When I graduated law school, I was hired by the firm I was interning with to help manage their criminal docket that routinely ran around 100-120 active criminal cases. These cases were in Dallas, Collin, Denton, Tarrant, and Harris Counties, as well as random counties that would pop up routinely. Additionally, after leaving to start my own firm with my partner, we have managed a case load of 80-100 active criminal cases, and another 15-20 active civil cases at any given time. I have done this as the managing partner of a firm that has ranged anywhere from 5-10 employees at any given time. As managing partner, I have not just had to manage the case load, but I also handle payroll, HR, and office management. I believe my management experience in this environment is unique compared to my other competitors, and is essential in being able to efficiently manage a court room, the court’s docket, and the staff within the court. Additionally, I have practiced in criminal courthouse across the state of Texas, including Federal court, where I am admitted to practice in the Northern and Eastern Districts of Texas. I have seen how courts are managed in small counties, like Hunt, Johnson, and Grayson counties. I have seen how courts are managed in larger counties like Collin and Denton, and how courts are run and managed in the largest counties like Dallas, Harris and Travis counties. I have seen which policies and procedures work and don’t work in the courtroom. I have seen how defendants and attorneys are treated in those courts I believe having practiced in all of these counties is also a unique experience because I can use what I have seen what works and doesn’t work and can apply it in Dallas County.
- a: N/A.
I believe my youth makes me stand out from the other candidates, and it doesn’t mean I like the experience or qualifications. I am not running for Judge because I am bored, and looking for something to do. I am not running for judge because it would make a good retirement. I am not running simply because I think it will help my business.
I am running because I want to be Judge. I want to be in the courtroom on a daily basis and making sure the docket is moving. I am running to serve the county I grew up in and have lived all my life. I will be on the bench on time on a daily basis. I have experience in managing people. I have experience in criminal and civil courtrooms. I have experience in Federal and State courtrooms. I have experience in small and large courtrooms. I want to take my experiences and create an efficient, fair, and unbiased courtroom.
| Kristin Wade - Answers:
- My biggest donors have always been personal friends, family, and lawyers who do not necessarily practice in my court but are long- time colleagues. The Code of Judicial ethics and campaign finance laws severely restrict the window in which judges can raise funds and require full disclosure of all donors. Lawyers who practice in my court have contributed to my campaign, but the vast majority who practice in my court do not make donations.
- I have taught classes at the State Association of Specialty Courts on my mental health Jail diversion program. December 2017, I presented a CLE to the Court of Appeals about mental health. For many years, I have attended the National Association of Drug Court Professionals and the State Association of Specialty Courts that provide evidence based standards and training for specialty courts. I have spoken at NAMI (the National Association for Mental Illness) about my specialty court programs as well as many community events. In addition, I have self-published a selection of my opinions and have presented a CLE program to the Municipal Bar Association about court of record cases. I have written over 300 judicial opinions, all without the aid of any legal assistants or staff. Finally I have been awarded the NAMI (National Association of Mental Illness) special achievement award for my mental health program and also the Mental Health of Greater America PRISM award for my commitment to mental health.
- It is incumbent upon the criminal courts to be sure that we appoint all indigent clients’ legal representation. My mental health programs all use the Public Defender’s office, and I have two excellent public defenders who specialize in dealing with clients who have a mental illness. I also sit on a sub-committee of County Criminal Judges who review and approve applications for court appointed attorneys. We have mandated immigration CLE for all attorneys applying for court- appointed attorney appointments. In addition, we have taken several pro-active steps this year to adequately compensate court appointed attorneys, to ensure their quality as well as limiting the number of court appointments each attorney can receive. Both of these measures are intended to provide better court- appointed attorneys for indigent defendants.
- I have been the Judge of the County Criminal Court of Appeals for 19 years. Prior to taking this bench I was both an Assistant District Attorney and a private defense lawyer. I have been license to practice law 28 years and I have tried 60 cases as a first chair lawyer including Aggravated Robbery, Murder, and Aggravated sexual assault. I was a very experienced trial attorney prior to taking the bench, and have tried hundreds of cases as a Judge in the past 19 years. Also, very importantly this court is a dual trial/appellate court. I wrote Appellate briefs prior to taking this court as a criminal defense attorney and have written hundreds of opinions over the past 19 years.
- I in the past 19 years, I have gotten one pay raise. I do support pay raises for judges, because our salaries have not even kept up with the cost of living. However, this is not a job that I do for the salary, it is a commitment to public service and mental health health that keeps me motivated to serve.
- There is now a law that requires a show cause hearing prior to issuing a warrant on a case where the defendant has failed to pay his fine. I changed my court procedures prior to this law to institute a show cause hearing, prior to warrants being issued. In addition, the CCP 17.032 has been amended and it should be easier for assault cases to qualify for a pre-trial bond. This will potentially affect the procedures in my court.
- A judge can improve the judicial system by educating the public and making herself available to schools and community events. For instance, for many years I participated in the “fatal vision” panel discussion at Coppell High School whose purpose was to educate students about the drugs and alcohol. I have also judged mock trial, hosted interns from law schools and high school, and gone to elementary schools to host mock trials. I also am deeply involved in the mental health community and sit on a high level policy committee, The Behavioral Health Leadership Team that is built on collobration and innovative ideas to improve mental health in all of Dallas County.
- I believe a Judge’s court statistics and work product reflect the time devoted to their job. However, if all elected officals are required to publicly post the time they spend on the job, I would also comply. There would have to be a way to factor in all the outside commitments that any elected official has that relate to her office. Community visits, teaching engagements, specialty courts and dockets, as well as time spent at home researching and writing would all add to the totality of time committed to the job and would not necessarily be reflected on some type of time clock.
- On an individual case a Judge must remain fair and impartial and not allow public opinion to sway her decision. The wishes of the voters do play a part in the sense that they are ultimately the ones that elect judges. In addition, as Judges we do not make laws, we are sworn to follow the law. Voters elect their legislators, so they can enfluence judicial decision-making through elections.
- I have spent all 28 years as an attorney at the criminal courthouse. Criminal law has been my passion and my sole career, starting in law school when I met my first client in the SMU criminal justice clinic. I have seen so many positive changes in our criminal justice system, and I have contributed to those changes. For example, after only two years as an Assistant District Attorney, I saw a need for a safe place for victims to wait while their case was called to trial. I got the Junior League of Dallas to give Dallas County 25k to build a victim’s waiting room. This was the beginning of my career, and I have continuously advocated for specialty courts, judicial education, and programs that deal with the root causes of crime so we can reduce jail population and keep people out of the criminal justice system. There are still many areas of our criminal justice system that need improvement, most importantly bail reform. I would like to continue to be a leader at the criminal courthouse and to ensure that justice is swift,fair and impartial.
| Pamela Luther - Answers:
There are so many legitimate differing views regarding the election process of Judges in Texas. Having seen the special interest political appointments around our state in various positions, I tend to believe in the people and the election process, rather than appointments.
Lawyers who practice in the courtroom of a judge/candidate may have a vested interest in the outcome, but they are also (sometimes uniquely) qualified to know the fairness and actual performance of a sitting judge. Ultimately, my response to this question is YES, judges should be able to accept the financial support of lawyers who practice in their court. However, limiting the maximum contribution amount of a donation would seem to be a reasonable way to avoid any attempts at undue influence.
Presently, the criminal courts at the misdemeanor level do not seem to have the “fully financed campaigns” that can plague a civil court. But donation limits would help eliminate attempts to gain personal favors from judges.
- Credits beyond the mandatory minimum and Forensic Science training toward Lawyer-Scientist recognition.
First of all, I attend so many criminal related CLEs in the state and at the courthouse, that my requirements for 2018 were exceeded before 2018 even began!
Additionally, the increased role of forensic science in the courtroom has motivated me to study drug and alcohol laboratory testing outside the CLE realm. I began a program with the American Chemical Society – Chemistry and the Law (ACS-CHAL) in Chicago that is part of a program for lawyers to be recognized by the American Chemical Society as a Lawyer-Scientist. I have successfully completed the course in Gas Chromatography, a common type of forensic science used in analytical chemistry for separating and analyzing compounds that is admitted as evidence in criminal cases. These courses are expensive, they are not held in Texas, and there is no CLE credit for attendance. However, understanding the science and the knowledge needed to understand scientific experts as trial is crucial for fairness in evidentiary rulings.
I am also a capable writer, and have contributed to legal works for other lawyers, such as “Guerilla Tactics 120 Days Before Trial” with Andrew Sommerman (Sommerman & Quesada Law Firm – contribution date 2010; publication date unknown) and several legal lay articles for The Advocate magazine with Holly Schymik (Holly Schymik, Collaborative Family Law, contribution date 2007).
- Public Defenders, Court Appointed Attorneys, Specialty Courts, PR Bonds, Acceptance of Appropriate Plea Deals, Updated Information for Alternative Sentencing, Admonishments, Familiarity with Current Immigration Consequences to Pleas
Cooperation and participation with the Public Defender’s Office is extremely important. Dallas County has excellent lawyers in the Public Defender’s Office. Court appointments given to qualified and capable lawyers is also an important task of the sitting judge. I have represented hundreds and hundreds of indigent clients in Dallas County, and personal experience has shown me many of their unique challenges. The truly indigent defendant may find himself incarcerated for an unfair length of time because of his inability to bond out of jail. The judge has it within her power to grant these defendants Personal Recognizance Bonds that allow the defendant to be released without any payment. PR Bonds can and should be granted for defendants whose time in jail could exceed the punishment for their crime. They may also (quickly) be granted by those defendants who have agreed to perform conditions of a dismissal of his/her case. (My opinion is that special programs for these kinds of indigent dismissals are to be avoided since they are created by the District Attorney’s Office and often “grow horns” that end up being gravy trains for the government and an unnecessary risk of deportation for the non-citizen, as well as being too generalized to address special needs. Special dismissal programs often become the ONLY program a misdemeanor prosecutor is authorized to offer, creating unfair demands on unique circumstances.) In my own courtroom, I would encourage cooperation between the state and the defense to creative plea deals catered to the individual’s needs (mental health, immigration status, substance abuse, etc.) rather than jail. The lasting dangers facing an indigent client are the consequences of choosing a guilty plea over a more favorable outcome because of the costs, resulting in convictions that last a lifetime – and ensuring entrapment in a cycle of poverty.
Specialty courts in Dallas County exist for mental health (CCC #3), Veteran’s (CDC #4) and prostitution (CCC #9), which are extremely appropriate and highly effective programs for certain misdemeanor indigent defendants. I’ve seen these programs work – and I’ve sometimes seen defendants who weren’t able to complete them successfully. My court, Dallas County Court of Criminal Appeals #2 is the only court that continues to allow defendants to perform workdays instead of incarceration. This program is valuable, but needs updating. For instance, the forms for this program in Dallas County have outdated information that is not corrected until AFTER a defendant has been admitted, sometimes making it impossible for him/her to complete the unexpected conditions. Some of the important information on these forms have been incorrect for over 10 years. Presently, only the lawyer extremely familiar with the program will be able to competently advise the defendant of the actual program requirements. As judge, one of the first things I will do is update this program information in order to get certain offenders out of jail and into the work program (especially those with special needs and family obligations).
Other issues that Judges can ensure is adequate and available translators in the courtroom and clear, concise admonishments to defendants when they are pleading to cases to help ensure they understand the consequences to their record and/or their immigration status.
- Approximately 30 as either 1st Chair or ONLY Chair.
- Yes. I support reasonable pay raises for judges in accordance with raises for other public officials and government servants. Presently, I do not think that Criminal Court Misdemeanor Judges are over- or underpaid.
- House Bill 3016 – The “Second Chance Law”
Because deferred adjudication isn’t legal in Texas for the offense of Driving While Intoxicated, the VAST majority of cases awaiting trial are DWIs. This is because there has never been a compromise available in plea negotiations. Rather than pleading guilty to the DWI, many defendants are encouraged to set their cases for trial since the prosecutors have no other plea option available (with some unique exceptions). Generally, this places a disproportionate of DWI trials on the docket. The “second chance” law allows certain DWI convictions to be sealed after certain conditions have been met, making resolution of many cases more attractive than going to trial. I’ve already seen many eligible cases taken off the trial docket and resolved.
- Education Sessions with Young Driver’s and Legal Adults
Specifically, a regular education session with teenagers who are about to obtain a Driver’s License (and their parents) addressing the most common criminal offenses that result from traffic stops. Other regular education sessions with young people who are about to turn 18 addressing the consequences and punishment ranges for offenses committed by adults. I constantly see these young people in the criminal justice system due to a complete lack of awareness of the consequences of their actions once they are granted the privilege to drive and/or when they reach an age where they would no longer be treated as a juvenile.
- The time a judge is available on the bench is extremely important. I certainly don’t mind the idea of keeping a public record of time at work. I think it might be more appropriate for specific instances when a particular judge has been shown to be unacceptably absent.
- A judge must be fair and impartial. The wishes of informed voters must be expressed at the polls and in raising awareness of judicial behavior or decisions that appear inappropriate, unfair or unprofessional.
- Trial experience as a criminal prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, including representation of the indigent and noncitizen.
My experience as a prosecutor in the Criminal Trial Division for the Dallas County D.A.’s Office, combined with experience at the Dallas County Public Defender’s Office and private criminal practice makes me aware of all the moving parts of a criminal courtroom (and beyond). I’ve worked intimately with law enforcement, civilian witnesses, victims, defendants, family members of victims and defendants, non-citizens, the indigent and lawyers. I have a great deal of trial experience, which is crucial to fair trials and hearings. In addition to my jury trial experience, I have been 1st chair on countless bench trials and motions before the court. I’ve researched and argued in open court all kinds of constitutional issues on both sides of the issue. Very often, a judge is completely unaware of the ripple effect of his/her rulings and/or procedure. The learning curve should come before an attorney becomes a judge, not after.
- a: N/A
b: I stand out from the others with my courtroom experience, my knowledge gained from my research and motion practice, my commitment to the study of criminal issues and forensic science, my record of professionalism and my familiarity with the personnel and procedures with my specific county and court.
| Martin Hoffman - Answers:
- Judges have repeatedly lobbied the legislature to remove politics from judicial selection. The legislature has repeatedly failed to pass any legislation. Judges are put in the difficult position of either accepting donations from lawyers in their court or self funding. Neither option is optimal.
- I am board certified in personal injury law and take additional continuing legal education as a result.
• I have participated and presented in dozens of Continuing Legal Education activities. Three notable Continuing Legal Education seminars were:
• The Dallas Association of Young Lawyers Trial Skills Boot Camp—I have organized and presented on a variety of topics for this seminar over the last three years. Each year, we have had over a dozen judges, twenty senior lawyers, a hundred young lawyers and numerous law students participate in this program.
• The DAYL Jury Selection: Tips and Tricks—CLE organizer, presenter, and mock trial judge. Over a dozen judges, twenty senior lawyers, sixty young lawyers, and seventy law students participated in this program. Organizer and CLE presenter. This program received 1st place Service to the Bar award for the 2008-2009 Local Affiliate Awards from the Texas Young Lawyers Association, and an Award of Special Recognition from the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division.
• The DAYL Closing Arguments CLE—CLE Organizer, presenter and mock trial judges. This program received 1st place Service to the Bar award for the 2010-2011 from the Texas Young Lawyers.
I have also published in the area of civil litigation. The most notable articles I have worked on are:
August 19, 2011 – Texas Bar CLE—Advanced Consumer Law 2011, Residential Home Foreclosure: From Notice to Enforcement.
September 3, 2010 – Texas Bar Association – Advanced Personal Injury Seminar, E-Discovery from Request to Admission.
With Smoger, Gerson H., Andrew N. Wolf, How to Fight FIFRA Preemption, 31 Trial 34 (1995).
View from the Bench, How Mentoring from a Judicial Perspective Differs from Private Practice, 76 Tex.Bar.Jour. 198 (2013).
March 2013, Dallas Association of Young Lawyers Dicta, New Rules May Have a Profound Effect on Civil Litigation.
May 2014, Dallas Association of Young Lawyers Dicta, Texas Supreme Court Approves Changes to Dallas County Local Rules.
- I strongly believe that all litigants in my court should be treated equally and fairly. I have developed a program to assist homeowners facing foreclosure, which I believe is a good example of how we can assist those facing financial hardship. The program has four essential components:
• MONITORING — After an applicant fulfills the basic requirements for an expedited application, the court sends out a notice to the homeowner and the mortgage company for a monthly hearing before the court. This notice is sent in English and Spanish. Both parties are given an opportunity to discuss the situation with the judge. Where appropriate, the homeowner is given the opportunity to submit to court monitoring of the application. The homeowner is instructed to pursue credit mentoring (with a HUD approved credit counselor) or to go to mediation before the next monthly hearing.
• MENTORING – Many homeowners are unaware of the many options available to avert foreclosure. Homeowners are allowed to seek credit mentoring from HUD approved credit counselors.
• MEDIATION – Homeowners are given the option to attend mediation with a specially trained mediator who is familiar with the different programs and options available to homeowners.
• MODIFICATION -- The ultimate goal of this program is to allow homeowners the opportunity to pursue and complete reasonable modification of the existing loan so that the homeowner can stay in their home and the mortgage company be paid the debt it is owed.
- Judges in Texas are historically paid lower than almost any other State. Like most judges, I support bringing our compensation in line with other states.
- I worked on a piece of legislation with Representative Victoria Neave to address a glaring problem in our foreclosure procedures in Texas. Federal law provides that a bank is not allowed to go forward with a foreclosure while they are still evaluating a completed loan modification package from a homeowner. Current Texas law does not provide a procedure on what judges are supposed to do in this situation. As a result, many Texas Homeowners are at risk of being foreclosed on when they have already completed a loan modification package. Representative Neave filed a bill to address this serious deficiency in the law. The bill passed committee, but was never voted on by the full house.
- I believe that a judge can improve the judicial system both inside and outside the courthouse. I have been recognized by a number of groups for my efforts to improve the judicial system. I was named Outstanding Texas Trial Judge by Texas Attorney Mediator Coalition in 2013 for my work with foreclosure mediation legislation. I was named the Outstanding Jurist by Dallas Women Lawyers Association in 2017 for my efforts to mentor and promote women lawyers (the first man to win this award). I have also taken a leadership role in many other ways while I have been on the bench.
• Leadership Inside the Courthouse-
Presiding Judge of Dallas County Civil District Judges (2014)—Elected by the thirteen other Civil District judges to be the presiding judge of Dallas County Civil District Judges. Led project to upgrade courtroom AV equipment in all twenty-five elected judges’ courtrooms in the George Allen Courthouse. Worked with Dallas Bar Association and Dallas County Commissioners to reopen the Jackson Street (back) entrance to the George Allen Courthouse.
Presiding Judge of the George Allen Courthouse Central Jury Room (2009)-Elected by the other twenty-two judges at the George Allen Courthouse to serve as the presiding judge of the central jury room. Spearheaded the implementation of new jury services software that allows jurors to register for jury service on the internet and allows for more frequent updates of the jury “wheel”. Implemented a new program for judges to address the Central Jury Room about the importance of jury service. Led a group of judges and attorneys in creating the first new juror orientation video in over twenty years in Dallas County.
Asbestos Liaison (2007-present)—Elected by the thirteen other Civil District Judges to serve as a liaison between the Asbestos MDL Judge Davidson and the five County Court at Law and thirteen Civil District Judges.
Clerk-Coordinator Seminar Co-Chair (2009-present), and Organizer (2007-present)—Organized the Clerk-Coordinator Seminar for all the state and county courts in Dallas Courts. We have averaged 100-150 attendees each year for the last four seminars.
• Leadership Outside the Courthouse-
• Dallas Bar Association, Board of Directors—Elected in December 2010 and re-elected in 2012 and 2014 to serve as the only judicial representative among the elected members of DBA Board of Directors by the over 11,000 members of the Dallas Bar. Extensive involvement with the Dallas Bar Association and the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers.
• CLE presenter and organizer—Participated and presented in dozens of CLE activities. The two most notable of these Continuing Legal Education seminars were:
• The DAYL Jury Selection: Tips and Tricks—CLE organizer, presenter, and mock trial judge. Over a dozen judges, twenty senior lawyers, sixty young lawyers, and seventy law students participated in this program. Organizer and CLE presenter. This program received 1st place Service to the Bar award for the 2008-2009 Local Affiliate Awards from the Texas Young Lawyers Association, and an Award of Special Recognition from the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division.
• The DAYL Closing Arguments CLE—CLE Organizer, presenter and mock trial judges. This program received 1st place Service to the Bar award for the 2010-2011 from the Texas Young Lawyers.
• Judicial Internship Program—Honored with J.L. Turner Legal Association Cleo R. Steele Committed Mentor Award in 2016 and “Outstanding Mentor Award” by Texas Young Lawyers and Dallas Association of Young Lawyers in 2012. Received “Outstanding Service” award by Texas Tech Law School for service to school by a non-alumni for my work with the judicial internship program in 2013. Honored with award from Texas A&M Law School for service to school for judging mock trial competitions and mentoring law students. Extensive involvement with the American Bar Association Judicial Internship Opportunity Program and the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers program. Supervised over 140 law students, six economically disadvantaged high school students, twenty new lawyers, and a small number of pre-law students in my court. Recruited judges to participate in the ABA JIOP program for minority and economically disadvantaged students. Presented to law students at the courthouse (University of Texas, Texas Tech, Thurgood Marshall Law School, South Texas Law School, and Baylor Law School) and at law schools (University of Texas, Baylor, University of North Texas, Texas A&M and Southern Methodist University) about these programs. Served as the judicial liaison to the DBA Student Law Intern Program for DISD high school students for the last seven years. Conducted tours of the courthouse and made presentations during the last seven years for that program.
• Vision 2020 Committee Judicial Liaison—Selected as the sole judicial liaison to the Vision 2020 Committee. This committee was charged with developing a long term plan for the Dallas Bar. Personally charged with establishing a committee of judges to map out the challenges facing the judiciary over the next decade. The committee prepared a report that will provide the blueprint for the future of the Dallas County judiciary.
• DBA Ad Hoc Committee on Update to Local Rules, Co-Chair—Appointed by fellow Civil District judges to explore updates to Dallas County Local Rules. Committee created draft of proposed amendments to Local Rules which are currently under consideration by the Texas Supreme Court
• DBA Law Day Committee—Coordinated a presentation for DISD students at the courthouse with a panel discussion and a mock voir dire presentation. Over the six years that I have coordinated this program, the number of participants has increased. The 2011 program was the only 2011 Dallas Bar project awarded a “Star of the Bar” by the Texas Bar Association.
- Judges regular working hours are usually posted online and in the bench book.
- Judges are obviously required to follow the law and that may lead them to make decisions that differ from the wishes of certain voters. I have learned that judges do have certain discretion on how they handle cases. An example of judicial discretion would be my foreclosure mediation program or the divert program. Voters who believe that innovative approaches to difficult issues (like residential foreclosures) can vote for judges who take these approaches.
- Over the last 11 years I have tried over 250 civil jury trials on the bench. I have handled over 10000 civil cases on the bench. Prior to taking the bench, I worked exclusively in the area of civil litigation. I handled over a thousand civil litigation cases while in private practice. I am Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law. One of my opponents, Kim Brown, has only handled one contested civil case in the Dallas County civil courts during the past decade. This difference in experience is critical in the efficient and fair handling of these cases.
- Over the last eleven years, I have learned how to efficiently and fairly handle the very heavy civil docket present in my court. The 68th District court has increased the number of hearings scheduled on the hearing docket, which has cut the waiting time for parties to get hearings by half. In the last Dallas County Judicial Management report, my court had the lowest overall costs and the lowest cost per case disposition.
- a: N/A
| Carl Ginsberg - Answers:
- Any person, not just a lawyer, has the potential of appearing before a Court. Therefore, the standard of “appearance of impropriety” cannot be construed so broadly as to mean that a judge cannot accept campaign contributions from a person, lawyer or otherwise, who may appear before the Court. Otherwise, judicial campaign contributions would be completely prohibited. Nonetheless, this concern highlights one of the concerns of an elected judiciary. Unless the State of Texas is prepared to publicly fund judicial elections, there will always be campaign contributions from people (lawyers and non-lawyers) who appear before the courts.
- While working full time (and still maintaining the highest disposition rate of the Civil District Courts), I earned (via a distance learning program) from the University of London, an LLM (Master of Laws) in International Dispute Resolution (with Merit) and a Post Graduate Diploma in Public International Law (with Distinction).
- This is a huge challenge with civil courts because there is no budget to pay lawyers to represent indigent parties. When parties are pro se, I make ample use of the Dallas County Dispute Resolution Center (DCDRC), which provides free (on a volunteer basis) mediation services. I serve on the Advisory Committee to the DCDRC and appoint it as a mediator about twice the average of the Civil District Courts. Another service is to make pro se litigants aware of possible pro bono legal organizations. As a group, the Civil District Courts have recently invited area law schools to staff clinics with “office hours” in the building to assist in providing legal representation for low income litigants.
- Judges should be subject to the same pay raise scale as other public employees - no more and no less.
- There was a constitutional amendment that places extra requirements to notify the Attorney General of constitutional challenges to statutes. This may cause the Texas Attorney General to take a more active role in cases involving citizens’ constitutional rights
- This is very tricky issue for civil judges because we serve as a referee in contests pitting the legal rights of competing parties. Certain activity outside the judicial system can cause one to question a judge’s impartiality. The best means is through legal education, both as a student (as I have done in earning an LLM), and as a teacher (for example, when I served a as an “Ambassador of our Legal System” when I, at my own cost, took part in a mock trial program in Berlin, Germany, to educate foreign lawyers about our jury system).
- As they say, “the proof is in the pudding.” The objective data of court dispositions will reflect whether a judge is hardworking. While I certainly have no problem doing this, I do not think it may necessarily solve the problem since inefficient Judges can always find a way to manipulate time sheets. Again, the results speak for themselves.
- The ancient doctrine of the “Rule of Law” requires that judicial decisions be based on established law and not the desires of individuals or the body politic (whether that be the King, the President, or “the voters”). Therefore, no.
- My academic achievements are second to none: St. Mark's (high school), Cum Laude Society; Duke University (undergraduate), Phi Beta Kappa; University of Texas (JD), Honors; University of London (LLM) with Merit & Distinction. I earned a graduate law degree (LLM, i.e., Master of Laws) with High Honors from one of the world's most prestigious universities in a distance learning program of study while working full-time as a Judge. My record as a lawyer before becoming a Judge stands above my opponents, as I have tried scores of civil jury trials as a lawyer. I am Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization (only around 7% of lawyers in Texas are Board Certified). As a practicing lawyer, I tried all sorts of civil cases, as my practice was not limited to a specific area. None of my opponents has had this broad array of experience.
- In sum, I have over a decade of judicial experience running an efficient court, and hope to continue to do so.
- a: N/A
b: By any objective measure, I have the strongest credentials of any candidate in this race. I have over a decade of judicial experience. My opponents have none. I have consistently been a hard worker and have run an efficient Court. Upon taking office, I inherited the most backlogged court and quickly turned it into one of the least backlogged courts. According to the most recent County Management Report, I have the highest disposition rate among the Civil District Courts. My academic achievements are second to none: St. Mark's (high school) Cum Laude Society; Duke University (undergraduate) Phi Beta Kappa; University of Texas (JD) Honors; University of London (LLM) with Merit & Distinction. I earned a graduate law degree (LLM, i.e., Master of Laws) with High Honors from one of the world's most prestigious universities in a distance learning program of study while working full-time as a Judge. My record as a lawyer before becoming a Judge stands above my opponents, as I have tried scores of civil jury trials as a lawyer. I am Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization (only around 7% of lawyers in Texas are Board Certified). None of my opponents has had this broad array of experience. I am proud to say that the Former Dallas County District Clerk, Gary Fitzsimmons, has publicly stated that I have among the best judicial temperaments of any judge in the courthouse. In sum, I am experienced, hard working, efficient, smart, well-tempered and fair. There is no reason for a change in the Court.
| Alison Grinter - Answers:
- I understand the concerns that drive this question, but I don’t know if there’s a way to avoid it unless we only want judges who are independently wealthy. Certainly we don’t want to have the perception (or the reality) of trading judicial favor for campaign contributions, but with a system of elected judges, the lawyers will always stand as the most informed and most invested parties. In the criminal courts, I don’t think it’s as much of an issue as in the civil courts where money plays a role in not only the campaigns but also the judicial system (with money awarded in judgments). I have always been thankful that the criminal system is relatively low on the money influence totem pole.
- I’m currently awaiting results of the Board Certification exam that I took in October. Fingers crossed!
- The courts are directly responsible for providing defendants with adequate representation through court appointed counsel. Dallas is a lot better in this regard than other counties, mostly because Dallas lacks a centralized system for vetting for income and indigency, but as I understand it, a system is being developed to limit court appointments to those proven to be indigent (often described as 125% of the federal poverty line and below). If that happens, we’ll have a much bigger “justice gap” than we have right now, and either the county, the defense bar, or access to justice nonprofits like the one I steer (Legal Access Texas) will have to step in and fill the need or else the financial justice disparity will become truly stark.
- About 40
- Judges should have pay raises sufficient to cover inflation and/or increases in the cost of living just like all other workers, but I don’t think any grand bump in pay is warranted.
- SB4 really tries to intensify the pressure on law enforcement to make immigration enforcement a priority on the local level, and while that doesn’t really impact the courtroom directly, the issues we’ve always had getting people in the immigrant communities to have faith in and see the courts as a place where they can safely come and tell the truth, well… those struggles have been set back decades. It’s extremely frustrating to see the justice system, and people’s lives be used as fodder for hateful political sport.
- Mentoring, teaching, and guiding young people is always the chief way that we can all make a difference in the future of our world, but a judge is also a political leader, and should not shy away from political action including testifying in the legislature, making calls, block walking, and speaking out whenever possible as one of the elected officials of the party.
- It certainly couldn’t hurt.
- I think we wouldn’t have elected judges if we didn’t want judges thinking about the impact of their decisions on the public they serve and the needs and opinions of the people. The popular decision is not always the right decision, but a judge should definitely consider what the people want and need.
- I have worked with defendants and their families for my entire legal career. I’ve seen the impact that the system has on the lives of the entire family. I know how important it is for people to feel truly heard even if they are ultimately going to be unhappy with the outcome of their case. I don’t take lightly the consequences of the criminal justice system, and I honor the people who put their trust and faith in the men and women who work to balance the scales.
- a: My opponent, the incumbent judge, has been publicly warned by the Judicial Conduct Commission for her shameful comments in court and in the press about a child rape survivor. I think that the voters deserve the opportunity to choose someone for that bench who understands that compassion and respect for victims, defendants, witnesses, and family members is the absolute baseline bare minimum we owe to the people who have put their faith and trust in us. I am running to restore that faith in Criminal District Court 6.
| Tina Yoo Clinton - Answers:
- Yes. (1) It is legal and for judicial candidates there is a cap. (2) If judges did not accept donations from attorneys, then only the independently wealthy would be able to run for office. Though grassroots support is always appreciated, there are not enough small donors to allow a full scale county wide campaign for judicial candidates in populated urban areas like Dallas, especially if we have primaries, primary run offs and general elections. Judicial races do not garner the attention of races like the presidency to allow for that kind of small dollars in large volume at this time from my experience.
- I lecture and teach nationally in areas of criminal law. I also mentor first year law students in a mandatory class for the University of North Texas School of Law. I am a member of the Texas Bar College.
Please see my attached resume for specifics.
- Issues of indigency are a large part of the administrative work that I have done in the last 8 years. I have piloted my court for indigency screening. I have advocated for indigency screening as soon as a person is arrested, before arraignment with the magistrate. I have gone to testify with regard to this need as well as the need for pre-trial services in Austin before the Senate Subcommittee on Criminal Justice.
We, as the judiciary of Dallas County, are in the process of restructuring the pre-trial process so that indigency can be ascertained early on. This determination of indigency applies to the need for a court appointed attorney as well as reduction in fees, fines and costs. Right now, there is not an appropriate assessment. That means that anyone can say they are indigent. The concern with this is that if everyone who is not indigent receives reduced or free services, our county cannot give the true range of services needed to those that are truly indigent and could not afford services. That harms the indigent and serves the wealthy. Money that is needed for the truly indigent gets spent by others and harms the entire system.
- I have been licensed for 23 years. I know that I have over 100 trials personally so I would approximate that I have at least 50 leads as first chair. I have never counted “preparation” towards my trial counts. I led as much as I selected juries. (For a more specific answer, I would need time to go back and review years of records.)
- I neither support nor not support this issue. There is an argument that the pay scale for judges have not kept up with the standard of living. There is an argument that in order to keep the best judges, you should make it equitable to private practice. However, I see my job as a judge as public service. I do not spend my time on this issue. I have many priorities that deal with the betterment of the criminal justice system and that is where my time is spent.
- There is a whole book that is compiled by the legal associations on the update on laws that affect the criminal courts. Every judge should have something similar to this book that is sent out and every judge should review this book (or something similar) to familiarize themselves with the changes in the laws effective September 1, 2017.
For example, HB 3019 amends a subsection of the penal code under section 22.04 which is regarding injury to a child, elderly individual or disabled individual to include offenses committed in boarding home facilities. The bill also expands the definition of “disabled individual” to explicitly include a person with mental illness as defined in the health and safety code under section 571.003.
- I think being available and active in our communities matter. For example, when I am at community functions, I get asked a lot of questions about qualifications for being a juror. I also get a lot of questions regarding internships in the court for young people and law students. By making the courts accessible, we improve the system. People become more educated regarding the judicial system and young people of all backgrounds aspire to join the system as attorneys and judges.
- I have no problems with transparency. Inside the courthouse, I post my schedule should I not be available for certain hours on certain days. For example, my tech committee meetings can be in the same building or in another county building. I sit as a member of this committee on behalf of the judiciary. When I am scheduled for this type of meeting, I put up a sign on my bench so that people know I am in a committee meeting and that they can go to the magistrate or another judge for assistance and they will not waste time looking for me.
However, judges should also be able to have some privacy. I should not have to tell the public if I have been sick or if that sick time was because of my child. I should not have to post hours that allows my safety to be at risk since we know in the State of Texas that a judge in Austin was killed near her home as well as the DA and assistant DA in Kauffman. The need for transparency must be balanced with the need for some privacy as well as the absolute need for safety.
- The will of the people, given the rule of law, is exercised through our jury system. That is what a jury trial affords a person, the trial of their peers. However, even then, the law is strictly the domain of the court. Public opinion should not sway the court in determining the understanding of the law. That is why there is a judge with specific knowledge and experience. Though a decision may be unpopular, that does not make it the wrong decision.
- I have a wide breathe of experience in criminal law. I was a prosecutor for over 10 years. I was a defense attorney practicing in the North Texas region and in federal courts for 4 years. I was a municipal judge appointed by two different city councils for 4 years. And most recently, I have been the presiding judge for County Criminal Court 8 for the last 7 going on 8 years.
I have cleared my total docket by approximately 50%. I have decreased the trial docket from about 350 jury trials pending when I took this bench to less than 50 cases pending. I have presided over 300 trials in my total of 12 years on the bench.
I have administrative experience as a judge. I was the presiding judge for the misdemeanor courts for three years, which was an honor bestowed by my peers. I know the Dallas County system and who is responsible for the various parts of the criminal justice system. I have developed relationships so that I can solve problems and speak to those in charge of their respective departments. I have sat on and do sit on some of the largest committees regarding some of the most pressing issues we face in this county in criminal justice. I testified at both the Senate and House Subcommittees regarding different criminal justice issues.
As a lawyer, I and another lawyer tried the first viatical case in the United States. I helped write the criminal law on trademark violations. My case in money laundering was a case of first impression in the State of Texas and made appellate law. I teach nationally and locally.
Please see my attached resume.
- a: N/A
b: Please see my answer from question 11 and my attached resume.
| Audrey Faye Moorehead - Answers:
- Lawyers should be able to make donations toward any political candidate as long as the lawyer and the judge comply with the Texas Ethics Commission Campaign and Secretary of State Rules and Regulations.
- I am a Fellow of the State Bar College. The Texas Bar College’s mission is to recognize and encourage lawyers, paralegals, and judges to maintain and enhance their professional skills and quality of their service to the public by significant voluntary participation in legal education, to promote among members of the State Bar and the general public the educational and public purposes of the College and its members, to recognize and encourage outstanding service to the legal profession and the public, and to sponsor or otherwise assist in educational activities of significant merit and widespread relevance and applicability to the legal profession.
To become a fellow of the college, members must complete 80 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) over a three-year span or 45 hours in a single year, with 30 ours of CLE being required each year after for 10 consecutive years.
I have over 83.50 hours of CLE in 2017 and 139.25 in 2016
I am a frequent lecturer and presenter in the area of criminal law. I served as the Course Director for the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA) 2017 Rusty Duncan Advanced Criminal Law Course which provided legal education for over 700 lawyers, prosecutors and judge. Rusty is one of the largest criminal CLE’s in the country. I was a presenter on the topic of ETHICS at the 2017 State Bar of Texas Advanced Criminal Law Course with over 500 lawyers and judges in attendance. I taught twice this year for the National Criminal Defense Lawyers Association on the topic of Cross Examination. As a member of the faculty of the
Texas Center for Legal Ethics, I have had the privilege of teaching the Justice James
A. Baker Guide to Ethics and Professionalism course. This course qualifies for the
Texas Supreme Court mandated four hours of ethics/professional responsibility
credit and MUST be completed no later than 12 months after being licensed.
- “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and
public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall
have been committed…” United States Constitution, Sixth Amendment
It is the role of the judiciary to uphold, support and defend the Constitution of the
United States. This right extends to all people without regard to race, creed,
ethnicity, gender, age or indigent or wealthy. The law is not to discriminate in the
favor of anyone. The courts can make sure that appointment of legal counsel is
promptly made to indigent defendants and that requests by court appointed
counsel for investigators or other resources are ruled upon timely.
This question may also be the appropriate place to discuss bail reform and the
burden of probation, court costs and fees. Recognizing that these fees are not
necessarily set by the judiciary, the court can work with prosecutors and defense
with regard to plea recommendations where judicial discretion is permitted. Bail
reform must occur in Dallas County because the current system runs afoul of the
Constitution. The courts are currently exploring different methods to address this
issue. The primary tool available to the judge is the ability to grant personal
recognizance bonds. This will allow defendants to get back to their jobs, schools
and families. I have already had the opportunity to begin discussing these issues
with Chief Judges Birmingham and Mulder and have looked at the issue at the
State Bar level through my work with Legal Services to the Poor in Criminal
Matters Committee and as a member of the board of directors for the Texas
Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA)
- I have tried one jury trial as First Chair in Dallas County; however, the pretrial hearings on issues such as Motion to Suppress or Daubert Challenges are more prevalent and often dispositive. If the defense prevails in these hearings then the matters do not go to trial. I have also had trials before the court which are often preferable to a jury trial.
- I believe in fair pay and that salaries should be adjusted for cost of living. I also believe that salaries should be reflective of the area in which the judge serves just as fairness of attorney’s fees are determined.
- HB 3016 Petition for Nondisclosure for DWI Conviction
HB3237 Public Disclosure of Search Warrants
Sb1849 Sandra Bland Act (revise laws on the identification and screening of an arrestee who might be a person with mental illness or intellectual disability
- The primary way for the judge to improve the judicial system outside of the court is through education. Most people have no interaction with the court except through the media. Judges should be available to speak to groups, schools and organizations about our system of justice.
Judges should also continue to seek legal education and training. Judges have many opportunities to improve their skills and increase their knowledge. The law evolves and changes and a judge has a responsibility to ensure they have the information to advance the cause of justice.
Judges may also serve on appropriate nonprofit boards and volunteer in the community. The judiciary has a “public relations” responsibility to help build trust in the courts.
- I have a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a focus on Organizational Management. I have managed small, medium and large businesses and the concept of posting the work hours of salaried professionals is foreign.
I believe the hours that the courts are available must be made available to the public.
Elected officials that do not work should not be re-elected.
I do not think judges should be required to post publically the time they spend at the courthouse; however, I believe they should keep the electorate informed of what they are doing as elected officials.
- The wishes of the voters already play a significant role in judicial decision-making. Every time the voters elect a legislator it effects the laws that are passed that a judge is required to follow.
- I have practiced criminal law, in the Frank Crowley Courts, the entire duration of my legal career. I was honored to have been asked to participate in an exclusive invitation-only Beyond The Bench: law, Justice, and Communities summit spearheaded by the Supreme Court of Texas and the Texas Criminal Court of
Appeals to address issues of unconscious bias and recent tensions with law enforcement. Judges, state leaders and community advocates came together to explore diverse viewpoints and engage in candid conversation about what can be done to ensure trust in the justice system.
I am a member of several Criminal Lawyers professional organizing and serving in leadership at the highest level. I have demonstrated over 30 years of service to the community on boards such as the Dallas County Child Welfare Board, Nexus Women’s Recovery Center, Unlocking Doors and CASA.
- a: N/A
b: I have known and practiced in front of Judge Douglas Skemp, the current retiring judge for over 10 years but met with him over four years ago to discuss my interest in running for County Criminal Court #3. Since that time, I have continued to practice in his court, observe his court, met with the Office of Court Management and otherwise “studied to show myself approved”.
I have practiced criminal defense in Harris, Denton, Ellis and Collin counties. I have established the respect of judges from the Supreme Court of Texas, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to the United States District Court for the Northern District. These relationships allow me access resources that can shorten the learning curve and provide valuable resources for not only Court 3 but to all of the courts.
This journey did not begin when I designated my Treasurer, The Honorable Trini Garza in February 2017.
This journey began over thirty years ago when I was a student in the Man and His Environment Cluster at Skyline Highschool. I made a personal and spiritual commitment to live my life in service. The people of Dallas County deserve an ethical, experienced, well respected and qualified judge that has consistently demonstrated a commitment to public service.
| Sandre Moncriffe - Answers:
- Answer: Unfortunately while the general public is aware of our legal system,
lawyers are usually more concerned with which Judge is on the bench. Therefore,
lawyers will continue to be among the primary funders of judicial campaigns,
because of their practice in the courts. I firmly believe in my oath, and as such,
despite accepting contributions from lawyers, I will make sure my decisions are
firmly rooted in the law, based on the facts, and not influenced by the lawyers in the
- Answer: I have done nothing scholastic.
- Answer: The role of the judiciary in ensuring that our courts serve the indigent as
well as the wealthy is to treat everyone fairly, regardless of income. Our family
court system is rife with Pro Se individuals trying to handle their own cases. The
Texas Supreme Court has already made significant inroads in improving access to
documents to enable self representation. Many Courts display resources for legal
free or reduced cost legal assistance in the courtroom. The Dallas Bar also fosters
many ways for attorneys to provide pro bono representation for the indigent
including legal lines and Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program.
- Answer: Yes. Statewide District Judges in Texas have not had a significant pay raise in some time.
- Answer: The most recent passage of House Bill 3859, the Freedom To Serve Children Act, allows a state funded child welfare agency with “sincerely held
religious beliefs” to refuse to place children with an individual or couple based on
the individual’s or couple’s sexual orientation. This could pose a challenge for some
- Answer: I believe that Judges can be involved in anything that promotes and advances the law. As such, Judges can certainly participate in school programs
designed to expose students to the law, serve on boards designed to promote the
interests of the law, serve on charitable committees, and become involved in
educational and community endeavors. Also, Judges can certainly voice their
opinions on the law at appropriate forums, and attend legislative sessions when
- Answer: this information is already a part of the public record, in that, there are ways to access this information via the court’s docket, etc.
- Answer: No. Judges are bound to uphold the law, and to apply the law to the facts.
However, Judges have discretion in their application of the law. At no time should a
Judge’s decision be solely swayed by the wishes of voters.
- Answer: I have been a licensed attorney for 17 years and have practiced largely in the area of Family Law. In my most recent position as an Assistant District Attorney with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office in the Juvenile Law Division, I
prosecuted Child Welfare/CPS cases, and was assigned to the Family District
Courts at George Allen. Prior to working as an Assistant District Attorney, I
successfully operated a Family Law practice for almost 10 years. My legal
experience has afforded me the opportunity to work on a variety of Family Law
cases, encompassing child support, divorces, terminations, adoptions, property
division, and custody issues. I also have extensive trial experience, including Jury
- Answer: As a result of my experience, I have had the unique opportunity to serve as a prosecutor in Family law, as well as serving in the role of defense attorney for parents in CPS cases, representing parents/spouses in various family law cases,
serving as a Guardian Ad Litem/Attorney ad Litem for children, as well as acting as
an Amicus Attorney in certain cases. Moreover, I have also had the unique
opportunity to practice with the Legacy Drug Court, which is a specialty court
designed to help drug addicted parents who have lost custody of their children to
CPS. Through the Legacy Drug Court, parents work in an intensive court program
emphasizing recovery from substance abuse. The major goal of the program is to
aid in the reunification process, by offering intensive drug treatment and support to
parents. I believe that this experience of being a prosecutor who routinely juggled a
docket of 100+ cases consistently, and coupled with my years of experience in
family law, would contribute greatly to my ability to perform the duties of a Judge.
- a: Answer: I am asking voters to choose me over my opponent because the public
deserves a Judge with the temperament, knowledge, and experience to make sound
decisions in the best interest of children and families, and to make the just and right
divisions of property that the law allows. I submit to voters that my legal experience
has afforded me the opportunity to work on a variety of Family Law cases,
encompassing child support, divorces, terminations, adoptions, property division
and custody issues. I also have extensive trial experience, including Jury trials.
Also, I have had the unique opportunity to practice with the Legacy Drug Court,
which is a specialty court designed to help drug addicted parents who have lost
custody of their children to CPS. Through the Legacy Drug Court, parents work in
an intensive court program emphasizing recovery from substance abuse. The major
goal of the program is to aid in the reunification process, by offering intensive drug
treatment and support to parents.
Furthermore, I ask voters to choose me over the incumbent Judge because I am
committed to public service. I have demonstrated my commitment to public service
as a School Board Trustee, and in my overall service to my community. In sum, my
family law experience is broad, my temperament is well suited for the role of Judge
of the 255th District Court, and I have a passion and commitment to public service.
| Chika Anyiam - Answers:
- On the face of it, it is undesirable, but so long as a judge is not influenced by the lawyers making those donations, I don’t see why they cannot accept such. This is especially so in the criminal justice system, where criminal court judges have very limited sources for fundraising, and will not be able to campaign effectively without adequate funds.
- I have gone over and above the mandatory Continuing Legal Education requirements in keeping up with legal issues, changes in the law, policy and procedure. In doing so, I have maintained an excellent level of trial skills for over twenty years, and represent my clients effectively on all levels.
- My role as a judge is to grant fair and equal access to justice to all. This means appointing competent counsel to the indigent defendants, and ensuring that the indigent are able to exercise their rights to be heard without the pressure of being stuck in jail due to high bonds, losing their jobs, apartments, or custody of their children. This is why I am a strong supporter of bail bond reform, allowing indigent defendants who meet certain criteria to bond out based on what they can afford, not their past criminal history, and granting personal recognizance bonds where an eligible defendant cannot afford a cash or surety bond.
- I have tried over seventy felony cases to the jury as lead counsel/first chair.
- Yes I do. I support pay raises for all hard working people, including judges.
- HB 34 will have a positive impact on the Criminal District Court No. 7 and all other felony courts. HB 34 sets new/improved criteria for eye witness identification protocols including training for officers administering those protocols, as well as forensic science, jailhouse informants, aka “snitches”, and electronic recording of interrogations. The effect of HB 34 will affect the admissibility of evidence touching upon those areas, and will significantly lower the chances of innocent defendants getting wrongfully convicted due to faulty or underhanded law enforcement procedure.
- A judge can improve the judicial system in a number of ways. Attending legal clinics/community forums to educate people on the importance of jury service, issues that come up in the courtroom, educating our youth on the role of a judge, the vagaries of the criminal justice system, and disseminating information regarding resources/programs in the community where people can get help.
- I believe that in order to remain accountable to the citizens of Dallas County, especially in a system where timely dispensation of justice has been an issue, judges ought to keep such a log, to be made public only if a particular judge’s work ethics becomes an issue. This may present some challenges though, because a judge’s duties aren’t always confined to the courtroom.
- Judges are required to follow the law, not the wishes of the voters. A judge’s duty to the voters is to be a fair and impartial arbiter of justice, without fear or favor for either side, and to exercise her discretion in the interest of justice. If voters have issues with the law, the proper avenue is to push for legislative changes through their representatives and law makers.
- N/A, I’m running for a criminal court bench.
- I have an extensive felony trial experience, having tried all levels of felonies to the jury as lead counsel, in the Dallas felony courts. I have tried tough felony cases against the District Attorney’s top prosecutors (prosecutors of the year), before judges of varying caliber. I have counseled defendants and victims alike, as well as their families. As a result, I have “seen all sides’, the good, the bad, and the ugly, ranging from outstanding ethical prosecutors, to those who have a tendency to hide evidence, from fair judges, to those who are not so fair, and all sorts of family/defendant/victim dynamics. I am therefore in a unique position to render justice that is true, balanced, and fair, taking into account the needs of the accused, victim, and the community.
- a: N/A
b: The voters should choose me because I am the candidate in this race with the experience that matters.
a. Due to my superior knowledge of the law and excellent trial skills, in 2014, 2015, and 2016 our peers, the Dallas County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association nominated and selected me as one of their best. None of my opponents have been recognized or acknowledged in this manner.
b. The AFL-CIO-Labor Council, Teamsters Local Union 745 and The Preston Hollow Democrats endorsed me over my opponents as the best candidate for this position.
c. In 2016, I was vetted by the Dallas Committee for a Qualified Judiciary (CQJ), and deemed qualified to serve as a judge.
d. Mental health is a big issue in our communities, and the mentally ill make up a large segment of our jail population, begging for a solution. I am the Private Bar Representative to the Caruth Smart Justice Planning Grant, an initiative currently in effect at the Frank Crowley Criminal Courthouse/Lew Sterrett Justice Center. This is a group consisting of judges, magistrates, clinicians, mental health providers, assessors, and pretrial services, working with law enforcement and Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. The group is focused on the pretrial assessment and release of eligible mentally ill offenders from the jail to community based providers/services while their cases are pending, with the goal of supporting, enhancing, and expanding the behavioral health care in North Texas, to meet the needs of residents with mental health issues.
I believe in fair and equal access to justice, treatment and rehabilitation over incarceration for the mentally ill, drug addicts and eligible low level offenders.
e. I have a true track record of community service, volunteering for, and supporting various nonprofit organizations such as legal clinics, Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity to name a few, with my time, effort and money.
f. I have a true record of helping and supporting the Dallas County Democratic Party and candidates, even when not running for office, by sponsoring events, donating to other candidates, phone banking, and working at the polls for them, to help keep the county blue.
| Jeanine Howard - Answers:
- Campaign funding from attorneys for Criminal Court Judges is usually the main way, and often the only way they receive campaign funds. Attorneys will typically contribute to a judge if he or she is hard working, fair, on time, and follows the law, or other pertinent character traits, because they want that judge to remain on the bench. Having a judge with those qualities is helpful to the attorney in his practice. He is then able to advise his client of those qualities, and let them know that they will receive a fair trial in that particular court, when deciding on how to dispose of their case. On the other hand, it is advantageous to the judges because they need campaign funds throughout the year for various kinds of expenses and donations that are necessary, such as CJE, advertisements, and donations to organizations, in addition to campaign expenses. However, it is imperative that each judge have the integrity to never allow their rulings to be influenced in any way, on any case, just because that attorney made a donation to your campaign.
- I receive additional training beyond that required by reading the case law updates that come out weekly in order to be aware of any recent changes in the case law.
As a way of teaching, I have often volunteered my time to sit on high school and college mock trial or moot court competitions for students.
- An indigent person should be, and is treated no different than a wealthy defendant in CDC #6.. The wealthy defendant may be able to hire his own attorney, while indigent defendants will have one appointed. However, I personally ensure in my court that indigent defendants are also zealously represented by their court appointed attorneys and have the same access to any medical and investigative needs, by appointing medical experts and/or investigators when needed, which are paid for by the court. But that does require a judge who is patient and conscientious, and who will listen when a defendant has a complaint in order to determine its validity.
- 65 jury trials.
- Yes. In the 11 years I have been a judge, the state has given the judiciary only one raise, and that was approximately 7 years ago. Most people who practice criminal law are not in it for the money, because a high salary for government employees and court appointed attorneys is rare. I personally do this job because I love what I do, and I love coming to work every day. I have always wanted to help people that needed help and to make a difference in the community; and I have been able to do those things as a criminal court judge. Sometimes you have to let the satisfaction you feel from helping people, or seeing someone succeed, count as part of your overall salary.
- Article 42.15 of the Code of Criminal Procedure regarding thepayment of fines, fees, and court costs
- (1) By trying to find businesses in the community that will hire people who are on probation or who are convicted felons to enable them to become productive members of society. (People with a criminal record have a much harder time finding a job.)
(2) By working with young first time probationers to help them succeed, have a second chance, and to turn their life around before they get caught up in the “revolving door” of the criminal justice system.
- No. The job is more than 8:00 to 4:30. While I normally spend a full day at the courthouse, many times I also take work home with me and read ahead in preparation for open pleas, trials, motions to suppress, or revocation hearings coming up the next day or later in the week. There are also times in the evening where judges attend meetings, dinners, or other events when various groups want to spend time with a judge outside of the courtroom. A judge may also be called in the middle of the night to sign a search warrant for a police officer. Because of the additional amount of time a judge puts into the job outside the courtroom, I don’t feel that publicly posting courthouse time would accurately reflect all of the work a judge puts into his or her job.
- The wishes of voters, in the form of witnesses, victims, or family members, are always considered, but the judge must always keep an open mind, and a judge’s decision-making must always comply with the law; and following the law usually results in what is best for the community.
- I have 27 years experience on both sides of the criminal law—2½ years prosecuting and 14 years defending . I have 11 years experience as a judge, ruling on almost 20,000 cases during that time. I have done a lot of appellate work over the years, which provides me with a more thorough understanding of the application of the law than if I had been only a trial attorney. I graduated in the top 10% of my law school class at SMU. I have the courage to make the tough rulings, even though at times you know it is not going to be a popular decision. I am a compassionate person, but I am also tough on crime. I take a personal interest in each case to make sure justice is done in every case. I am a patient person; I listen to what everyone has to say, whether it be during a trial, or a plea, or just someone coming to talk to the judge about a problem they might be having on probation. I treat every person with respect, and my door is always open. I maintain the highest possible integrity and ethical standards at all times, and my work in the community, since 2008, with my “food pantry” donation program and my “First Friday” work with young offenders on probation, is unprecedented. In addition, I am known for having an excellent judicial temperament.
- a: N/A
b: I believe that what I said in my answer to Question #11 above shows how I stand out from my opponent.
In addition, I would just point out that my back ground, my years of experience, and the varied types of my experience far outweigh that of my opponent.
These are just some of the reasons why the voters should choose me.
| Vonciel Jones Hill - Answers:
- I do not see a problem with this practice if the Judge and the lawyer(s) is/are clear that the only thing that the donation buys is good government. Donations should never, ever be seen as buying favor.
- For over fifteen (15) years, I taught evidence to Municipal Judges throughout the State of Texas.
- Judges have an absolute obligation to ensure that all persons in the criminal justice system have equal access to quality representation. If a Judge sees any incompetency or laziness on the part of any attorney, which appears to be a result of financial considerations, that Judge should take appropriate action to remedy the situation.
I take only appointed cases in my criminal practice. I devote as much time and effort to these cases as I would to any on which I were retained. This practice is my way of helping to make sure that persons without financial means receive the finest representation possible.
- I have not first chaired in a felony criminal court. I have, however, first chaired in civil trials, and I have argued before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Additionally, as the Presiding Judge of a Municipal Court for seventeen (17) years, I presided over hundred of jury and bench trials. The Municipal Courts handle the same subject matter and follow the same criminal procedure as do the Felony Courts.
- Periodic pay raises for Judges should happen. However, I think that the current salary is sufficient.
- The legislation that I believe would have been most helpful was the Whitmire proposal on bail bond reform. That legislation did not pass; however, I am hopeful that it will be re-introduced [and pass] in the next session.
- By being an active participant in the larger community. Currently, I volunteer with Boy Scouts of America, the African American Museum, and the State Fair of Texas.
- I see no problem with such a requirement.
- No. Each individual case should be decided solely upon the facts of that particular case and the law applicable to those facts.
- a: N/A
| LaDeitra Adkins - Answers:
- Throughout my years of practicing law, I have been a speaker and panelist at several CLE’s and presentations regarding the protection of children and families in Dallas County.
- The judiciary can help to assure that our courts serve the indigent by holding judges accountable for being present on the bench every work day and giving citizens a full day’s work to avoid wasting litigants’ time and resources.
The judiciary should also promote and encourage pro bono hours of State bar members and members of all legal associations.
- I am in favor of judges receiving periodic cost-of-living pay raises in order that they too may remain in a consistent financial situation as living expenses increase.
- All the 2017 legislation regarding educational services to improve outcomes for youths in foster care will impact the 304th court primarily in how the court will effectively monitor the department’s adherence to these laws.
For example, one of the pieces of legislation requires matched special education services from one school to the next. Many of our children in care receive special education services and since children in care change schools more frequently than those not in care, it becomes easier for the special educational needs of these children to get lost in the shuffle, especially if the child is placed in a shelter for any length of time. The more moves there are, the more common it is for the next caregiver to be given incomplete educational information, thereby handicapping the caregiver’s awareness of and ability to monitor the child’s receipt of necessary educational services implemented perhaps 3 or 4 schools back.
- Education is key both inside the judicial system and out.
It is critical that platforms be established for the periodic education and dissemination of information for workers throughout the judicial system and the community as well. Knowledge is power. The more the system’s workers are kept abreast of changes and periodically trained in effective interpersonal, cultural and cross-cultural communication, the more smoothly the system will run. Too, the more information the public has about how the system works and what they can expect from and within the system, the more likely they are to understand, believe in and support the process.
- I believe that all the above information should be made public in much the same manner as is the salaries of elected State Judges.
- The Judge’s decisions should be made based solely on the law and the facts. Where discretion is allowed, Judges may wish to consider the relevant wishes of voters.
- My qualifications stem directly from the over 17 years’ experience I have in every area and aspect of Juvenile and Child Welfare law including without limits litigation and all forms of alternative dispute resolution.
I have handled both complexities in facts, law and litigation. Child Welfare cases are wrought with emotion and therefore, require practitioners as well as judges to safeguard against emotions clouding their judgement when deciding what is best for the child while simultaneously displaying sensitivity and compassion in the process.
- In addition to my previous response, I have handled high dollar conflict cases as the court’s amicus attorney, making recommendations to the court regarding the child’s best interest without actually representing the child. These can be high pressure appointments due partly to the financial profile of the litigants who are accustomed to paying for what they desire. Having served in such positions has invariably strengthened my resolve and ability, in the face of adversity, to do what is best for the child.
- a: The voters of Dallas County should choose me over the incumbent for the following reasons:
*I will be a full-time judge in practice and in purpose;
*I will value and protect the rights of every litigant appearing in my court;
*I will follow the law and be accurate in its application;
*I will give every case the consideration it deserves along with the required focus
*I will treat all that appear before me with dignity and respect.
| Thelma Sanders Clardy - Answers:
- I wish that judicial candidates did not have to accept donations from judges who might practice in their court. However, lawyers are generally the only segment of the community who care about who’s on the bench. If elected, I will not base my decisions on who has or has not contributed to my campaign but rather the law as applied to the facts of a case.
Also, I really believe that judges should not have to run on a partisan basis, as decisions are not or should not be based on a partisan ideology but rather on the law. It is my hope that the legislature will change this practice in the future.
- Meeting mandatory CLE requirements is extremely important, and that’s why I’ve exceeded the minimum requirements over the past few years and will continue to do so. In addition to attending CLE events, I have also written an article, and have spoken at numerous bar-related events, including the Advanced Family Law Conference, Marriage Dissolution, and state bar annual meetings.
- The role of the judiciary in this area is to ensure, to the extent of the law, that all litigants have access to the courts. If I am elected to the bench, I will do all I can to implement a project to expand the programs currently in effect (through the Dallas Bar Association’s Dallas Volunteer Attorney Project) to the courthouse as there are many individuals who come to the courthouse seeking legal help at the law library. It should not cost a lot to have some staff attorneys from LAWNT or volunteer DVAP attorneys to serve on certain days to assist these individuals.
- It is my understanding that pay raises are determined by the commissioners’ court and other legislative bodies, so I would leave it up to them to determine whether pay raises are warranted or can be accommodated by the budget.
- I don’t recall the house bill number, but there were numerous bills introduced in the 2017 legislative session that could have had an impact on family law. One was the ”50-50” possession bill which would have required the court to grant 50-50 possession to each parent, whether the facts warranted it or not. If it had passed, it could have had devastating effects on
the court’s discretionary power to determine a possession schedule based
on the facts of the case.
- Within the confines of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct, I believe a judge could, and I would be willing to speak at educational institutions to talk about
the law, write articles, and speak at legal seminars, which are things that I
have been doing for several years, albeit in a different capacity.
- Judges are salaried employees and as such, should not have to post the time
they spend at the courthouse. However, if I’m elected, I plan to have
standard working hours and, where necessary, will work past the 8:30 a.m.
– 4:30 p.m. schedule. Even as a solo practitioner for the past 23 years, I
impose on myself standard work hours but in practice work more than 40
hours a week just because of the nature of the work and to provide my clients
the best quality service possible. Formerly, as an employed attorney with
the federal government and other law firms in the past, I was used to working
standard hours and, again, worked more than the 9-5 schedule when
necessary. I would say that if there’s a problem with judges who seem to be
out of the office more than in, it should be noted in some manner but not by
- I don’t believe this is a good idea, because voters are not able to make decisions of a judicial nature other than in their position as a juror. Judges,
by their law school training, and experience, are to base their decisions on
the law and uphold the law.
- I believe that I have the experience, integrity, and knowledge to serve as a
family court judge. For more than 25 years, I have represented clients from
all backgrounds in various areas of family law. As mentioned above, I have
also attended as many CLE events as possible; I have spoken at family lawrelated
CLE events; I have written articles; and I have been involved in the
community in many ways, such as serving on a city council, chairing a
Domestic Violence Advisory Commission, serving as president of numerous
bar organizations, and participating in pro bono activities. I differ from my
opponent in this body of law because I have the most recent and direct
experience with those types of cases that are handled specifically by this
court rather than a limited body of family law.
Additionally, I have recently had two cases (one civil and the other family law-related) in the past 3-4 years which went up all the way to the Texas Supreme Court which upheld the lower court decisions in favor of my clients.
Finally, I have been recognized for my service not only in the legal community but the civic community as well as evidenced by my receipt of awards such as a mentorship award, an award from Big Brothers/Big Sisters for my service to that organization, a “trailblazer” award from the Dallas Association of Black Women Attorneys (DABWA) – an organization that I co-founded almost 35 years ago, and the Baird Community Service Award.
- I strive to work at a high pace, as being a solo practitioner for the past 23 years requires one to wear many hats, including administrative hats, prioritizing case work as well as non-legal matters, staying on task and schedule. Also, I believe that being a parent and grandparent can give me a common-law perspective to serving as a family law judge.
- a: N/A
b: In addition to what I have already stated, I am running because I have always been a servant of the community. My motto is “Justice with a Mission”, which means that my mission is to serve all parties who come before the court with compassion, fairness, and issue a just decision based on the law and not some extraneous factors such as gender, sexual orientation, financial status, etc. I will strive to make sure that all parties, when leaving my court, will believe that they have been treated fairly and within the confines of the law, regardless of whether they won or lost. Fairness, integrity, knowledge, will be the basic tenets of my service.
| Roberto Canas - Answers:
- The reality is that judges have to raise money and the easiest source of political contributions is from lawyers. A judge or judicial candidate should have the integrity to accept a donation and not let that affect their judgment. If a judge or judicial candidate does not have that level of integrity, then they should not be a judge. Ultimately, a voter needs to know how judicial campaigns are funded and then decide if the judge is actually fair and impartial.
- I am on the faculty of the National Judicial Institute on Domestic Violence and we train judges from around the country on the best practices for domestic violence. I have also partnered with a non-profit from Washington D.C., Vital Voices, and traveled to India and Columbia to train judges there about domestic violence.
- The judiciary must ensure access to the court for everyone. For the indigent, judges in criminal court are legally obligated to appoint and pay for lawyers. Criminal court judges are also legally prohibited from jailing indigent offenders just for the failure to pay fines. Currently, Dallas County criminal court judges are also working to change the bail system so that low-risk, indigent offenders can be released without the need to pay money.
- Before I became a judge I was first chair on close to 140 trials and as a judge I have presided over 200 trials.
- Yes. A lawyer with enough experience and integrity to be a judge is also a lawyer who could earn a significant salary practicing law. So to attract and keep good judges a judge’s salary has to be somewhat competitive with other legal profession salaries. However, being a judge is a public service and a public honor and so judges should not expect to be paid what they could earn in private practice.
- One positive law is a law that requires criminal court judges to do a financial assessment of offenders and their ability to pay assessed fines. One negative law is SB4. This law creates an extra hurdle for domestic violence victims to come forward and report the violence against them.
- Judges are obligated to improve the judicial system as a whole. I work on the Mayor of Dallas’ Domestic Violence Executive Task Force on Domestic Violence. The Task Force focuses on the City of Dallas’ response to domestic violence from dispatch to disposition. So we look at things like the 911 system to number of shelter beds to timeliness of case resolution.
- Judges are ethically obligated to timely dispose of cases and not create unnecessary delays. We are responsible for balancing our time to meet our personal and professional obligations. The time judges spend at the courthouse can already be determined through public records, like parking garage records. Judges in Dallas County do not receive official vacation or sick time.
- No. Judges are ethically bound to remain independent and the ethical rules specifically prohibit judges from taking into account the wishes of the public. Judges have to do what is right and just which may not always be popular. Judges have to be prepared to protect the minority or the individual against the majority.
- a: N/A
| Jim Jordan - Answers:
- The law prohibits judges from accepting campaign donations from attorneys in their courtroom. The practice of accepting campaign donations from lawyers erodes public confidence in their judiciary. However, there are no other realistic sources for judges to raise money to run a race with the 1.2 million registered voters in Dallas County other than from attorneys. The practice can be eliminated by changing the way we elect judges or by public funding.
The Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 2 is entitled "Avoiding Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in all of the Judge's Activities." Section A of Canon 2 states, "A judge shall comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary." The Dallas Bar Association has established creeds for both lawyers and judges regarding fundraising in judicial campaigns. I believe both lawyers and judges should comply with those creeds.
Judges must run in a partisan political race to either become a judge or to be retained as a judge. Texas laws allow judges to receive contributions from lawyers and require periodic reporting of these funds to provide the public transparency for these contributions. Further, judges and judicial candidates can voluntarily agree to limit the amount received from an attorney or law firm during the election cycle as set forth by the Texas Ethics Commission. I have signed this agreement and complied with it in all elections I have had.
However, each judge must decide for herself or himself when Canon 2 or the judge's own sense of propriety prevents a judge from accepting an otherwise legal contribution. In the past I have returned funds or recused myself from a matter when the contribution, because the amount, or the timing of the contribution relative to a hearing or trial, could be perceived to reflect negatively on the impartiality or integrity of the court.
As long as Texans select and retain their judges in elections, attorneys will contribute to the judicial races as may be permitted by law. Otherwise, there would be no realistic source of funding for a judicial race and no way for a judge or judicial candidate to inform Dallas County’s 1.2 million registered voters. Even under our present system, it is unlikely that more than a few percentage points of the voters have the time or resources to be informed about the nearly 60 county-wide elected trial judges. Public funding of judicial races or selection of judges by some other procedure will most likely be required to restore any lost confidence in our judiciary created by the current funding of our judicial elections.
- Additional Training:
- National Judicial College Certificate of Professionalism General Jurisdiction Trial Skills, 2007-2013. Passed with Distinction; Conducting the Trial (2009), Enhancing Bench Skills (2012), Judicial Writing (2012), The Fourth Amendment: Comprehensive Search & Seizure for Trial Judges (2013).
- Candidate, Masters in Judicial Studies, University of Nevada, 2013-2018.
- Awarded Diploma – Teaching Advocacy Skills – by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy at the Harvard Law School, Cambridge , Massachusetts.
- ABA National Conference of State Trial Judges, Member Board of Directors/Executive Committee, Co-Chair Judicial Education Committee.
- Adjunct Professor, Paul Quinn College, Legal Studies Program;
- Adjunct Classroom Professor Texas Tech Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Externship Program;
- Adjunct Faculty for Trial Advocacy Course, Southern Methodist University School of Law
- Adjunct Faculty for Trial Advocacy Course, Southern Methodist University School of Law and Louisiana State University School of Law;
- Faculty for National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA) Trial and Deposition programs;
- One of Judges for 2007 National High School Mock Trial final championship round;
Without Fire, Food, Drink or Candle (or even Tobacco) – Jury Service in the Eighteenth Century and the Trial of Thomas Hardy for High Treason. Presentation to the Dallas Bar Association Bench/Bar Conference, October 2017.
Evidentiary Rules Not in the Rules of Evidence – And other Evidence Problems: Paper and presentation, Houston, April 16, and Houston, May 18, 2017. Texas Bar Advanced Civil Trial Course.
The Importance of Jury Duty: Former President George W. Bush Appeared for Jury Service. Published by the ABA Judicial Division Record, 2015 Fall issue.
Language of Justice: Removing Language Barriers to Justice in the Nation’s Courts. July 30, 2015 presentation at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago for the Judicial Division, National Conference of State Trial Judges, serving as the moderator for panelists Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye Supreme Court of California; Chief Justice Edward Chavez Supreme Court of New Mexico; and Judge Christopher Yates, Michigan State Court.
Summary Judgment Motions – What the Judges Want to See and Not See in Their Courts. July 10, 2015 judicial panel Texas Bar Association Advanced Personal Injury Course.
How Not To Lose Your Case – Tips for Pretrial and Trial Error Presentation; panelist with Judge Ken Molberg and Moderator Anne Johnson of Haynes & Boone, May 8, 2015 DBA Trial Skills Section.
Views from the Bench on Transitioning from City Attorney to Judge. June 9, 2015 panel discussion, DBA Government Law Section.
A Judicial Perspective on Deposition Disputes and the Use of Depositions at Trial. 2014 Winning at Deposition: Skills and Strategy Program. Sponsored by the University of Texas School of Law.
What Judges Want; Insurance Issues and Disputes. The University of Texas School of Law 2014 Insurance Law Institute.
Judicial Panel – Dos and Don’ts; 2014 State Bar of Texas Advanced Civil Trial Course.
Guardian Ad Litem and Attorney Ad Litem: Panel member Dallas Bar Association scheduled for 2014 Bench/Bar Conference.
What Civil Court Judges Want You to Know: Judicial Panel Roundtable 2014, Sponsored by the National Business Institute.
Ethics and Film/TV Law. 2014 Texas State Bar Annual Meeting.
Strategies for Planning an Effective Voir Dire: ABA Webinar, April 8, 2014.
A Comparison of the Primary Procedural Differences between Federal and State Court Rules: Presentation Dallas, July 10, and Houston, August 28, 2013. Texas Bar Advanced Personal Injury Course.
Current Expert Issues: Paper and presentation San Antonio July 27-29, Dallas August 24-26, Houston October 26-28, 2011. Texas Bar Advanced Civil Trial Course.
Jury Selection; Paper and presentation for State Bar of Texas - Suing and Defending Governmental Entities, Summer 2009; presentation repeated to Business Litigation Section, DBA, September 2009, and to Tort and Insurance Section, DBA, January 2010
E-Filing Practice Tips, published in the December 2011 issue of Headnotes, a publication of the Dallas Bar Association.
Trends in Dallas County State Courts: Panel member Dallas Bar Association, 2013 Bench/Bar Conference.
Effective Use of Experts in Litigation and at Trial: DBA Judiciary Committee CLE, September 2013.
Dallas Bar Association Trial Academy Faculty, 2012-13.
Tips for Bench Trials: March 2013 presentation Dallas Bar Association Friday Clinic.
Civility and Professionalism: January 2012 lecture to the Grayson County Bar Association.
The Law and Ethics; Panel member for “Legal Ethics Implications of Developments in Human Memory,” Ninth Annual Austin College Law Symposium, March 2012, Sherman, Texas.
Panel member What Every Civil Litigator Needs to Know about Criminal Law co-sponsored by the Dallas Bar Association's Judiciary Committee, CLE Committee, and Criminal Law Section: March 3, 2011.
Panel member Civility Matters presented by the American Board of Trial Advocates: May 12, 2011.
Earl Warren: The Man and His Court – A 40 year Retrospective; Panel Moderator for “The Court and Civil Rights,” Sixth Annual Austin College Law Symposium, March 2009, Sherman, Texas.
Defective Construction: Interrelationship of the Property Damage Trigger, Montrose Language, and Particular Part Exclusions; Presentation at 14th Annual Insurance Law Institute sponsored by the State Bar of Texas and the University of Texas School of Law, October 2009.
Do’s & Don’ts for the Advocate in the Trial Court; Judges’ Panel, for State Bar of Texas – Advanced Evidence & Discovery Course, May 2007.
Faculty for Police Supervisor’s Update, Institute for Law Enforcement, Center for American and International Law, April 2005.
Use and Cross of Expert Witness; Demonstration for State Bar of Texas - Suing and Defending Governmental Entities, July 2002.
Responding to Litigation, Paper and presentation for Texas Public Pool Council, January 1997.
Managing Outside Counsel; Paper and presentation for Texas City Attorney Association, June 1995.
Collection of Judgments; Paper and presentation for State Bar of Texas - Advanced Civil Trial Seminar, Fall 1993; Repeated and updated for State Bar of Texas - Selected Issues in Family and Civil Litigation, Winter 1994.
The Legal Issues of Problem Collections in Texas; Paper and presentation for National Business Institute, Inc., January 1993.
Special Problems with Special Defects; Paper and presentation for Texas City Attorney Association, June 1992.
Collecting Judgments in Texas; Paper and presentation for National Business Institute, Inc., May 1992.
Contribution and Indemnity under the Tort Reform Legislation; Paper and presentation for the Texas City Attorney Association, November 1988.
- It is the responsibility of all judges to assure that the law treats the poor equal to the rich, the least of us equal to the privileged. I often have self-represented parties in my court, not because they want to represent themselves but because they simply so not have the money for a lawyer. I always spend personal time with them to determine if they truly do not want a lawyer even if they could afford one, or if they don’t have money and don’t know what to do. I try to put them in touch with the Dallas Bar attorney referral service and multiple other non-profit organizations that provide help to low-income individuals and families.
Adequate funding is the largest impediment to improving access to the courts and court-related services. The financial guidelines for most organizations providing legal services are too low for many, if not most, people and families who cannot afford legal representation. The legal threshold for establishing an indigence waiver for filing fees and other court costs is difficult to meet. Language barriers persist for many litigants for whom English is, at best, a second language and prevents many from serving on the jury. Minimum Pro Bono service by attorneys could be made mandatory rather than voluntary. New Mexico has a state constitutional provision requiring an interpreter be provided for any potential juror who has difficulty with the English language. I think Texas should consider following New Mexico’s example. I would like to see kiosks provided on each floor to assist self-represented litigants with the electronic filing process. It is my understanding the District Clerks office has been planning to do this for some time.
I volunteer with the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program and handle family matters normally outside my court’s civil docket. In 2010 I was awarded Hartman Judicial Pro Bono Services Award for this work. Additionally, I have served each year as a volunteer judge for the Annual Adoption Day.
- Though Texas judges should be fairly paid for their work, I entered the judiciary for public service and not because of the pay. I, like many judges, am being paid less than what I was making or could make in private practice. But because it is public service, judges should not expect to be paid at the same rate as similarly experienced private attorneys. Based upon the 2016 report of the Texas Judicial Compensation Commission, Texas is the second largest state in population, but Texas District Judges rank 26th in pay. One of its findings reported “in order to maintain a strong, qualified and independent judiciary, and in order to attract qualified candidates and retain experienced judges, appropriate judicial compensation is essential.” Inadequate compensation, the report found, could lead to increased early retirement of current experienced judges and difficulty in recruiting new qualified judges. The report found Judges’ pay in Texas is not maintaining pace within inflation. But neither, it seems, is the pay for the average working men and women. Although it appears that some adjustment is overdue for judicial salaries in Texas, I believe that obtaining a fair living wage for all men and women, eliminating gender pay disparity, providing real wage growth and addressing the increased concentration of wealth in the top 1% take priority over any need for a judicial pay raise.
- HB 1066—Effective 6/15/17 (applies to any judgment, regardless of date rendered). This bill eliminates a requirement that a judgment creditor must show the debtor’s property cannot be attached or levied by ordinary legal process to seek injunctive relief or other judicial assistance in reaching that property to satisfy the judgment. A significant portion of a civil court’s jurisdiction is debt collection cases. Judgment creditors are now more likely to seek direct judicial assistance to collect judgments before attempting traditional collection procedures, thereby increasing further the number of matters on a court’s docket. However, this may also allow a court to more closely supervise the collection efforts to assure those efforts are legal and not overreaching.
- By participating with both the Bench and Bar to identify problems and possible improvements.
By assisting in providing low income citizens with access to the justice system.
By spending time in the community explaining how our system of justice works and encouraging
By mentoring and education law students to prepare them for entry into the practice of law.
By continually improving one’s knowledge of the law and the substantive and procedural changes that occur regarding the court’s jurisdiction.
Examples of how I have done all of the above while I have been a judge are as follows:
- Member of the State Bar of Texas Continuing Legal Education Committee, 2016 - present;
- Member of the Civil Trial Law Exam Commission of the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, 2016-present;
- Adjunct Professor Legal Studies, Paul Quinn College (2010-2012)
- Adjunct Professor Regional Externship Program, Texas Tech School of Law (2013-2016).
- 2016-2018 Program Co-Chair, 2015-2016 Mentor Co-Chair, William Mac Taylor Inn of Court;
-2018 Co-Chair, Dallas Bar Association Bench/Bar Planning Committee;
- 2008 Co-Chair, Dallas Bar Association Courthouse Committee;
- 2008 Dallas Bar Association Jo Anna Moreland Outstanding Committee Chair Award, Courthouse Committee;
- 2010 Hartman Judicial Pro Bono Services Award;
- 2014 Texas Tech Law School Daniel H. Benson Public Service Award;
- Founders Board Member of the University on North Texas College of Law;
- National Judicial College, Certificate of Professionalism General Jurisdiction Trial Skills 2013.
Selected to judge 2007 National High School Mock Trial final championship round.
- ABA National Conference of State Trial Judges, Board of Directors/Executive Committee 2013-2017, 2014-2015 Co-Chair Judicial Education Committee 2015-2017 Chair Membership Committee;
- Member of the Texas State Bar College;
- ABA Minority Clerkship Program, Sponsored Annually by the ABA Judicial Division;
- Member State Bar of Texas Judicial Ethics Committee, 2012-2013;
- Judicial Member of the Dallas County Juvenile Board, 2007-2008;
- Volunteer Judge for Annual Adoption Day
- This is information should be generally publicly available so that judges can be accountable for taking care of the court’s docket, provided that the release of information does not compromise the judge’s security. For example, release of specific times a judge enters or exits the court garage could expose the judge to risk of harm.
- The wishes of the voters play a role in judicial-decision making to the extent that the Legislature enacts laws to reflect the will of the people as expressed in the elections. The courts then apply the laws, pursuant to the protective umbrella of the Constitution. If judges rule on what they think the law should be instead of what the law is, rulings would become inconsistent from court to court and legislative actions would become irrelevant. The public would lose confidence in the judiciary. Our authority would be eroded. Our judgements would begin to be ignored. But judges cannot apply laws that violate the Constitution. Knowingly doing so would violate the judge’s oath.
- I am the only candidate in my race Certified as a Civil Trial Specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and have been continuously certified from 1984 to present. I am also a member of the Civil Trial Law Exam Commission of the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, which prepares the questions for and grades the answers to, the examination to obtain the Civil Trial Law Certification.
I am the only candidate with judicial experience, having served twelve years as judge of the 44th Civil District Court and currently as judge of the 160th Civil District Court.
I am the only candidate who has attended the National Judicial College on scholarships and earned the Certificate of Professionalism General Jurisdiction Trial Skills.
Before becoming a judge I had an active federal and state civil trial and appellate practice for over twenty years in contracts and business disputes, local government litigation, defense of police civil cases, real estate, commercial lease disputes, consumer protection matters (Deceptive Trade Practices Act), personal injury, employment law, mediation and both national and international arbitration. I also tried several criminal trials early in my career.
As judge of the 160th District Court, my docket is civil in nature and includes those matters I handled within my private practice, as well as medical malpractice, construction law, church disputes that are not ecclesiastical in nature, defamation, shareholder and corporate disputes, debt collection, tax appraisal disputes, business torts, fraud and negligent misrepresentation, litigation between a business and ownership interests, rights and liabilities of partners, fiduciary duties, self-dealing, corporate and partnership opportunity, employment issues including discrimination and wrongful termination, insurance coverage issues and insurance code violations, suits by and against governments, Texas and Federal Arbitration Acts, settlement, contribution, subrogation, and indemnity agreements, and most other cases that are not criminal, family, probate or juvenile matters. However, I do occasionally conduct marriages and volunteer to assist family courts through the DVAP program for uncontested divorces and each year serve as a volunteer judge during annual adoption day.
- I am the only candidate certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, a distinction held by less than one tenth of one percent of Texas lawyers. (I am also on the Commission that prepares and grades the exam required for obtaining this certification). I have received from the National Judicial College the Certification of Professionalism General Jurisdiction Trial Skills. As far as I am aware, no other judge in Dallas County has this Certification. I have completed all course work for a Masters in Judicial Studies and anticipate the Degree this year upon the publishing of my Thesis. Less than 200 judges nationwide have earned this degree.
- a: N/A
b: I am the most qualified candidate in this race and, as measured by any objective metric, have done a good job serving the citizens of Dallas County as Judge of this Court. I have been an active Democrat long before seeking election for my first term in 2006, and am a good Ambassador for the Democratic Party.
I am the three term incumbent judge of this court, the 160th Civil District Court. I am the only candidate in this race who has actual civil judicial trial court experience. I am the only candidate in this race that is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law – which is the exclusive docket of this Court. I have been continuously certified as a Civil Trial Specialist since 1984 and I am currently serving on the Civil Trial Law Exam Commission of the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, which each year reviews applications for Civil Trial specialization and prepares and grades the civil trial examination questions. While serving as Judge I have consistently received high ratings from the Dallas Bar Judicial Evaluation Polls and have one of the lowest reversal rates of all the civil courts. I have continued my judicial training while in office by obtaining the National Judicial College Certificate of Professionalism for General Jurisdiction Courts and completed all course requirements for a Master’s Degree in Judicial Studies. I have been recognized as Trial Judge of the Year by the Dallas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates. Before winning my election in 2006, I tried more civil cases to a jury than any of my opponents, consisting as a variety of matters, including contracts and business disputes, local government litigation, defense of police civil cases, real estate, commercial lease disputes, consumer protection matters (Deceptive Trade Practices Act), personal injury, employment law, mediation and both national and international arbitration. I have also served my community by working as an Adjunct Professor at Paul Quinn College and Texas Tech School of Law, serving on the Dallas County Juvenile Board, and as Judge for the Annual Adoption Day.
I believe strongly in the Constitution, trial by jury and the Rule of Law, and I care about people.
I have been blessed to serve as judge of this court for three terms and I humbly ask the voters to allow me to continue as Judge of the 160th District Court. I believe strongly in the Constitution of the United States, the Rule of Law and the American right to trial by jury. Although we have the procedural safeguard of the appellate courts, I realize that for many parties, the trial court will be their only opportunity for justice. I am passionate about public service and the administration of justice to improve people’s lives and to allow them to fairly and finally resolve difficulties they find themselves in. The American system of justice is the envy of the world and I am proud and honored to contribute to that excellence.
Finally, I am a lifelong Democrat. I am a Democrat because I believe:
That diversity strengthens our democracy and should be embraced, not feared. That equality is for all citizens – economic and social fairness and justice. That education, health, and a living wage for working men and women should be equally accessible to all citizens. That one should not be deprived of ones rights because of who they are, how they live or what they believe. That women have the right to make their own choices about their health and their bodies.
I have been a Democrat all my adult life, beginning in college when I campaigned for and then cast my first vote for Sissy Farenthold for Governor. I have served as President of the Garland Area Democratic Club and Parliamentarian for the 16th Senatorial Convention. I have attended numerous Precinct Conventions, Senatorial District Conventions and State Party Conventions as a Delegate. I was the Democratic Candidate for Chief Justice of the State of Texas and on the state-wide ballot with President – then Senator – Barrack Obama in 2008. I have supported the Party financially and have stuffed envelopes, made phone calls and walked blocks knocking on doors to get out the vote for our Democratic candidates. When I was defeated in 1986 along with many other Dallas County judges, I refused to switch parties in order to remain on the bench. I returned to private practice and continued supporting the Party and its Democratic ideals. On the bench my robe is black, not red or blue. But no one can credibly question that I am a Democratic.
| Sandra Jackson - Answers:
- Judicial campaigns are funded through donations from family, friends, and colleagues who know the character, temperament, and integrity of a judicial candidate or judge. In most instances, it would be difficult for a campaign if the lawyers who are familiar with that Court and practice before the Court do not participate in the process. The Court remains objective in its approach to cases, the lawyers that practice, and the litigants who appear. Donations can be made with no expectation of disproportion or prejudice.
- Became a qualified mediator through classes at Texas Women’s University, El Centro College, and the Dallas Dispute Mediation Center. This includes studies in behavior, crisis listening, as well as active listening. Trained others in ethics and leadership. Mentor others in character development. Lecture in trial preparation; and, as guess lecturer for DBA on the role of the GAL. CLE is wide-ranging to keep aware of other areas of law that impact family law and the cross-over impact it may have. Prepared power-point presentations on character, leadership, and ethics for those in ministry, eldership, or business.
- The judge’s role is to help insure equal access to justice when any indigent litigant appears before the Court. Generally, after inquiry into financial information, the Court can appoint an attorney to provide representation, appoint the public defender, and guide the litigant to non-profits that provide legal services. The court can also insure that interpreters are available, so that any communication barriers are eliminated. This is true for both language or hearing-impaired litigants who may appear in Court.
- Judges, like all working class American, should be paid a living wage. The hope is that the Texas Judicial Branch, the State Legislature or Office of Court Administration constantly evaluates judicial salaries and helps guide any cost of living changes that may impact the judiciary so that each judge is able to maintain without hardship.
- The legislation that stands out is the community based foster care which will allow extended family to take on the same role as foster parents which may allow children who have been placed in the care of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to remain in their natural families.
- When a judge is approachable it helps the community to be more comfortable should that person happen to appear in a Court. If community can conversate with a judge in a non-legal setting, that allows people not to be intimidated by the legal systems. Treating people with dignity and respect is important. Being an advocate for equal treatment no matter the situation.
- Accountability is critical, but I am not sure what impact this would have as the judges are a part of a prescribed pay-roll system, and most judges work longer hours that any standard time clock can record.
- Judicial decision-making should be based on the facts, the evidence, and the law which helps to maintain the objectivity and impartiality of any court ruling. Voters have the right under the 1st Amendment to express themselves, but the Court, although aware of what is in the news or on the minds of voters, should remain uninfluenced by outside factors.
- I was the Salutatorian of my law school class, and graduated cum laude. I have a good academic background that gave me exposure the discipline of staying current on the law. I regularly review legal updates and am immersed in continuing legal education that the bar provides. I have participated in CLE in my area of focus, which is family law, but I have also participated in CLE in other areas of law such as the Art of Negotiation, Understanding & Mastering the Rules of Evidence, Dividing Small Businesses in Divorce, and Uncovering Implicit Bias & Understanding Its Effects.
As a mediator, I am required to listen to all sides of the facts, assess the participants, and develop an approach to the case that will move the case towards a mediated settlement. This requires an understanding of the facts, assessment of the issues, understanding of the rules of evidence, the listening to the rationale of each argument, and an ability to gently guide the parties to workable solutions through negotiation.
- One unique experience for me was the development and establishment of a school. This required extensive research, considerable planning, and policy and curriculum development. The school had to be modeled after a Bible College which required contact with various schools, research and development of policy models, establishment of the academic criteria, establishment of threshold guidelines, and interaction with the student population.
- a: N/A
b: The moment that I knew that I would become an attorney was a civil rights epiphany for me, and from that moment to this one, I have been an advocate for the equal treatment of people regardless of education, gender, or background. I believe that American must live up to its promise. I am a voice for equality, and I am a communicator for change. Voters should know that if they happen to be in this Family Court, there will be a Judge who has the temperament, common sense, and sensitivity to understand and know that life happens, yet a single crisis does not define the entirety of their life and that they can be a family, with any required adjustments necessary.
| Ken Tapscott - Answers:
- Texas law clearly permits this, but I do think it doesn’t look great. Judicial campaigns are nearly 100% funded by lawyer donations. As long as we elect judges, this practice will inevitably continue. Fortunately, Texas law limits the amount of money an individual lawyer or entity can contribute to $5,000. This limits the “influence” lawyers can have on a judge.
- For the past eleven years as a judge, I have served on at least fifteen Continuing Legal Education panels at Dallas Bar Association or State Bar sanctioned lawyer events to help train lawyers on best practices in court. Additionally, I helped create the Dallas Bar Trial Academy more than five years ago, and every year the program takes young lawyers into classroom like settings to teach them how to do a proper opening, direct, cross, and closing argument.
- The system is already open to anyone who is a pauper (too poor to pay court costs) by the filing of a pauper’s affidavit. Judges cannot assist litigants in the prosecution of their cases, but I can point poor litigants to services that help them. Recently, the SMU law school set up a legal clinic at the George Allen courthouse to help pro se litigants in civil cases. I posted information about the service outside my courtroom. Additionally, I will refer poor litigants to Northwest Texas Legal Aid to help them with their cases.
- Not applicable to me. I do not preside over a criminal court.
- Yes. Judicial pay needs to keep pace with cost-of-living and the market value for lawyers with 10+ years of experience. Otherwise, the bench will not attract good lawyers to serve.
- The Texas legislature now allows agents of apartments complexes that are corporations, LLCs, or other artificial entities to appear in courts of record (like mine) in eviction cases without legal counsel. In the past, artificial entities such as corporations, LLCs, etc. always needed legal representation to prosecute a case in a court of record (a court that has a court reporter).
- Judges have to be careful here. They cannot advocate for most legislative solutions. Judicial pay, access to the system for the poor, and protecting due process rights are some of the exceptions.
- I want all people to work hard in their jobs. There are ways the public can figure out if a judge is working (number of dispositions, jury trials, non-jury trials, motions heard, etc. per month). Public disclosure of when a judge typically arrives and leaves the courthouse could be a security risk. As we all know, some judges end up being targets of violent attacks in high profile or high energy cases (such as family and criminal cases).
- Judges owe fidelity to the law. Outside pressures are not supposed to overly influence judicial decision-making. Times change, and legal rulings tend to move generally with society’s values (for example, Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona, etc.). Wishes of voters are not irrelevant, but judges have to be careful not follow “mob rule” and disregard settled case law solely because something is popular/unpopular.
- I have been Judge of County Court at Law #4 for 11 years. I have some of the highest Dallas Bar Association ratings of any civil judge in the George Allen courthouse (See at dallasbar.org). Since January 1, 2007, I have sent more than 420 cases to jury verdict, more than any other civil judge in Dallas County. Additionally, I have adjudicated over 1600 non-jury cases in the last eleven years. I feel my work-product as a judge speaks for itself.
- See answer to Question 10.
- a: Not applicable.
b: Not applicable.
| Melissa J. Bellan - Answers:
- As designed, the system makes it almost impossible for a Judge to be elected without doing so. It is the Judge’s job to remain impartial regardless of donations.
- I continue my education by providing pro bono and legal clinic services in areas that are not my main area of practice. I have also served as a mentor at UNT Law and have served on several Dallas Bar Association committees, which provide educational opportunities both to the public and to other lawyers.
- As a member of the judiciary, my role, first and foremost, is to ensure justice for all. Pro bono and clinic services are one way to provide this assistance. A Judge is limited in the amount or direct advocacy they can provide from the bench, however, we can insure that parties who represent themselves are given the fairest process possible.
- I see no reason to raise them at this time.
- A bill was introduced to eliminate County Courts at Law 3, 4 & 5. If such a bill were to pass, it would greatly delay justice and more than double the work of Courts 1 and 2.
- Participating in and creating a bridge to the community is one of the fastest ways to educate about the judicial system and, more importantly, to learn what needs we are not meeting.
- While a general overview of whether a Judge is putting in the necessary time may be helpful, each case and Court have different requirements and the quality of the Judge’s effort should always mean more than the hours spent.
- We are bound to follow the law. However, there are many instances where what is reasonable, fair, and in the public interest are at issue. I believe the voters’ wishes can absolutely play into those factors.
- I have practiced civil litigation my entire legal career, beginning in 2003. My cases have ranged from small car wrecks up to multimillion dollar businesses and estates. My opponent has both less experience and less knowledge in many areas of the law.
I am also very lucky to serve as a Temporary Justice of the Peace, allowing me to sit as the Judge and try cases.
- I have the unique experience of having worked alongside many of the Judges since the 2006 sweep. From both a political and judicial standpoint this has given me the opportunity to observe and learn many things about the bench that only come through the experience of sitting as a Judge.
I am also uniquely positioned to assist the rest of the democratic ticket win. I have served as a precinct chair, a voter protection lawyer, and the attorney for the Dallas County Democratic Party from 2010-2014.
- a: N/A
b: My experience and commitment to the law, justice, and the success of the Democratic Party demonstrate to voters to know that I will be there to serve their interests and for the success of our community.
| Stephen Duplantis - Answers:
- I have to admit, it looks funny. However, the lawyers that practice in a particular court are the only people
knowledgeable about the particular issues in that venue. Elections are expensive (I know!). I just don’t see how you could keep the most knowledgeable group in the electorate from supporting the candidate of their choice.
- I have made presentations at CLE events, most recently on Legislative Updates. I have also demonstrated the trial technique known as “Psychodrama” to groups of interested attorneys. I am active in both the Dallas County Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association (DCDLA) and it’s state counterpart, TCDLA.
- The most obvious way to serve the indigent is through bail reform. I have seen too many indigent defendants
accept bad plea deals just so they can get out of jail. This doesn’t happen to accused people that have the means to post bond. The only purpose of bond is to secure a defendant’s presence for their court proceedings. Certainly there are defendants that cannot be trusted, and as a result they have to sit in jail. However, the vast majority of individuals within the criminal justice system should be given the opportunity to manage their case in the free world (and therefore not lose their job, apartment and vehicle, as well as take care of their families) - regardless of whether they can afford bond.
- Fifteen felony jury trials since 2008, five of which were murders.
- I don’t even know what judges are paid. I assume it’s plenty.
- While there were several new laws and changes to existing laws that will affect the felony courts, none are particularly Earth-shattering. The issue I would most likely encounter is that the crime of Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual or Disabled Individual has been expanded to include offenses against people that operate boarding homes, and the list of disabilities covered now includes Mental Illness.
- I would say the most effective way would be through active engagement in professional organizations that make recommendations to Legislators.
- I don’t think so. My experience observing really efficient judges is that flexibility is key to navigating an
occasionally unwieldy court docket. There are more determinative metrics for evaluating judicial performance.
If a court is bogged down in the ordinary course of events, the Judge’s effort automatically comes under
- No. Once the voters place their trust in an elected judge, that person makes decisions based upon considerations of justice, ethics and the rule of law. The oath a judge takes at the start of their term supersedes the will of the
electorate on any specific decisions by the court. Of course, a judge is ultimately accountable to the public every four years.
- I was an Assistant Public Defender here in Dallas County for over ten years. I’ve seen every type of case. Most judges, like my opponent, come from the DA’s office. Several judges that I greatly admire are former DA’s. My experience has given me well-rounded perspective on the justice system and how it affects the people within it.
I’ve worked with great judges like John Creuzot, Jane Roden and Rick Magnis. I know when to be a hammer, as
well as when to be understanding.
- a: My opponent, Hon. Tammy Kemp, is the incumbent in this race. Many Democrats remember the acrimonious 2014 campaign for this bench when Judge Kemp unseated then incumbent Hon. Lena Levario. The tone of that race was personal and painful to watch. It should probably come as no surprise that Judge Kemp has maintained an abrasive temperament in her tenure as judge of the 204th. In the 2017 Dallas County Bar Association’s Judicial Evaluation, Judge Kemp received poor marks. 53% of respondents said that she “Needs Improvement” on the issue of Impartiality. 52% gave the same “Needs Improvement” score regarding Temperament and Demeanor. On the matter of Overall Performance, 48% again rated her as “Needs Improvement.” This evaluation took place in her third year on the bench. Most concerning to me is the issue of impartiality. It’s the opinion of many criminal defense attorneys in Dallas County that Judge Kemp has had difficulty shedding the prosecution mindset and continues to act as a DA from the bench.
| Raquel "Rocky" Jones - Answers:
- In the perfect world Judges should be able to run independent of contributions and donations, however, funds are required to support a political campaign. More specifically, often times the only people who donate to Judicial campaigns are those lawyers who appear in certain courts i.e. criminal defense attorney’s usually only donate to Criminal Judges.
- Member, State Bar College
Speaker/Trainer/Faculty Advisor – Baby Prosecutor School
Advanced Annual Speaker– Self Defense & Juvenile Sex Crimes
Advance Training School Speaker – Child Abuse
Speaker Topics – Opening Statements
Prosecuting Violent Crimes
- Our role is to ensure that everyone is equally and fairly represented. It is true that the Courts and Court-related services need improvement. Dallas County is more fortunate than most because citizens have access to experienced and skilled lawyers through the Public Defender’s Office, the Indigence programs, and the Court Appointment system that we have in place within the criminal courts. However, we can make the system better by holding defense lawyers as well as prosecutors accountable by making sure that there is a level playing field and making sure they each play by the rules that govern our courts. We can improve the court system by educating the public on the criminal justice process by making the information and education accessible.
- Over 50 first chair felony trials in my 21 years of practicing law.
- I would expect the pay rate of Judges in Dallas County to be compatible with the pay rate of other Judges in other counties within the State of Texas.
- I believe Senate Bill #4 a new immigration law that would allow police officers to question the immigration status of people that they legally detain or arrest would have the greatest impact on criminal district and county courts. This Senate Bill also seeks to eliminate or ban "sanctuary cities".
- We can help the public by educating them on the criminal justice process by making the information and education accessible.
- I do believe that Judges should be held accountable to the public that they serve. It is my plan to restore accountability, dependability and justice back to the 203rd Judicial District Court because the citizens of Dallas County deserve a Judge who has a thorough knowledge of the law and that will be available to the citizens that come before the court.
- Voters do play a role in the judicial decision-making that occurs within the court system. Those wishes are made known by the verdicts that they render as jurors on various cases that come before the citizens. Jurors tend to be a cross section of society and represent the feelings of the community by the verdicts and the punishments that they access on cases within our cities and neighborhoods.
- I have been a lawyer 21 years and a prosecutor for 17 of those years. I have practiced Criminal, Civil and Juvenile law in Dallas and Tarrant County. As a prosecutor and criminal attorney for a majority of my legal career, I pride myself on a long-standing reputation built on the utmost integrity and fairness to both victims and those accused of crimes regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. I have tried a variety of cases from Death Penalty to Juvenile Adjudications and have a thorough knowledge of the laws that govern our Country, State and Counties.
- a: The most important issue that I believe needs to be addressed in the 203rd Judicial District Court is that laws must be upheld and abided by. As a Judge there is an oath that must be carried out in regards to following all the laws of our Country, State and County. There are always opportunities to help those accused by working within the confines of the law. There should not be a blatant disregard of the laws with no accountability by those who have broken the law. It is my plan and policy to restore accountability, dependability and justice back to that Court because the citizens of Dallas County deserve a Judge who has a thorough knowledge of the law and will uphold those laws. My philosophy is to give people choices and chances and every opportunity to make a change for the better. By holding those accused accountable, I will improve their futures by arming them with tools and resources to be productive citizens in society while also giving a voice to the victims who were harmed. I am respectful of the laws that govern our Country, State and County. I will also be respectful of those citizens that would come before me that are accused of a crime. I will not only hold offenders accountable but I will also be accountable to the citizens who elected me. I will be dependable by making sure that I am present in Court each day so that I may be available to those citizens accused as well as to the victims who are seeking a resolution to their case.
| Tanja Martini - Answers:
- Yes, I believe judges should accept donations from lawyers in their court. Cases are assigned randomly to courts, so lawyers are not able to file into a judge’s court of their choice. In my 17 years as a lawyer, I have neither experienced nor have I witnessed any preferential treatment from a judge to a lawyer, who donated to the judge’s campaign.
- In addition to CLEs, I was a speaker at the Texas Trial Lawyers Association’s car wrecks seminars in 2015. My topic focused on trial preparation. I have also given seminars to clients on sexual harassment.
- The judiciary’s role in serving the indigent would be to assist anyone who is not represented by a lawyer to provide information on (1) how to obtain a lawyer at reduced rates or pro bono; (2) the legal procedures available without providing legal advice; and (3) where to find the legal library and legal forms to assist with the case. Three examples of how this has already been improved are (1) the family law forms available to the indigent, so they can represent themselves, (2) the Dallas County Alternative Dispute Resolution Center, which provides pro bono mediation services, and (3) the ease of access to trial court documents via the on-line portal.
- Salaries for judges should reflect their skill and experience, amount of work performed, comparable salaries for similar work in the private sector, and the cost-of-living. The decision of whether to increase judicial salaries should be left to the legislature depending on the availability of funds.
- House Bill 2300, introduced by Representative Matt Schofield, relating to the recovery in a civil action of medical or health care expenses and economic damages. The concern is that the bill would essentially eliminate the treatment of uninsured patients involved in auto accident lawsuits. Absent economic damages based primarily on medical expenses, the bill would have a significantly adverse effect of auto accident litigation such that these types of cases would no longer be filed.
- Judges could improve the judicial system outside the court by participating in community forums discussing the 7th Amendment and the roles the courts, judges, and jurors play in our judicial system.
- Information on when judges conduct hearings and trials is already available to the public through the Dallas County On-Line Records search. Absent complaints that a judge is frequently absent or ill-prepared for hearings and trials, I do not see the need for a judge to post weekly hours worked.
- No, the wishes of voters have no role in judicial decision-making because our system of law is based on judicial precedent – stare decis – and statutes. The court should follow the law, not the wishes of voters. If voters want to change the laws, then they should vote for legislators who support their positions.
- I have been a civil litigator since 2001. I have worked as a defense lawyer and a plaintiff lawyer. My practice has involved cases covering patent infringement, commercial litigation, medical malpractice, non-subscriber (work-related injuries), dog bites, car wrecks, nursing home negligence, and slip-and- fall cases. I have worked on cases from inception through trial. I have prepared and argued a variety of motions before the court, including motions for summary judgment, motions to dismiss, and discovery motions.
- I have been a civil litigation attorney since 2001. I have litigated a wide array of civil matters ranging from patent litigation to motor vehicle collisions. I have also litigated several cases and taken some to trial in the County Court at Law No. 4. I am a member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, the Dallas Trial Lawyers Association, the American Association of Justice, and National Trial Lawyers.
b: As stated in responses to questions 10 and 11, my legal career has focused exclusively on civil litigation. I have worked on many types of cases that I would be asked to preside over ranging from personal injury cases to business litigation. I have handled complex litigation matters and issues throughout my career.
| Jennifer Bennett - Answers:
- In a perfect world, judges would not accept donations from lawyers who could practice in their court. However, campaigns require taking money from those interested in the process and that is most often attorneys who practice in their courts. Those attorneys are the people who are familiar with the judge’s temperament and knowledge of their work ethic. Unless the system changes to allow for public funding then this is the system we must use, however, it is important that judges do not show any favoritism to those who donate.
- Before taking the bench I was a CLE accredited lecturer in the area of DNA, ballistics, medical examiners, and punishment evidence. I presented at the national Crimes Against Women Conference, was an advisor at baby prosecutor school, and I also frequently provided trainings at several of the police academies on various topics of criminal law. I have also been a member of the Texas Bar College. Since taking the bench, I have strived to acquire more knowledge in other areas relating to my field such as attending the Texas Indigent Defense Workshop to better understand how to help improve quality representation of those who come through the criminal justice system. This year, I also attended the Texas Association of Pretrial Services Conference to better understand what Dallas County needs to do regarding pretrial services and bail reform efforts. I think it is important to continue striving to learn more about the profession we serve.
- For criminal matters, Dallas County appoints any indigent person a court appointed attorney. That attorney has access to investigators, expert witnesses, scientific testing, and other resources that a wealthy person would have. We have been working to get funding from the county to expand our pretrial services. Part of those funding requests from the commissioners who control the budget are to add more screeners that will look at persons upon arrest to help evaluate needs and provide risk assessments. It is important that if a person stays in jail because they might be a flight risk or a danger to the community that the case moves as quickly as possible through the system.
- Since I have been on the bench, I have presided over more than 50 jury trials including several capital murders. After a review of my trial statistics, before taking the bench I was the lead attorney for 116 jury trials. I have also participated in two death penalty trials which encompasses approximately three months (per case) of individual voir dire so while those were not first chair cases, this is the type of experience that not many attorneys have. Additionally, as a felony court chief for the last seven years of my career at the district attorney’s office, I supervised and trained trial attorneys, sitting second chair for at least 100 jury trials.
- While I am satisfied with the current salary of the judiciary, I believe that just as in every profession judges should receive periodic pay raises. My understanding is that judges in Texas are paid much less than judges in other areas. In order to keep quality judges the salary must be somewhat competitive, but we must remember that judges are public servants and not expect to make what a private attorney would earn in private practice.
- There were many items in the 2017 legislative session that impact our courts. Several laws were passed regarding indigence and requiring that the court make an inquiry into whether a person is able to afford court costs and fines and allows for alternatives such as community service to be utilized instead. The Sandra Bland Act passed which requires county jails to identify those with mental health and substance abuse issues to make it easier for defendants to receive bond if they have a mental illness or disability. There were also some new laws expanding offenses that can be sealed and while this is a step in the right direction, we need more laws to allow those with certain non-violent convictions to get old criminal records sealed, expunged, or otherwise non-disclosed to help with employment and other opportunities.
- I think that any elected official has a duty to try to be involved in the community they serve. Helping to educate the community is one way a judge can be involved such as participating in community forums to help answer questions about the legal system. I personally have always felt it important to work with our youth. I have been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters for years and before that was involved in a school program through the Dallas Bar Association. My first mentee through that program just had her 28th birthday. For many years I have worked with interns, many of my former interns from the district attorney’s office now practice at the Frank Crowley Courthouse on both sides of the aisle. As a judge I take on interns and I am a mentor for a group of students at the Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet. I also participate in various charity groups with drives to help for coats, school supplies, Christmas presents, and other needs. Finally, I started a food share program with the Adult Rehabilitation Ministry Services (ARMS) to help feed the homeless. This program allows probationers who have the financial means available to trade some of their community services requirements for donating to feed the homeless.
- As a public servant, I believe we all have a duty to work hard to deserve the trust of our citizens. The people who work in the respective courthouses are very aware of how little or how much their judges are working. I would not have a problem documenting time as long as the things that require my time outside of the courthouse were part of that documentation. As criminal judges we often are called to sign warrants after hours and even go to the police station during the day or in the middle of the night to magistrate juvenile offenders. I sometimes attend meetings off campus and conferences related to my field that are most always out of town. If there were a way to document all of the time spent working inside and outside of the courthouse while providing the safety precautions necessary for judges then I would be in favor of that system.
- Judges are charged with following the law whether it is something that is popular with voters or not, we are ethically bound to do so. In certain cases where discretion is allowed, judges may take into account things such as witnesses, victims, or family members when they are part of the evidence. Many times crucial decisions are made by jurors who are generally voters. Jurors often decide guilt or innocence and punishment in the most serious and contentious cases.
- N/A – Criminal bench
- Before taking the bench I had vast experience of handling every type of felony case and going to trial on the most difficult cases. I had supervisory experience including supervising attorneys, investigators, and support staff. I now have three years of experience on the bench. During that time, I have presided over thousands of cases and over more than 50 jury trials. I have improved the efficiency of the court without sacrificing fairness. People should not have to wait in jail over two years for their day in court. I also have three years of experience running the Dual Diagnosis Court which helps people diagnosed with mental illness and drug addiction.
- a: N/A I am the incumbent
b: There is no substitute for experience and hard work. I have presided over thousands of cases, including over 50 jury trials, and a death penalty trial. I am also the only person in this race who reached a supervisory level and managed a felony court as an assistant district attorney. I also worked for an attorney before and during law school. I have earned a reputation as a hard-working, fair, and honest judge who works to rehabilitate nonviolent offenders. I am active in the community working with youth and to help people less fortunate than myself. Because of my experience, reputation, and work ethic, I have to this point, been endorsed by the Dallas Morning News, the AFL-CIO, the Teamsters, Preston Hollow Democrats, Stonewall Democrats, Lake Highlands White Rock Democrats, Progressive Voters League – New Era, and several police associations.
| Dorotha Ocker - Answers:
- Yes, because the lawyers are often the only people who really get to see if the judge is performing well or not. While it looks bad that attorneys are in front of judges that they give money to, the contributions from any attorney are limited to $5,000. It’s not a perfect system, but there are some checks and balances in place to keep one attorney from being the sole funder or major funder of any one judge.
- I have additional CLE tests that allow me to be a member of the College of the State Bar of Texas. Also, I have performed so well in my field that I’ve been listed as a Rising Star by Super Lawyers every year since 2015. This is an honor reserved to only 2.5% of the lawyer population, and it is rarely awarded to sole practitioners such as myself. I’ve also taught many CLEs in Veterans Benefits Law in order for other lawyers to get their mandatory CLE.
- Unfortunately, there are few resources to help the indigent in civil cases. I’ve seen lawyers in other counties that will maintain a list of lawyers who are willing to provide pro bono or contingency services and will provide it to litigants who are representing themselves because of lack of financial resources. I think this is a great idea, and I would like to do it in County Court at Law No. 2.
- Not at this time. Judges make six figures, which is enough to raise a family. Judges get a significant pension if they serve enough years, which more than makes up for pay lower than the private sector. If the state and county have left over money, it should go to the schools, not judicial pay.
- The piece of legislation most concerning is one that didn’t pass – Don Huffines wants to get rid of three of the five Dallas County civil courts. While County Court at Law No. 2 would still be around, it would have to take the case load of three other courts that would be dissolved. I think it’s important to advocate for our courts.
- When judges are known by those outside the court, the voters can see how fair the person is and have faith in the court system. I think by being members of the community, judges can greatly impact the public perception of the court.
- Yes. But I think it’s important to know that judges also need to attend trainings and seminars just like lawyers in order to grow, so those times should be included in work time as well.
- Most voters want fairness and equality from the judges. I think these values should play a role in judicial decision-making.
- I have litigated almost every type of civil law. Being a sole practitioner who took almost whatever walked in the door, I’ve learned almost every type of civil law that this court handles. I have the diversity of experience to know.
- I have been in front of judge all over the country and all over the state. I have seen how dozens of different court rooms operate. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. I know what makes an efficient court room and what slows down cases. I can take my experience from litigating in front of so many different judges to be able to bring a new perspective instead of just what Dallas County usually does.
- a: N/A
b: I stand out because of my exceptional education background and litigating experience. Very few people ever get to litigate for the United State Department of Justice. It’s considered the cream of the crop of litigators in the country. I have handles cases for the government that were worth almost a billion dollars. I’ve also handled cases for pro bono clients that are worth a couple hundred dollars. I’m the most qualified person to be the judge of County Court at Law No. 2.