1. Who are you, and what are you running for?
I’m Judge Mike Schneider, 315th Juvenile District Court. I am running for my second full term on this bench.
2. What kind of cases does this court hear?
Approximately 65 percent of the docket is devoted to handling custody cases filed by Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (CPS) alleging child abuse and neglect, including complex termination of parental rights trials and adoptions. Roughly 35 percent is devoted to the juvenile delinquency docket, hearing cases from Class B misdemeanors to capital murder, to hearings in which certification to criminal district courts is sought by the State of Texas. In short, it’s a complex mix of civil, criminal, family and juvenile law.
3. Why are you running for this particular bench?
Because I care about and have the ideas, tools and contacts around the state to help reform our broken Harris County foster care system and continue to improve our juvenile system. I’m the only candidate with relevant courtroom experience.
I also care about the juvenile justice system. In our juvenile courts, we protect and help families. We protect the community and we deal with the most precious asset we have for the future – children. I’m running for another term because there is work left to be done. We have made smart reforms that have led to lower juvenile crime rates, reductions in the number of offenders we have to detain and savings to taxpayers of about $700,000 a month.
I’m also running because it’s important to get the entire community involved in the juvenile justice system. I have worked hard to get everyone from law enforcement to clergy to community leaders to families involved in making sure that kids on the wrong path don’t throw their lives away. That’s important work, and like I said, there’s more to be done.
4. What are your qualifications for this job?
Well, I’ve been doing the job since being appointed to the bench by Gov. Perry in 2006. I won my first full term that year and, since then, I have presided over roughly 15,000 cases, including scores of complex jury trials involving a mix of family, criminal, juvenile and civil law.
I have started the county’s first juvenile drug court. I started a program to get abused teens off the street and back into school. I have helped lead local reforms and statewide reforms of the juvenile justice system and juvenile detention and worked hard to make sure lawyers who represent kids and their families have the best training on issues like child abuse.
Before taking the bench, I tried more than 200 contested cases in every juvenile and family law court in the county. That was during my work as a former Deputy Division Chief in the Children’s Protective Division of the Harris County Attorney’s Office, where I supervised an office with thousands of cases pending in local juvenile and family courts. I also worked as a former General Counsel to the Children’s Assessment Center (CAC) and County Attorney’s CAC Partnership Team. I have a degree in political science from Texas A&M University, was a visiting student at the University of Texas School of Law and obtained my law degree from the South Texas College of Law.
I am a volunteer instructor at Child Advocates, Inc., a former member of the Interdisciplinary Child Abuse Task Force at Memorial Hermann Hospital, a member of the State Bar of Texas and a member of the Juvenile, Criminal, Family and Animal Law sections of the Houston Bar Association. I am a Sustaining Life Fellow of both the Texas Bar Foundation and the Houston Bar Foundation and a member of the HBA Pro Bono Award Committee.
In short, I was qualified when I took the bench. I’m more qualified now. I’m engaged in the legal community and the real world. I have worked hard, am serious about smart reform, play no favorites and am the candidate in this race who can best serve the people of Harris County.
5. Why is this race important?
Because there’s nothing less than the future of our community at stake.
6. Why should people vote for you in November?
I am the most experienced candidate in this race. In fact, there’s no comparison. I am the only candidate in this race who has actually tried the most complex, fragile and time-consuming cases the family and juvenile courts confront: CPS cases involving allegations of serious child abuse and neglect. I understand these cases and these courts. I know how to make reforms that make sense and there’s still work to do. I’m working hard and will keep working for the people. For example, the most important unfinished business that faces the 315th that our foster care system in Harris County is in need of serious, evidence-based reform to remedy the fact that children in our county spend too much time in foster care. I am uniquely qualified to address this complex issue through a specialized grant-based court that is working with state and local child advocacy to tackle the problem.