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Charles Collins

Endorsement watch: Family courts

After nearly a week off, the Chron gets back to endorsing.

Family District Judge, 246th Judicial District: Angela Graves-Harrington

Angela Graves-Harrington earns our nod in this primary contest against a qualified opponent, Charles Collins. These two candidates graduated from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law within two years of each other. Both have more than a decade of experience in family law. Both are running to compel change in a bench that they view as disrespectful. But while Graves-Harrington has represented different clients in custody disputes, divorce litigation, mediations and arbitration, Collins has had only one client for over a decade – the state of Texas. Collins has worked as assistant attorney general and then managing attorney for the state attorney general, child support division. Although he’s handled a high-volume legal practice and has managed a team, his practice lacks the breadth of Harrington’s. Collins displays the steady, even demeanor of a good judge and should run again. But voters should back Graves-Harrington, 41, in this race.

Family District Judge, 280th Judicial District: Beth Barron

Voters have a difficult decision in the race for this domestic violence court. Both candidates are well-qualified and have dedicated their careers to providing protection to persons who face family violence. In this near coin-toss race, our nod goes to Beth Barron, 58, who as an assistant district attorney for over 21 years, has represented more than 10,000 victims of family violence seeking protective orders against abusers. The South Texas College of Law Houston graduate has also published family violence guidelines that are utilized throughout the state for the Texas District and County Attorney Association to assist victims and their legal representatives. Opponent Barbara Stalder is board certified in family law and deeply engaged in this field as a practitioner, a victim, an expert, a teacher and through her work at various worthy non-profits. Stalder even earned our endorsement when she ran for this bench in 2014. However, Barron’s level-headed experience in the matter of protective orders, which are the bread and butter of this court, is extraordinary. Voters can’t go wrong.

Family District Judge, 309th Judicial District: Kathy Vossler

Kathy Vossler, 55, deserves the Democratic nomination for this bench. This experienced family law attorney is a people-person who has developed long-lasting relationships with families she has helped in almost 20 years of practice. The University of Houston Law Center graduate exhibits the appropriate demeanor for this bench and is running to ensure that litigants are treated respectfully. Vossler advanced some promising ideas to improve court efficiency and is also passionate about a mentorship program for young lawyers to train them to help litigants who struggle to handle their own divorces. Democrats should get behind this qualified candidate who has seen flaws in the system and promises to find remedies for them. Also running is Linda Marie Dunson, an attorney who has served on the Children at Risk law advisory board.

Do I have Q&As? Of course I do, from Collins, Vossler, and Dunson, with one from Stalder in the queue. There are a couple of Republican endorsements in there as well. Still a lot of courts to go, and we haven’t gotten to the non-judicial races yet, either. Early voting starts February 20.

Judicial Q&A: Charles Collins

(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 other Q&As and further information about judicial candidates on my 2018 Judicial page.

Charles Collins

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

My Name is Charles Collins. I am a 39 year-old attorney and native Texan. I am a lifelong Democrat, father, family man, public servant and long-time resident of Houston’s Historic Third Ward. I am a 2001 graduate of Prairie View A&M University and a 2004 graduate of The Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University. I am running for Judge of the 246th Judicial District Court in the March 6, 2018, Harris County Democratic Primary. I hope to secure the party nomination and advance to the November 6, 2018, general election against the incumbent.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

It is one of 10 Family District Courts in Harris County. These courts hear a variety of family law matters including divorces, child support and child custody disputes, paternity establishment suits, adoptions, termination of parental rights suits, child protection matters, and name change petitions. These Courts may even perform marriage ceremonies.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

The 246th Judicial District Court is rated among the lowest performing family courts in Harris County based on the Houston Bar Association’s Judicial Evaluation. Since the time I began practicing in Harris County Courts in 2005, it has traditionally received lower scores in areas such as impartiality, efficiency, and overall performance. I am running because I want to improve the quality of service this court provides to the citizens of Harris County. It is the court where my experience and qualifications will have the most meaningful impact.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have over 12 years of full-time, exclusive, family law practice experience. I am a member of the Texas and District of Columbia Bars. I am also a member of the Bar of The United States District Court for The Southern District of Texas. I have served as Assistant State’s Attorney General for the Title IV-D Agency since 2005. I am a former Assistant Attorney General of the Year for Region 6 (2007). My employer is the state’s largest law firm and I have served as a Managing Attorney for it since 2010. In this capacity I supervise over 50 agency employees and its busy day-to-day operations to secure financial stability for children and assist absent parents who wish to establish their parental rights. I have handled thousands of family law cases. I have extensive trial experience representing the state’s interest in virtually all subject matter within the court’s jurisdiction. I remain current in my understanding of the law and have presented continuing legal education (CLE) courses within the agency I work for and to the Houston Bar Association.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is monumentally significant because it represents the very foundation of our society: The family. The decisions made in family court have a lasting impact on our lives. They can mean the difference between a family that thrives and one that is fragmented. A family court’s impact can bring new, brighter, beginnings for some; however, if the court fails to act responsibly it can charter a future that is uncertain. The decisions made in our family courts could mean the difference between a troubled life for a child and a future of stability and promise. Harris County deserves the most qualified, and experienced, family court judges to help build strong families and communities. There is a lot at stake here.

6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?

I am the only candidate in this race whose exclusive area of legal practice is, and has always been, family law. It has been my passion, and my focus, since day one. This experience has made me a very knowledgeable candidate in my area of practice. I am the only candidate for this bench who is a career public servant. I am also the only candidate with proven management and leadership experience in a high-volume legal practice environment. As such, I value the importance of exceptional customer-service and implementing new ideas to improve efficiency. The citizens of Harris County can trust that I will hold this office with integrity, as I have in my current position. I believe in a family-first approach and will treat all people fairly. I am committed to assigning the utmost importance to each matter that it deserves, as I would want for my own family. I will implement a solutions-based approach to each case. I am energetic, dedicated, respectful, humble, kind, and look forward to bringing a fresh new perspective to this court. I am ready to serve the citizens of Harris County in this very meaningful and important role.