(Editor”s Note: we will be featuring several opinions about voting for judicial candidates prior to the 2018 primary. If you would like to participate, please use the Contact Page to let us know your interest.)
I read Ed Hubbard’s piece about what to ask judicial candidates with interest because the judicial races have been of particular interest to me and to the Cypress Texas Tea Party. For those of you who may not be familiar with Tea Parties in general or the Cypress Texas Tea Party in particular, let me take just a moment to explain. Tea Parties in general are truly grassroots organizations meaning that the membership is what determines the goals and principles of each individual organization. There is no ‘National’ tea party that the local groups report to.
The Cypress Texas Tea Party believes in three basic goals:
- Limited government
- Fiscal responsibility
- Strong borders
You will notice that there are no social issues mentioned. While social issues are important and most of our members would share conservative views regarding social issues, that is not the focus of the Cypress Texas Tea Party.
When it comes to judicial candidates, as Ed Hubbard pointed out very well in his piece, if a judge is interested in faithfully applying the law in each and every case that is presented before them, there aren’t as many opportunities to insert political discretion into the process as some might think. When you apply the principle of fiscal responsibility to judicial processes, how a judge is able to administer a court is a significant factor for me. As I have heard judges and judicial candidates speak, I have become convinced that the ability to move cases through the legal process is the one factor that can set a judge apart for attorneys on both sides of an issue as well as for the plaintiffs and defendants. From what I understand, the total number of cases that are processed annually in Harris County since 1980 to today has increased several times over, yet only a few additional courts have been added to address this increase. That is a double edged sword in that it suggests fiscal responsibility but one has to wonder if the large dockets are getting fair hearings.
Since I am not an attorney, many of you that are reading this, I am sure, have seen first-hand what a difference a judge who is a good administrator can make. One judicial campaign that sticks in my mind from several years ago involved an incumbent from the Family Courts, Judge Denise Pratt. I heard her speak in several venues and I don’t know that many conservative Republicans would take any issue with Judge Pratt’s political views; however, I am convinced that she was a VERY poor court administrator and this problem led her to make some very poor decisions that resulted in her downfall.
It was during Judge Pratt’s campaign that I became aware of an admitted Democrat attorney named Greg Enos who made it a mission to expose judicial misconduct in the Harris/Galveston County Family Courts. Enos publishes a newsletter called The Mongoose that he uses for this purpose and he was VERY opposed to Judge Pratt. You may ask, why would I spend my time reading something from a Democrat as extreme as Enos? As I read his newsletters, I found that his interests were not in exposing poor Republican judges, but poor Democratic judges as well. As a matter of fact, in his last newsletter that you can see here, Enos believes that it is possible that there could be a Democratic sweep of the judicial races and he is concerned about the good Republican judges that might be lost. To me that is quite an endorsement for some Republicans.
Additionally, every two years, there are a number of polls by legal groups and associations that give ratings to incumbent judges and those can be used with a bit of caution. To me, they can be somewhat like online restaurant ratings in that people who have had negative experiences are more likely to respond than those who have had positive experiences.
One other thing that I have been trying to do, (with no success as yet), is get copied on information that Chris Daniels, our Harris County District Clerk, gives to each judge weekly showing the case backlog and other statistics that deal with court administration. I’m an engineer by profession so dealing with numbers and statistics is something that I am accustomed to.
To summarize, anyone that makes the decision to run for office should be encouraged, and most voters would just like to know who the best candidate is. For judicial races, that can be a challenge, so I would encourage anyone, especially before the primaries, to go to any of the local political organizations who regularly host candidates and listen to them yourselves and ask them the tough questions. I make it a point before each Cypress Texas Tea Party meeting to do a simple Google search of the candidate’s name and you would be SURPRISED many times at what you will find. Even if the information is negative, I have found that the candidates are happy to address the issues and give you the other side of the story that may not be contained in the article.
For your information, here is the Event Calendar for the Cypress Texas Tea Party’s next two meetings:
Saturday, January 13, 2018 NOON – 2:00 PM
- Ray Black Jr., Candidate for County Probate Court #2
- Judge Paula Goodhart, Criminal Court at Law #1
- Judge Linda Garcia, Criminal Court at Law #6
- Jesse McClure, Candidate for 182nd District Court
- Katy Boatman, Justice, 1st Court of Appeals District, Place 7
- Erin Lunceford, Candidate for 189th District Court
- Maritza Antu, Candidate for 185th District Court
- George Clevenger, Candidate for 280th District Court
Saturday, February 3, 2018 NOON – 2:00 PM
- Judge Alyssa Lemkuil, Candidate for 257th District Court
- Judge Christine Riddle Butts, Harris County Probate Court #4
- Judge Denise Collins, 208th District Court
- Judge Debra Ibarra Mayfield, 190th District Court
- Geric Tipsword, Candidate for 180th District Court
- Judge Analia Wilkerson, County Criminal Court #9
- Lori Botello, Candidate for County Criminal Court #9
- Jessica Padilla, Candidate for Criminal Court at Law #13
In two hours, you will be able to hear from a lot of great Republican candidates. If you would like more information, see the event calendar here.
Let me know if you have any questions.
David M. Wilson
Director, Cypress Texas Tea Party