One of the most interesting races on the Republican side of the 2018 primary is the open seat on the 1st Court of Appeals, Place 7. The race features an experienced appellate attorney, Katy Boatman, versus an experienced criminal defense attorney, Terry Yates.
The race is so interesting that it forced the Houston Chronicle endorsement board to actually think for once and write a fair and balanced endorsement. It’s short enough that I’m going pull a Kuffner and copy/paste the entire piece:
This race for an open seat forces us to choose between two qualified candidates for the Republican nomination to this bench. Both have similar judicial philosophies; both exhibit a calm judicial demeanor. While each appears to be in the race for the right reason of public service, the legal backgrounds of candidates Katy Boatman and Terry Yates are starkly different.
Boatman is a lawyer at a big, national firm with 10 years of experience.
Yates’ career as former prosecutor, associate judge of the city of West University Place and solo practitioner spans almost three decades.
There is no single correct route to becoming an outstanding appellate judge, but in making this difficult call, we gave more to weight to appellate experience than to trial practice. Boatman, 35, who has spent her career as an appellate specialist at Andrews Kurth Kenyon LLP, earns our endorsement for this seat. The Baylor Law School grad clerked for Justice Dale Wainwright of the Texas Supreme Court and Justice Jennifer Elrod of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Yates is more familiar with all areas of substantive law within the court’s jurisdiction, is board certified in criminal law and would bring an understanding of the significance a judge’s decision has on the community. Nevertheless, Boatman appears more steeped in the craft of an appellate practice and more thoughtful about how to get the job done efficiently. Voters should cast their vote for Boatman in this important race.
That is a good recap of the race regardless of whether or not you agree with their choice.
I would characterize it a little bit different. If I were charged with a crime, I’d hire Yates. If he was unable to get me off, I’d hire Boatman to see if she could get it reversed on appeal.
The choice for voters is much the same but each voter looks at it through their own eyes. Perhaps voter X prefers someone with expertise in appellate law that can walk in on day one, understand the system, get cases moving and apply legal precedent to cases. Perhaps voter Y prefers someone with a broader background that understands what happened in the original trial court and can apply that background to see that justice is done. And then we come to voter Z, the one that blindly follows someone’s endorsement on a slate card and gives their vote away.
Which brings us, as always, to the money. Instead of using just the 30 day reports for the candidates, I combined all of their reports for this race.
We aren’t talking the huge amounts of money that we usually see in contested legislative races but it isn’t chump change either. One of the fascinating things to me, which is why I listed it, is the level of detail on Boatman’s reports versus Yate’s. I’m quite certain that Yates has for instance done some traveling around the very large area the position represents but he strikes me as more of a doer than a record keeper. I might be alone in this thought but to me it shows the differences between someone who has paid attention to the small details her entire career versus that guy that has to get in the ring and swing away.
If you look at the expenditures on consultants, it might seem as though Boatman is winging it. But look at the contributions and you’ll see that longtime Harris County Republican consultant Mary Jane Smith is helping Boatman on an in-kind basis. If you’ve ever met Mary Jane, you’ll know that she doesn’t help just anyone, especially for free. My guess is that she wants to help young, qualified females climb the ladder. Good for her, the Republican Party needs both characteristics.
If you look at the comparison page for this race, you’ll note that Yates has the social conservative slates. That might be why every social media advertisement that I’ve seen for him features his work on the undercover Planned Parenthood videos. From a strategic viewpoint, it appears that he is trying to use the social conservative vote in Harris County to springboard him into a frontrunner status. But we’ve seen many cases in First Court races where the outlying counties reject this strategy.
This is one race where I can say with confidence that whomever wins, Republicans will have a strong candidate in November.