Sunday, February 11, 2018

The 2018 Contested Democratic Primaries

With the Democratic sweep of 2016 in Harris County, it is not much of a surprise that candidates came out of the woodwork to run for the remaining judicial benches in 2018.  With one exception, all of the Dems running for Criminal District Court benches are uncontested.  One of the three Juvenile District Court benches is contested in a three-way race and seven of the Criminal County Court benches are contested.

In the vast majority of these races, I have nothing negative to say about the candidates, other than noting years of experience and dedication to criminal law.  In a few of the races, I have a friend running against another friend.  I'm not going to pick favorites in those races.  This blog is definitely not worth losing a friend over.

Before I dive into the contested criminal benches, I do want to point out that we have at least three attorneys with ties to our CJC world who are running for either Civil or Family Court benches.

In the 234th District Court, Harris County Assistant District Attorney Lauren Reeder is running in a contested primary against Jeff O'Dea.  I don't know anything about O'Dea but I'm a big fan of Lauren's.  Lauren got her start as a lawyer in the Civil arena, although she's been a prosecutor for awhile.  As a prosecutor, she is diligent, fair and kind.  Those are the qualities that would make her a great judge regardless of what type of bench she is running for.

In the 269th District Court, HCDA Alum Cory Sepolio is running in a contested primary against Shampa Mukerji.  Again, I don't know anything about Cory's opponent, but Cory was a good prosecutor who is doing great in the civil arena.  He's also a good friend and a great person.  He would also make a fantastic judge.

In the 280th Family District Court, Harris County ADA Beth Barron is running for the Democratic nomination against Barbara J. Stalder.   I could fill an entire blog post on how highly I think of Beth.  She has devoted almost her entire career as a prosecutor to handling family violence cases, and she started at that Office long before I did.  For years now, she has been handling Protective Orders exclusively, which means she's been working in the 280th on a daily basis, helping secure legal protection for women (and sometimes men) in abusive relationships.  I've dealt with Beth on a professional level and I am also proud to call her a friend. She is uniquely qualified for this position and if you are voting in the Democratic primary, I hope you vote for her.

Now, onto the District Court bench . . .

The 185th District Court appears to be the only contested bench on the felony criminal side, and that race pits HCDA alum and current defense attorney, Jason Luong against attorney Brennen Dunn.  I don't know that I've met Mr. Dunn, but his attorney profile on indicates that he practices several branches of law in addition to criminal law.  There's nothing wrong with that, but Jason has devoted the entirety of his career to criminal law.  He was a prosecutor and now a defense attorney.  Criminal law is what he deals with every day.  Additionally, Jason has been practicing for 17 years, compared to Brennen's 7. 
Jason Luong is unquestionably the more qualified candidate in this match up.

And the County Courts . . .

In the County Court at Law # 2, Defense Attorney Harold Landreneau is running against Ronnisha Bowman.  Here again, Harold devotes the vast majority of his practice to criminal law while Ronnisha only lists 20% of her practice as being devoted to criminal.  She includes personal injury and entertainment law as other practice areas.  Additionally, Harold has been a licensed attorney over twice as long as his opponent.
Harold Landreneau is the more qualified candidate in this race.

In the County Court at Law # 5, there is a three-way race between Defense Attorneys David Fleischer, Armen "Hammer" Merjanian, and Aaron Saldana.  I'm not familiar with Aaron Saldana, but that's not surprising.  He's only been licensed as an attorney for three years.  I do know Armen Merjanian, and he's a very very nice guy, but he's only been licensed for four years.  By contrasat, David Fleischer has been practicing exclusively criminal law for the past 13 years, and he was trained by some of the best defense lawyers in the business.  He spends the majority of his practice in the county courts and I've seen him in there, day in and day out, doing every thing he can to make the County Courts more fair for his clients.  His years of experience are almost twice that of his opponents' combined.,
David Fleischer is the clear choice for this race.

In the County Court at Law # 7, Defense Attorney Andrew Wright is running against Danval Scarbrough.  I've never heard of Danval Scarbrough, which isn't surprising considering the fact that (according to AVVO), he doesn't practice criminal law.  When it comes to elections, nothing is more infuriating to me than a lawyer who runs for a bench in a field he or she knows nothing about.  I suppose the desire to be called "Your Honor" supersedes the necessity for being qualified.  By contrast, Andrew Wright has been doing exclusively criminal defense during his ten years of practice.  Like David Fleischer, he is a staple of the misdemeanor courts who can be found, every morning and afternoon, trying to help his clients charged with crimes.
Andrew Wright (with his Rock Star hair) is unquestionably the best candidate for this race.

In the County Court at Law # 11, Defense Attorneys Gus Saper and Sedrick Walker are running against each other.  I know both Gus and Sedrick and I like them both immensely.  I dealt with Sedrick when he was a prosecutor and enjoyed working with him, and Gus has been practicing criminal law, literally, since I was two years old.  Both of these candidates are good men and would be good judges, but Gus has a significant advantage in the experience category.
Gus Saper is the best candidate for this race.

In the County Court at Law # 12, Defense Attorney Juan Aguirre is running against Cassandra Holleman.  Here, again, I don't know Cassandra, but the reason for that is that she does not appear to practice criminal law.  As noted above, that bothers me greatly.  Making decisions that affect human freedom is not something that should be handled by people who don't know criminal law.  By contrast, my friend, Juan, has done nothing but criminal law since being a lawyer.  In addition to being a former prosecutor and longtime defense attorney, Juan is also, quite literally, one of the best people I know.  He is the embodiment of the first person to volunteer to help whenever humanly possible.  He's a devoted husband, father and friend.  He would make an amazing judge.
Juan Aguirre is unquestionably the best candidate for this race.

In the County Court at Law # 13, Defense Attorneys Mike Renfro and Raul Rodriguez are running against each other for the Democratic nomination.  I'm proud to call both of these guys my friends and attorneys that I respect.  I won't be picking a candidate in this race because either candidate would do a great job.  Both have decades of experience with Mike having practiced for 39 years and Raul for 26.   Either choice would be great.

In the County Court at Law # 15, Defense Attorneys Kris Ougrah and Tonya Jones are running for the Democratic nomination.  Kris has seniority over Tonya with his 13 years of practice compared to her 6.  Honestly, I don't know either candidate well enough to give any personal insight to their qualifications.  I did read this morning that the Houston Chronicle had endorsed Kris after calling him "loquacious" (which I had to ask my wife to define for me), but they also said some very nice things about Tonya.  I spoke to Tonya by email a week or so ago, and she seems like a very nice person.  I hope to get to know both attorneys better in the future, because they both sound like great candidates.

And finally . . .

The 313th District Court has a three-way race with attorneys Tracy Good, John Stephen Liles, and Natalia Oakes running against each other.  The only candidate that I know personally in this race is John,  whom I dealt with during my brief stint assigned to the Juvenile Division back in 1999.  He seems like a nice guy, but I don't know much about him other than that.  Analyzing qualifications for a juvenile court is a challenge, because the Court handles matters other than just criminal.  It also handles CPS issues, and (I think) adoptions on occasion.  My understanding is that all of the candidates are routinely practicing in the juvenile courts.  I'll just have to leave it to the commenters here to discuss their individual qualifications.

So, that's a wrap for the Democratic side of things.  I will try to do a write up on Republicans in the next few days.


Anonymous said...

Interested in your thought on the democratic candidates for Harris County District Clerks Office. One candidate, Kevin Howard has been badgering current employees almost daily, handing flyers to them. Employees are respectful to all candidates, but don't want to be bothered while on the clock working under the person he is hoping to run against in November. Employees just want to keep as well as do their job regardless who holds the position.

Anonymous said...

Brennan Dunn has always had an extremely high opinion of himself, I'm sure that would translate well into Black Robe Disorder. God Bless anyone that would have to appear in his court.

In contrast, Jason Luong has always been polite and professional. I'm not a Democrat, but if I were Jason would get my vote.

Thom said...

You should consider looking into or talking to Barbara Stalder before endorsing her opponent. I'm sure Beth would be a fine judge too though.