In a move that had been rumored about the CJC for several weeks, Judge Belinda Hill of the 230th District Court has officially agreed to be the 1st Assistant of the Harris County District Attorney's Office in the Mike Anderson Administration.
I can't think of a better choice.
Unlike her predecessor at First Assistant, Judge Hill is a highly respected District Court Judge who has served on the bench since 1997. During her tenure as Judge, she had the reputation as a hard-working, yet fair judge who called balls and strikes based solely on the law. She is most well-known for presiding over both capital murder trials of Andrea Yates, in which she handled an absolute media circus with class and respect for the law. Prior to becoming a Judge, she was a highly respected Division Chief within the District Attorney's Office under Johnny Holmes.
I first met Judge Hill (although I highly doubt she remembers it) when she was a prosecutor trying the Alex Gonzalez/Ida Lee Delaney case on a change of venue to Brazos County. I was an academic intern at the Brazos County District Attorney's Office and my boss (a former HPD Homicide Sergeant) told me I should go watch how Houston prosecutors tried cases. I took his advice and was mesmerized. It was prosecuting at a whole new level. Ultimately, Judge Hill and Joe Owmby would secure a 7-year-sentence against Gonzalez.
I was thrilled three years later to have Judge Hill as one of my Trial Advocacy professors (along with David Cunningham and George Murphy) at the University of Houston. She was a judge by then and I appreciated that she would take time out of her schedule to come and teach law students how to try cases. It was very clear that she had a passion and commitment to teaching effective litigation skills to upcoming lawyers.
After becoming a defense attorney, one of the first cases I took to a jury trial was in Judge Hill's court. My client was charged with Aggravated Robbery and Aggravated Assault on a Public Servant after a little misunderstanding at a bank where he was accused of exchanging gunshots with HPD. Judge Hill could not have given me a more fair trial on a case that had some very unpopular facts. Every motion hearing I requested, she heard me out completely before ruling and she carefully considered every point I made.
After the trial was over, I remarked to someone that Judge Hill was so consistently fair that I knew what her ruling would be every time I stood up to make an objection. Her ruling would just be the legally correct one.
It was a pleasure to try a case in front of her.
My only disappointment in Judge Hill taking the position with the Anderson Administration is that she won't be on the bench. (NOTE: My understanding is there is actually a fairly complicated process that she will have to go to before officially resigning and being able to take a new position.)
However, the benefit of having Judge Hill working with the District Attorney's Office far outweighs any sadness about her leaving. She has the respect of attorneys on both sides of the bench for her work ethic, intelligence and fairness.
Her agreeing to join the Anderson Administration is a tremendous step in the right direction.