The announcement of long-time 180th District Court Judge Debbie Stricklin that she would not be seeking re-election this year has brought out five candidates to replace her, with 3 on the Republican side and 2 on the Democratic side. On the Republican side, we have Harris County District Attorney's Office Division Chief Marc Brown, defense attorney Emily Munoz, and Danny Dexter vying for the spot.
In this race, I know all three candidates. Two of them are very good candidates. The other one absolutely flabbergasts the mind as to why anyone would consider voting for him.
Danny Dexter is a former Assistant District Attorney who was fired from the Office in 2004 because he was incompetent of doing the job. Since 2004, nobody has seen him around the CJC and he certainly hasn't been practicing as a defense attorney at the State level. For some reason, he has been able to garner the endorsements of some high level Republicans, which just absolutely astounds me, because Danny has absolutely no clue on earth as to what he is doing.
I don't mean to be cruel about Danny. I worked with him and he was a very nice person, but being a nice person doesn't mean that you are cut out for a job. I consider myself to be a swell guy, but that doesn't mean that I deserve to be the quarterback for the Texans, for example.
Danny was a terrible prosecutor and he didn't do his job.
When I started at the D.A.'s Office, he was a misdemeanor chief. He was still at the same level when I became a Felony Two three years later. The Office tried to take a gamble on him and promote him to the level of Felony Two, but he absolutely cratered within months and had to be fired.
Back then, the Office was extremely cautious in their firings and there was careful documentation before a person got terminated. And although Danny fought the release of the evaluations that ultimately led to his termination, they are now making the rounds of the political circles.
Some of the highlights from his evaluations include these criticisms from one Chief:
-"[his]preparation has become increasingly disappointing."
-"making offers on trial day that are well below what has previously been offered, including the reduction of cases for the simple purpose of pleading it."
-"Danny has been less than truthful with me on several of his cases"
-"Danny is too quick dismiss on some cases and too hard line on others."
-"it has not been unusual to have cases reset multiple times for Danny to complete one task"
-"Danny no longer appears to have enthusiasm for his job".
-"Danny is currently doing the bare minimum on his cases."
-"Danny's uninspired trial skills and lackadaisical attitude have made it clear to me that he is not ready to handle the more serious cases."
-"I have counseled with Danny on several occasions regarding this decrease and have seen no improvement."
Another Chief had this to say:
-"on occasion [he] misstates the law and confuses the jurors".
-"He sometimes pouts when the judge rules against him."
-"Danny's knowledge of some basic areas of the law is weak."
-"his [trial preparation] was woefully lacking."
-"Too often Danny does not exercise good judgment."
-"deficiencies in Danny's judgment, case evaluation, case preparation, and people skills suggest he would not make a good chief."
-"there have been instances where he has done exactly as he pleases despite being told otherwise."
This same chief also detailed at length about how Danny had been sent to Career Prosecutor School and left the vast majority of his extremely serious cases unprepared and uncovered for trial. He also took days off after being expressly told that he couldn't.
I'm sorry, Danny. You were a nice guy, but you were no prosecutor. You aren't a practicing attorney in the CJC now, and you've got absolutely no business sitting on the bench handling such incredibly important matters in the future.
In an election year where we've already identified several bad choices running for Office, Danny may just be the Crown Jewel of Bad Decisions.
My friend, Emily Munoz, on the other hand, is a former prosecutor and has now had a successful defense practice for about ten years. Prior to working at the District Attorney's Office, she worked as a Briefing Attorney for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. She is also Board Certified in Criminal Law.
Emily is a very vocal and active member of the defense bar who doesn't shy away from going to trial on even the toughest cases. She is an admirable advocate for her clients, combining her intelligence and trial presence to help them.
One of the things that impresses me the most about Emily is her desire to win the 180th bench is based on a duty to serve the public. She wants good candidates in good positions, and she has conducted her campaign accordingly.
But as much as I like Emily and think she would do a good job as judge, my support in this race goes to Marc Brown.
Marc is a 21 year veteran of the District Attorney's Office who has tried every type of case from DWI to a death penalty capital murder. During the time I was with the Office, he (along with Ted Wilson) were the foremost authorities on Search and Seizure law, and he was a walking law library on the latest case law. When Marc was promoted to Division Chief, he became the head of the Misdemeanor Division, where he found himself enjoying the opportunity to teach the Baby Prosecutor's on the basics of how to do their job.
Marc is a very laid back prosecutor who was never afraid to show compassion in his job when compassion was warranted. But on the other hand, Marc also never shied away from a jury trial and putting the hammer down on violent criminals. In 2004, Marc was trying an extremely violent defendant who had tried to rob an undercover police officer at gunpoint, when the Defendant attacked him in open court. Marc never let that scare him off of trying cases or helping make suggestions about courtroom security.
He's tried high profile cases, including the murder of an off duty police officer, and he is a nationally recognized authority on major narcotics trafficking cases.
He's also a guy I admire a lot and think would make a great judge.