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October 2nd, 2018:

Judicial Q&A: Jason Cox

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to my readers. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. You can see other Q&As and further information about judicial candidates on my 2018 Judicial page.

Jason Cox

1. Who are you and what are you running for?

I’m Jason Cox and I’m the Democratic candidate for Harris County Probate Court #3, which is one of the four statutory probate courts in Harris County. I’m a third generation Houstonian and strong believer in public service. I love this community and want to bring my extensive knowledge and experience to bear for the benefit of the citizens of Harris County.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This is an administrative and trial court that hears matters related to estates, guardianships, trusts, and fiduciary relationships (such as that between a principal and agent under a power of attorney); it also presides over a mental health docket and hears matters involving forced medication, involuntary commitment, and the issuance of mental health warrants.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

This court is blessed with a strong staff, but it appears that the presiding judge – a 20 year incumbent – has lost his enthusiasm for public service. He is consistently criticized by those who appear in his court (as reflected in the Houston Bar Association’s Judicial Evaluations) for an apparent lack of impartiality; a failure to use attorneys’ and witnesses’ time efficiently; a failure to work hard and be prepared; and a failure to treat those who appear before him with courtesy and respect.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have 14 years’ experience in the area of probate and am a frequent writer and speaker on probate issues. I’m also heavily involved in the probate community and participate in a number of formal and informal practitioner groups. I have represented clients ranging from large financial institutions to indigent individuals and have acquired substantial knowledge in this area over my years of practice.

I personally find the area of probate interesting and engaging. In my legal practice, I emphasize the importance of finding solutions over engaging in legal combat for the purpose of combat alone. This approach requires the ability to look at issues from many different angles and positions and to set aside your own bias in order to fully assess the problem or dispute. This ability would an asset on this bench.

I’ve also been a longtime adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas in Houston where I teach pre-law classes to students who are among the first in their family to attend college and who often did not grow up in a primarily English-speaking home.

My time teaching at St. Thomas has provided me with insight as to how other members of our community feel as if they are on the margins and can be wary and mistrustful of the legal system. It has underscored for me the need to reach out to these communities so that they understand that they do not need to fear coming in to court to take advantage of the services it has to offer.

I also have the unique experience of being a former pediatric and adult cancer survivor who has gone back into this community as a longtime volunteer at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. I started off working with cancer patients and their families one-on-one and over the course of ten years have helped create and supervise support programs for cancer patients, caregivers, and their families; sat on scholarship committees; spoken at conventions; and now work with a committee made up of doctors, faculty, staff, and administrators to improve healthcare and patient support at the institution for patients, caregivers, and families.

Having this background would be an asset when dealing with those cases involving people with mental health and substance abuse issues and working with the healthcare professionals that treat them. I have the experience collaborating with health care professionals, patients and families to solve problems – this is something this court needs.

5. Why is this race important?

It is more likely Harris County residents will have a reason to seek assistance from the probate courts than the civil, family or criminal courts. Death and incapacity affect most families in one way or another regardless of where you live, your socio-economic status, or your race. If you find yourself in a probate court, you’re probably going through one of the most challenging times in your life – you might be there dealing with the death of a loved one; trying to get help for an elderly family member or friend; or working to get emergency help for someone suffering from mental health issues or substance abuse problems.

Probate court judges need to have substantial knowledge and experience in this area, and compassion for those that appear before them. They need to be fair and respectful and they need to work hard every day for the people of Harris County.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

It’s time for a change. My opponent has held this bench for the last 20 years, and the criticisms of how he runs his court and treats those who appear in it have been constant and consistent. I have the deep knowledge and unique experience this job requires, as well as the compassion and enthusiasm for public service that a probate court judge needs.​

Falling short on college readiness

Not good.

A majority of students at the top-rated high schools in Texas are likely to need remedial course work when they get to college because they don’t score well enough on entrance exams, a Hearst Newspapers analysis of newly released school accountability data shows.

More than 900 high schools in the state received the equivalent of an A or B rating from the state last month. But the analysis shows that at two-thirds of those schools, the majority of students are failing to score high enough on the SAT or ACT to be considered “college ready,” increasing the chances that they’ll need remedial course work in college and jeopardizing their chances of getting a college diploma.

The low number of Texas students who are adequately prepared for college has emerged again as an issue as state lawmakers study education funding this fall, in preparation for the Legislative Session, which starts in January. At a meeting Tuesday, education committee chairman Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, and Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, recommended giving more money to schools for each student who scores college-ready on the entrance exams.

Another group of lawmakers studying the performance of Texas schools, including Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, recommended that Texas do away with the STAAR test, the state standardized exam, and instead use the SAT or ACT to hold high schools accountable.

The state’s top education official says Texas is steadily raising the bar for what students are expected to learn, and schools are improving.

But education experts say the combination of high ratings and low college readiness scores exposes a major flaw in the state’s accountability system. They say the gap is proof that lawmakers are placing too much emphasis on improving scores on the STAAR and high school graduation rates, rather than on preparing students for what happens after they finish high school.

“To get an A means this school is doing a good job of getting an increasing number, and a majority number, of its students ready for the next stage in life,” said Sandy Kress, a former senior adviser for George W. Bush and one of the architects of No Child Left Behind, the law that brought accountability ratings to schools across the country. “You have no business getting an A if you can’t tell me that.”

I don’t know what the answer is for this, though I have a pretty good guess that it would involve spending more money up front and across the board. I do know that our state will suffer from the lack of truly college-ready students, and the students themselves are being poorly served by schools that aren’t doing what they could and should be doing. Meanwhile, Greg Abbott is busy running ads claiming credit for everything under the sun. Maybe someone should ask him about this.

Robot sex brothel update

It’s all about the permits.

The City of Houston ordered a Canadian company called KinkySDollS to stop the construction of a so-called robot brothel for not having the appropriate permit.

The city, which told the Chronicle this week that they are reviewing ordinances to restrict this kind of enterprise, sent building inspectors to issue a “red tag” to stop work after they noticed they didn’t have the required permits.

To continue construction, the KinkySDollS company will have to first “apply for a demolition permit and submit plans,” said a spokesperson from the mayor’s office.

[…]

They began to build the business in what was previously a hair salon on Richmond, close to Chimney Rock in the Galleria area. Space is located on the second floor of a building and has around 2,500 square feet, according to the salon owner who used to rent that spot.

The concept of the KinkySDollS adult business is similar to a showroom where human-like dolls are erotically displayed and can be rented to be used in private rooms at the location by the hour or half hour. The dolls are made of synthetic skin materials with highly articulated skeletons.

See here for the background. We now have the details about what an effort to ban these places might look like.

Mayor Sylvester Turner will ask the City Council this week to change Houston’s rules on sexually oriented businesses, a change that could prevent a proposed “robot brothel” from opening near the Galleria.

[…]

Traditional sexually oriented businesses like strip clubs long have been prevented from operating within 1,500 feet of churches, schools, day cares, parks and residential neighborhoods — and city-owned Anderson Park is just a few hundred feet from KinkySdollS’ proposed storefront.

The portion of the ordinance Turner wants to revise addresses “adult arcades,” where customers view adult content using an “arcade device.”

The council would amend the definition of an “arcade device” to include not just machines displaying video but also “anthropomorphic devices or objects,” and would prohibit “entertainment with one or more persons using an arcade device on the premises.”

In short, the business could sell the dolls at its proposed location – such models reportedly sell for about $4,000 — but repeated-use rentals would be banned.

I suspect I’ll get my wish to see some litigation come out of this. Beyond that, I don’t really have anything substantive to say, but boy is it going to be hard to resist the temptation to blog about these stories. A style point question: Does it make more sense to say “robot sex brothel”, or “sex robot brothel”? I can make a case for either one, but I feel like we should strive to define a standard, so future generations won’t be confused. Please indicate your preference in the comments.