Wednesday, December 23, 2015

An Interview With Scott Greenfield

My friend (as well as the Great Grandfather of Criminal Blogging) Scott Greenfield interviewed me for the Fault Lines blog that we work on together.  You can read it by clicking here.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Note to Candidates

In the past I have linked campaign websites to each name of the candidates.  I didn't do that this year when I wrote the post on the election but only because it is a time consuming process.

I am more than happy to link up the websites if you send me the links.  I have already been contacted by one candidate to do that, and I was glad to accommodate him.

Just let me know.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Linda Garcia Appointed to County Court at Law # 16

The Harris County Commissioners appointed Assistant District Attorney Linda Garcia to be the Judge of the newly created County Court at Law # 16.

Linda is a great choice.  She worked for a long time as an Assistant District Attorney before being appointed to the Parole Board.  After her term wrapped up there, she returned to the D.A.'s Office, where she has been ever since.  She has great experience and compassion and will do an awesome job.

Congratulations Judge Garcia!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The 2016 Election Field

Polling for the 2016 Election closed yesterday at 6 p.m. and we now know the election field for the March 1st primary.  There were a couple of surprises and last minute filings.  Although I'm no Charles Kuffner, I'm thinking that 2016 is probably going to be a very good year for the Republican candidates locally.  I don't think either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders will bring people to the polls in Harris County like Barack Obama.  We shall see.

The Democratic Party is going to be hurting in this department as well, because two out of the three incumbent Dems in CJC positions are not running for re-election.

As for the primaries, here you go . . .

Harris County District Attorney
Republicans -- Unsurprisingly, District Attorney Devon Anderson drew no challengers in the Republican primary, which is hopefully a good indicator that some stability has returned to the Party.  Although I haven't always agreed with some of the personnel and policy decisions that have come out of the Office under her tenure, Devon has added some much needed stability for her employees following the Lykos years.

Democrats -- The Democrats this year have a three-way battle between 2014 HCDA candidate Kim Ogg, nimwit extraordinaire and perpetual candidate Lloyd Oliver, and former Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Morris Overstreet.  Once again, the Lloyd Factor will be interesting to watch.  He has a magical way of screwing up elections by his mere presence.  I'm not a fan of the way Kim acts on the campaign trail and find her desire to jump on every passing bandwagon troubling.  So far, I like Judge Overstreet as the best candidate the Dems have in this race.  It is difficult to argue against the experience of being a former judge from the Court of Criminal Appeals and he doesn't have the baggage that Ogg and Oliver bring to the table.

174th District Court
Democrats --  Democratic Judge Ruben Guerrero has elected not to run again for the bench, which is a blow to the Democratic Party as far as CJC elections go.  Guerrero was elected as part of the 2008 Democratic sweep, but he was one of only three judges that managed to hold onto his bench when he was up for re-election in 2012.  His decision to not run has opened up the door to Garland "Mack" McInnis, former 338th District Court Judge Hazel Jones, and attorney Raul Rodriguez.  Hazel was not a popular judge while on the bench in the 338th and it is curious to see her running for a bench other than her old one.  Garland is a former defense attorney who has worked for the County Attorney's Office for some time now.  He's a very sharp legal mind and a good candidate.  Raul Rodriguez is a defense attorney that I know and like.  My early money would be on Raul to win this race on the Dem side.

Republicans -- regardless of who wins the Democratic primary, my vote in November will be going to my friend Merry Katherine McDaniel, who is running without a challenger in the primary.  Katherine is a longtime prosecutor who I've known since I started at the D.A.'s Office in 1999.  I'll talk more about her when we get a little closer to November.

176th District Court
Democrats -- former 176th Judge Shawna Reagin will attempt to regain the bench she lost in 2012, but first she has to get through the primary in a race against Nikita "Niki" Harmon.  Harmon is a municipal court judge who ran unsuccessfully in 2014 for a county court bench.  Of the two, Reagin is immensely more qualified.  She was a highly skilled defense and appellate attorney before becoming a judge in 2008.  

Republicans --  although there were some rumors that the District Attorney's Office was looking to field a candidate against incumbent Republican judge Stacey Bond (because they were upset about her recent ruling on prosecutorial misconduct) that fortunately does not appear to be the case.  Judge Bond has been outstanding since taking the bench in 2013 and she is highly respected.  The D.A.'s Office may be a little pissy with her at the moment, but they will get over it.  She's a damn good judge.

177th District Court
Republican --  Incumbent Republican Judge Ryan Patrick has also been doing a pretty damn good job since taking the Bench.  Defense attorneys were fully ready to give Judge Patrick a hard time based on his relative youth at the time he became a judge, but he has successfully silenced his critics with a strong knowledge of the law and an even temperament.  Judge Patrick is developing a very impressive track record of being a truly neutral judge who knows the law and follows it.

Democrats -- two defense attorneys are running against Judge Patrick - David Singer and Robert Johnson.  I don't recall Johnson running for any other CJC benches in recent memory, but Singer has run several times.  Both are equally qualified but will have a VERY uphill battle challenging Judge Patrick in November.

178th District Court
Democrats -- I was very saddened to hear that Incumbent Democrat David Mendoza had decided not to run again.  I didn't know him before he was elected in 2008, but I've come to be a tremendous fan of the way he has run the 178th District Court over the past 8 years.  I'm truly sorry to see him go and I hope he will be a visiting judge that we see around the CJC quite often.
The race to replace Judge Mendoza will be between prosecutor Kelli Johnson and defense attorney Lori Gray.  Both have run for office before, with Kelli running unsuccessfully in 2014 for County Court at Law # 8 and Lori last running (unsuccessfully) in 2010 for Court # 10.  Kelli is a close friend of mine, so I'm biased, but I think she is the most qualified candidate.

Republicans -- with no incumbent to run against, the floodgates have opened with four candidates running on the Republican side for the178th.  To start with, we have Nile Copeland, who is apparently a municipal court judge who last ran in 2012 as a Democrat.  Prior to about three minutes ago, I'd never seen or heard of him.  Next we have Bash Sharma.  I'm not entirely sure who he is, but I do believe he actually practices criminal law, which gives him a step up on Copeland.
The two qualified candidates in the race are former prosecutors and current defense attorneys Phil Gommels and Xavier Alfaro.  Both of these guys are great guys and good lawyers.  Either would make a good candidate, but I would give the edge to Xavier, who has more experience.

179th District Court
Republicans -- Incumbent Republican Kristin Guiney is running for re-election unchallenged in her primary, as it should be.  In addition to being a family friend and one of my favorite people, she has also proven to be an outstanding judge since taking the Bench in 2013.  Judge Guiney won her primary in 2012 by one of the widest margins that year and she has lived up to expectations on the Bench as an efficient, intelligent, and compassionate judge that strives to make the entire System better.

Democrats -- former 179th Judge and current defense attorney Randy Roll will attempt to retake his bench but first he will have to get through prosecutor Stephen Aslett.  The early word is that this race is already getting contentious.  Although I like Randy, he was controversial on the Bench with both prosecutors and the defense bar.  Aslett is a newcomer to Harris County politics, but is a die-hard Dem.  I'm genuinely curious to see how this one shakes out, but either way, I'll obviously be voting for Judge Guiney in November.

337th District Court
Republican incumbent judge Renee Magee will face off against former 337th Democratic judge Herb Ritchie in a rematch from 2012.  Neither have opponents in their primaries, so we'll have more to say about this one as we get closer to November.

338th District Court
In another race where both primaries are uncontested, incumbent Republican Judge Brock Thomas will be facing Democrat and defense attorney Ramona Franklin in November.

339th District Court
Democrats -- Incumbent Democrat Judge Maria (Terri) Jackson is the one and only incumbent running for re-election in a CJC race.  Since taking the Bench in 2009, she has been very popular in the Defense Bar for her kind demeanor and her willingness to consider both sides of every argument.

Republicans -- Felony District Court Chief and political newcomer Mary McFaden will be running against defense attorney Antonio Benavides for the Republican nomination.  Mary is a friend of mine and a very smart attorney.  She is considered to be a very hard-core prosecutor which makes some in the Defense Bar a little worried.  Benavides is a defense attorney that I only know in passing.  He might want to consider changing his Facebook profile photo before running for office.  Just sayin'.

351st District Court
Republicans --  Longtime incumbent Republican Judge Mark Kent Ellis will run again for the 351st Bench.  He is the lone Republican survivor of the 2008 Democratic sweep and a good judge.

Democrats -- Defense attorneys Greg Glass and George Powell will face off against each other for the Democratic nomination.  Both men are friends of mine and both are qualified candidates.  I have no idea who wins this primary.

County Attorney
Although the County Attorney's Office is really related to the CJC races, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that incumbent Democrat Vince Ryan will be running again.  His challengers are Chris Carmona and sometimes-I'm-a-Republican-when-I'm-running-for-office-but-really-I-support-Democratic-candidates-most-of-the-time attorney Jim Leitner.

Vote for Chris Carmona, please.

And one more Race before we go . . .

232nd District Court Judge Mary Lou Keel is running for Court of Criminal Appeals.  Judge Keel is one of the smartest and best judges that I've ever tried a case in front of.  Although I would hate to see her leave Harris County, she would make an outstanding Judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals.  Remember to tell your friends and family members across the State about her for this race.  She has more judicial experience than both of her opponents combined.

Election years are always exciting.  Remember to get active and involved.  The general public doesn't pay much attention to what goes on at the CJC, so it is up to those of us who practice down there to get the word out.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Jim Leitner Returns! [Updated]

I received word today that former Harris County District Attorney's Office 1st Assistant Jim Leitner had signed up to run for Harris County Attorney.

We haven't heard much from Big Jim since his testimony in the David Temple hearing, where he repeatedly claimed that I wrote untrue things about him, and then subsequently admitting that all the things I had written about him were, um, completely accurate.  When we last checked in with him, his employment had been terminated by Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman and he was working as a contract attorney in the 208th District Court.

Jim's return to politics is interesting for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost, he never seems to win anything.  He's made a couple of tries to be District Attorney that haven't panned out too well for him.  More interestingly, however, is the fact that he seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis on what political party he belongs to.  Jim has been very public in his support of Democratic candidate for District Attorney Kim Ogg.  Prior to being terminated by Sheriff Hickman, he had been appointed as a high ranking member of the Sheriff's Office under Democrat Adrian Garcia.

So, when I heard that Jim was running for something again, my first question was "under what Party?"

Well, it turns out that he's running as a Republican.  I don't know how well received that will be within the upper echelons of the Harris County Republican Party.  They tend to not like candidates who have failed in two previous elections, and they really don't like those who aren't loyal.

Jim's opponent in the Republican Primary is former Civil County Court at Law judge Jacqueline Lucci Smith.  My understanding is that she has worked for the Harris County Attorney's Office and that she doesn't seem to have the same confusion over what Party she belongs to.

Part of me hopes that Jim wins and makes Pat or Nick Lykos his first assistant.  That's only because it would give me more entertaining material to write about.  However, I value my Right to Vote too much to cast a ballot in favor of him.

I don't know much about former Judge Smith, but she'll have my vote.

UPDATE:  I learned today that attorney Chris Carmona filed for County Attorney last night and that Judge Smith is stepping aside to be his treasurer.