1. Who are you, and what are you running for?
Jay Karahan, Judge of Harris County Criminal Court-at-Law No. 8, since January 2003. I’m running for re-election.
2. What kind of cases does this court hear?
This court has county-wide jurisdiction over Class A and B misdemeanors and Class C misdemeanor appeals. Class A and B misdemeanors are jailable offenses with a maximum of sentence of one year in the county jail, and include driving while intoxicated, drug possession and theft (the three categories of offenses that are filed most often, in that order), as well as certain domestic violence offenses, weapons offenses, Clean Air and Water Act violations, prostitution and trespass offenses. This court also has jurisdiction over occupational drivers’ licenses that can be granted to those whose licenses were suspended after convictions of DWI and drug offenses. This court can also order emergency orders for protection for victims of family violence.
3. Why are you running for this particular bench?
I am running for my third term in office as judge of this court because the important work of this court requires my level of experience, commitment, judicial temperament and management skills to be effective and of service to the citizens of our large metropolitan county.
4. What are your qualifications for this job?
Experience: Nearly 8 years of proven and recognized judicial experience trying over 200 trials and overseeing the disposition of over 35,000 cases. Before that 20 years of extensive law practice experience as both a prosecutor and defender; I have been board certified as a criminal law specialist since 1988. I served and fulfilled my employment commitment as both a Harris County Assistant District Attorney and an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, serving for four years in each position. I rose to high rank within each office and served on various committees handling child abuse, child exploitation and bank fraud cases. I tried over 100 felony jury trials as a prosecutor, and successfully prosecuted two Top Ten FBI fugitives for which I was recognized by the United States Attorney General with a Special Achievement Award. I have received numerous recognition awards from the FBI, the US Marshall Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the US Postal Inspector. Afterwards I served for four years as compliance and litigation counsel to a Fortune 100 corporation in Houston. I then opened up my own law firm, Jay Karahan & Associates, where I handled state and federal criminal trials and appeals as defense counsel. I was routinely appointed by Harris County county and district judges to represent indigent defendants in trials and appeals during that time. During various times during my 27 year legal career my peers elected and appointed me to various bar leadership positions, including member and Co-Chairman of the Houston Bar Association’s Administration of Justice Committee at different times, and as Chairman of the Criminal Law Section. As a criminal defense attorney I was twice elected to the board of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers’ Association, and I was elected vice-president of that organization. I have also served on the board of the Asian American Bar Association. From 1987 to 1996 I served as Adjunct Professor of Law at South Texas College of Law teaching criminal trial advocacy to third year law students. As judge of County Criminal Court-at-Law No. 8 I provided one of the five original pilot courts for the DWI Court Repeat Offender Program (similar to our Star Drug Courts in district and family courts), which is an intervention and rehabilitation program to increase public safety and decrease recidivism. I have been certified as a DWI Court Judge by the Texas Center for the Judiciary.
5. Why is this race important?
For all the reasons stated above, and because judicial elections have consequences. The citizens must ask, “Why make a change in this court?” I do not believe that a serious argument can be made that a change is necessary in this court.
6. Why should people vote for you in November?
My professional and judicial experience provides me with all the tools necessary to fairly, effectively and efficiently administer justice in a court that receives nearly 6,000 new cases every year. Although the cases are seldom reported in the press, they cumulatively affect the public safety, quality of life and property values in our community. Thus, an experienced and well-respected judge is necessary to carry out the court’s important work. Houston lawyers who practice in our court agree: since my election I have been consistently rated in the Houston Bar Association’s judicial qualifications and evaluations polls as one of the highest “well qualified” and “qualified” judges in my division (see www.hba.org – polling results are not an endorsement by the Houston Bar Association).
Citizens who thoughtfully review my experience, qualifications, achievements, and endorsements (see www.judgejaykarahan.com) should have an easy decision to make on November 2. They will want a proven leader with experience, management skills and the judicial temperament to continue to ensure fairness, accountability and justice in this court.