Monday, February 19, 2024

The Contested Primaries 2024

In addition to the extremely heated battle for Harris County District Attorney, there are only a handful of other races within the Criminal Justice Center.  Just because the District Attorney's Race is getting all of the attention these days doesn't mean that those races aren't extremely important.  

Republican Primary

With the exception of former Assistant District Attorney and current Defense Attorney Tonya Rolland McLaughlin running for place 4 on the 14th Court of Appeals, there aren't any contested races on the Republican side that have a direct impact on CJC.  If you find yourself voting in the Republican Primary, I highly recommend Tonya.  She's a great candidate who has the perspective of both the Defense and Prosecution sides of things and she also someone with experience in both the trial side of a case as well as the appellate side.  

There is a contested race for Sheriff, but I don't really know any of the candidates enough to speak on it.  I don't think they will have much chance against Ed Gonzalez in November, anyway.

Democratic Primary

County Court at Law # 16: Juan Aguirre vs. Ashley Guice

With current Judge Darrell Jordan not seeking re-election, this is an open bench for 2024 and it has two very strong candidates running for it with Juan Aguirre and Ashley Guice.  Both are former prosecutors and practice criminal defense.  Both are great people.  This is one of those situations that I have run into before where I wish they were running for separate benches rather than against each other, because I think very highly of them both.

Ashley has previous judicial experience having previously filled an unexpired term on a County Court bench.  I had a case or two in front of her when she was on the bench there and it was a pleasant experience.  She worked hard on keeping cases moving forward, but she was not inflexible if a case needed a reset to get something important done.  I think she was a good judge before and I have absolutely nothing negative to say about her.

As I have said before, however, her opponent Juan Aguirre, is one of the best people I know.  He and I have known each other for over twenty years and he is someone that I admire greatly and think he would make a phenomenal judge.  I worked with Juan at the District Attorney's Office and I have practiced alongside him as a defense attorney.  He is one of those people who is the first in line to volunteer and lend a hand when someone needs help.  He is a calm and thoughtful person who is devoted to seeking justice and doing the right thing.  I am proud to call him my friend.  He would make a phenomenal judge.

My vote in this race goes to Juan Aguirre

338th District Court:  Allison Mathis vs. Ramona Franklin

The choice for the 338th District Court could not be more obvious as political newcomer and defense attorney Allison Mathis takes on incumbent Ramona Franklin.  Ramona Franklin is, to put it bluntly, the worst judge to have ever occupied a bench in Harris County, Texas.  Don't get me wrong, she's had some strong competition, but never have I seen a judge who so unabashedly ignores the Constitution and a Defendant's right to counsel like Franklin.  Whether it be her refusal to come into the courtroom and preside even after the main threat of Covid had passed, to refusing to allow defense attorneys to stand in court with their clients, or her whimsically raising the bonds and taking defendants into custody after they had already made bond, Ramona Franklin either doesn't understand the law or she simply has no interest in following it.  

If you are even remotely undecided about whether or not Franklin deserves your vote, please read this post I wrote in 2021 about a showdown that the Harris County Criminal Lawyers' Association had to have with her.  Read it and pray that you or a loved one never finds yourself accused of a crime in her court.  

By contrast, her opponent Allison Mathis knows the law and strongly believes in the accused's presumption of innocence.  She has worked (literally) all over the world in different jurisdictions while defending clients and she takes her duties extremely seriously.  She's also a very brilliant legal mind.  I only met Allison a few years ago, but I have worked closely with her on several projects through HCCLA.  She is the first person I call when a difficult legal issue needs to be addressed and she always devotes her full energy to resolving it.  The Houston Chronicle endorsed her by saying that any qualified candidate would be better than Franklin, which (although I understand the sentiment) I think doesn't give Allison enough credit.  She'd be an outstanding candidate in whatever race she was running in.  But in this race in particular, she couldn't be more of the clearer choice.

My vote in this race goes to Allison Mathis.

486th District Court: Gemayel Haynes vs. Vivian King vs. Roderick Rodgers

Last year, the Legislature created three new District Courts and the Governor appointed three Republican judges to all of them.  All of them are on the ballot this year and all of them have Democratic challengers.  For some reason, the 486th has three candidates vying for the Democratic nomination while the other two are uncontested in the primary.

Much like the race for the 338th, the choice in this race is also very clear as former prosecutor and Harris County Public Defender Division Chief Gemayel Haynes is the best candidate for the job by a mile.

I don't normally subscribe to the idea of guilt by association but Roderick Rodgers is the husband of the above-mentioned Ramona Franklin, who as noted above, is the worst judge I've ever seen on the bench in Harris County.  Additionally, he's only been licensed since 2016 and currently is a prosecutor in Fort Bend.  He doesn't even practice in Harris County and I can't think of any reasons why anyone would think he should be on the Bench here.

And then we have Harris County District Attorney Chief of Staff Vivian King and I'm not even sure where to begin here.  

Vivian used to be a pretty respected defense attorney in Harris County, but over the past ten years or so, that all started to slip away from her for some reasons.  It started off when she went on the Sisters-in-Law reality series that profiled her and other defense attorneys in Harris County.  Vivian established at herself as a hard-drinking ego maniac with some fairly strong anger issues.  It wasn't a good look.  As if that weren't bad enough, she then went to work for Kim Ogg as the Chief of Staff.  Speaking of guilt by association, Vivian has been the second in command of an erratic and terrible office.  Who can forget her wildly entertaining call to me in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when she threatened to sue me and grieve me for criticizing her!

She has long lost touch with the idea of what it takes to be an effective trial attorney and was recently in the news for having failed to file a petition for a client she was representing after telling him that she would do so. She only missed the deadline by seven years!  Her behavior was excused by the above-mentioned Ramona Franklin, but not so much by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals who issued a stinging rebuke of both Franklin and Vivian for the colossal screwup.  

Vivian's self-promoting website advertises her as a television personality.  That's probably what she should stick to.  Her behavior is far too erratic to be on a Bench where she decides peoples' lives.

Luckily in this contest, we have Gemayel Haynes, who is everything the other two candidates are not.   Gemayel is a former prosecutor and a current defense attorney who has the perfect amount of experience to sit on the bench.  Additionally, he is a calm and thoughtful presence who has always sought to do the right thing during the time that I have known him.  He is a good man and a great candidate and far and away the best choice in this race.

My vote in this race goes to Gemayel Haynes.

Harris County Sheriff's Office

I don't know any of the candidates running against incumbent Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, but I know Ed Gonzalez.  He's had a lot of things thrown at him since he's been Sheriff and he has handled them better than anyone else possibly could have.  It's a tough job and things can always be improved, but I can't imagine anyone doing it better than he has so far.

My vote in this race goes to Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.

Harris County District Attorney

This one is a No Brainer as per my last post.

I spend a lot of time telling people why Kim Ogg needs to go, but you should also know that Sean Teare is the one and only candidate in this race that can actually save the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

I've known Sean Teare since (literally) the day he passed the Bar Exam and I'm very proud to call him a friend.  He's a good man and a good leader.  During his time as a prosecutor, he led the Vehicular Crimes Section of the Office, spending countless hours making crime scenes where people had been killed by intoxicated drivers.  Unlike his opponent, he went to trial and knew the courtroom was not just there for press conferences.  He was well-liked by those who worked with him and for him and he knew how to boost the morale within an otherwise depressing office.

So many of us who used to work at the Office see in Sean Teare the hope that he can restore that Office's reputation and improve the quality of prosecution and justice that comes from it.  I have no doubt that he can accomplish that.  As I've said before, everyone benefits from an experienced and professional District Attorney's Office -- even the Defense Bar.  We have been lacking that under the Ogg Administration and are looking forward to things getting back to good under the Teare Administration.

My vote in this race goes to Sean Teare.

This year's ballot for the Democratic Primary is short but it couldn't be more important.  Please get out and vote and encourage your friends and family to get out there and vote, as well.   It is time for a change and never has there been a better opportunity to drastically improve the State of Criminal Justice in Harris County.


dudleysharp said...

Thank you, much

Doug A'Hern said...

In the immortal words of the Great 21st Century American Philosopher, Mike Tyson;

"I've seen some ass kicking, but THAT was an asskicking."

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