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Judicial Q&A: Barbara Gardner

(Note: I ran a series of judicial Q&As for Democratic candidates in contested primaries earlier this year. I am now doing the same for the candidates who were unopposed in March, which includes most of the sitting incumbent judges. As always, this is to help you the voter know a little bit more about the candidates on your ballot. I will be publishing these in the order I receive them. You can see the Q&As and interviews I did for the primaries on my 2016 Election page.)

Barbara Gardner

Barbara Gardner

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

I am Barbara Gardner, and I am running for the 1st Court of Appeals, Place 4.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The Courts of Appeals, made up of 14 districts across the State, hear and write opinions on every type of law: car wrecks, real estate, commercial disputes, probate, employment, divorce, criminal misdemeanors – everything except felonies, which go straight to the Court of Criminal Appeals.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

The Courts of Appeals have become biased in their opinions, mostly looking for ways to rule for large corporations, to the disadvantage of individuals and small business. These courts generally decide the result they want, and then “shoe-horn” the law to fit that result. Also, they take away too many juries’ verdicts. I am running because I can bring balance and a better, fairer perspective to the 1st Court of Appeals.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I graduated #1 in my law school class; I have been a trial lawyer for over 30 years and have handled cases all the way up to the US Supreme Court. I was a law clerk for a federal judge when I finished law school. Also, I am board certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Specialization. I believe that Courts should follow the law, and they are not doing that very well. Some of my other accomplishments include:

• “Best Lawyers in America” (Employment Law), 2007–2016

• “Highest Possible Rating” in Legal Ability & Ethical Standards by Judiciary & Bar members, Martindale Hubbell 2015-2016

• “Texas Super Lawyers,” 2007–2016

• “Texas Top Lawyers,” 2012-2016

• “Women Leaders in the Law,” Fortune Magazine 2015

• “Top-Rated Lawyers in Labor & Employment,” Fortune Magazine 2013

• “The Best Women Lawyers in Texas,” 2013

• “Texas’ Best Lawyers,” 2009–2013

• “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Texas” 2012

• “Top Lawyers,” Corporate Counsel, 2008-2011

• “Houston’s Top Lawyers,” 2006, 2007, 2011

• “Top Lawyers for the People,” 2007

• AV-Preeminent rating by peers in Martindale Hubbell

• Interviewed as expert several occasions on Houston’s Fox 26 News TV

• Former Partner & Head of Employment Law Section of Lam, Lyn & Philip

• One of founding principals and partner of Tucker, Vaughan, Gardner & Barnes

5. Why is this race important?

This race is extremely important because the Courts of Appeals’ written opinions constitute the law that controls every Texas citizen’s rights and conduct. There is a very limited right to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court. Even though the State Legislature writes statutes, the statutes may be a few sentences or a page or two in length. Then the Court of Appeals writes a long opinion about what the statute “really” means. Also, there are many laws that are not based on any statute, such as negligence, car wrecks, bad injuries and death. Those are based on the “common law” which the Courts of Appeals write.

Currently, more than half of the justices on the 1st Court of Appeals initially were appointed by the governor to get on the court, including my opponent. Most people know very little about Courts of Appeals, and so those appointed stay there for many years.

It is the job of the Court of Appeals only to determine whether the judge in the lower court made a legal error. The Courts of Appeals go far beyond that and take the case into their own hands, deciding many times a completely different outcome than the jury’s verdict.

Even if one tried to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, more than half of those judges also were hand-picked and appointed by the governor. As I mentioned above, the governor chooses those who will carry out his pro-big business philosophy.

We need a change.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

I am well qualified as described in #4 above. I know the courtroom like the back of my hand. And I am not beholden to the governor or big business. I will apply the law correctly and fairly, not because of any political persuasion.

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