(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote in March. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2014 Election page.)
1. Who are you and what are you running for?
I am Barbara J. Stalder. I am running for the 280th Judicial District Court.
2. What kind of cases does this court hear?
The 280th Judicial District Court primarily hears protective orders involving domestic violence. It can also hear (a) original family law cases filed with a protective order, (b) cases involving custody of a minor child if one parent is alleged to have caused the death of another parent and there is a history of domestic violence in the parents’ relationship, (c) divorce and custody cases in which a court has made a finding of family violence involving both parties; or a protective order has been issued, involving both parties.
3. Why are you running for this particular bench?
I have dedicated my entire adult life to improving the lives of children and victims of domestic violence in the Greater Houston community. All Houstonians deserve a voice in their justice system and I decided early in my career to challenge myself to tirelessly represent clients in need of help, regardless of their ability to pay.
Harris County deserves a judge with the training and experience needed to understand the devastating effects domestic violence can have on victims and their children. I know domestic violence because I’ve seen it and experienced it. As a survivor of both childhood and adult domestic violence, I fled an eleven-year abusive relationship in 1989. Since 1990, I have worked with child victims of domestic violence, abuse, and neglect. My work has includes helping women victims fleeing their homes with nothing but the clothing on their backs. I have represented women who have been stabbed, beaten, stalked, held captive, and threatened with harm to their children and/or fraudulent or coercive legal consequences by their abusers. Although the majority of victims were women I also had several cases in which I represented men. However, men do not usually report the violence and rarely come forward asking for help. My work with these victims and children gives me specialized knowledge and understanding of what effective judicial leadership looks like.
4. What are your qualifications for this job?
I have practiced law for over 10 years but have worked closely with domestic violence victims for over 25 years. My legal career has been dedicated to working with victims of domestic violence, child abuse, and child neglect. Several years ago, I founded a children’s legal service program in Houston to train lawyers representing abused and neglected children. The program also represented children in Child Protective Services (CPS) and contested custody cases.
My experience also includes representing women and children at Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA). Some of the most difficult cases I’ve been involved with are those in which I represented children whose mothers had been murdered by their father. Relatives were left to pick up the pieces.
I am currently a clinical professor of law at the University of Houston Law Center, where I teach, mentor, and supervise second and third-year law students. Students represent real clients, including many involving domestic violence issues. I have been fortunate to have received numerous awards, including the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) President’s Award of Merit for co-authoring the publication, “What To Expect In Family Court.” I have worked with the domestic violence community, have a good working relationship with other legal aid organizations and am respected by my peers for my work as a lawyer and advocate for women and children.
I have been practicing law for over 10 years, I recently became Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and I have dedicated my legal career to helping others. My husband, Fred, and I recently celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary, love exploring our Houston community, and volunteer our time with Houston animal rescue groups.
5. Why is this race important?
Our daughters, nieces, sisters, aunts, cousins and friends need a judge who understands not only the physical aspects of domestic violence, but the emotional, spiritual and economic aspects. We need a judge who has the knowledge and experience to recognize the subtle ways batterers continue their abuse after the victim has left. We need a judge who is willing to work with our domestic violence community in creating programs to move our victims from helplessness to hopefulness. We need a judge who can can be fair, respectful, and give every person the right to have their voice heard.
6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?
I am the most experienced lawyer in this race. I have dedicated my entire adult life to advocating for victims of domestic violence. Not only have I represented hundreds of women and children whose lives were forever changed by domestic violence, I also teach my students how to recognize, understand and advocate for victims of violence. I am objective, open-minded and believe every person who comes into court deserves respect and fairness.