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David Singer

Maldonado and Jordan win court nominations

Last night at the quarterly Harris County Democratic Party County Executive Committee meeting, HCDP precinct chairs selected the nominees for the two newly-created judicial positions. It was a long meeting – it took some time to sign all the precinct chairs in, and there was some normal business to conduct before we got to the voting – but it was a civil process, with no challenges to the way it was conducted.

For the 507th Family District Court, the six candidates that I have been writing about here were all duly nominated and seconded, with no other candidates showing up at the last minute. Each had two minutes to speak, then we voted, using division of the house as we eventually did this past Saturday. This took the longest amount of time, as there were a lot of people moving around and a lot of noses to count, but in the end the top two candidates were Shawn Thierry and Julia Maldonado. After those totals were agreed upon, the voters for the other candidates had the opportunity to join one of those two remaining groups. Maldonado wound up collecting the bulk of the other candidates’ supporters, and won the runoff by the margin of 123 to 115.

The County Criminal Court at Law #16 process was much quicker, as there were only three candidates and it was easier dividing the room into discrete groupings. Darrell Jordan and Raul Rodriguez were the leaders, and after David Singer’s supporters made their second choice, Jordan maintained his lead and won the nomination.

I voted for Maldonado in both rounds for the 507th, and for Singer followed by Rodriguez in the 16th. Both were tough choices, and I didn’t really settle on whom to support until I was there. I was happy with all of the candidates, and they each acquitted themselves well in their brief speeches. Congratulations to Maldonado and Jordan for coming out on top.

There was a lot of energy in the room, and even as we all left, I got the sense that people were still basically happy, whether their candidates had won or not. It’s a good feeling going forward.

Next up: Judicial nominations

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With the nomination for Commissioners Court settled, all that’s left for me to do as Precinct Chair is participate in the process to select nominees for the two new courts, the 507th Family District Court and the County Criminal Court at Law #16. As a reminder, here are the new and revisited Q&A’s I published over the last two weeks for the candidates in these races:

507th Family District Court

Jim Evans
Julia Maldonado
Sandra Peake
Chip Wells
Germaine Tanner
Shawn Thierry

County Criminal Court at Law #16

David Singer
Darrell Jordan
Raul Rodriguez

Maldonado, Wells, Thierry, Singer, and Rodriguez were all there on Saturday as candidates. Peake was there as a precinct chair. I don’t know if she voted for a Commissioners Court candidate or not; she had previously sent out an email saying she would abstain from voting, due to her status as a candidate for the 507th. That message led to an email from another chair who called on her to resign from the race in the 507th on the grounds that she had violated the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct by having been listed as one of Rodney Ellis’ supporters prior to the Saturday meeting. Her name is still on that list, so she may have some questions to answer.

There apparently remains some bad blood between Peake and Maldonado stemming from the 2014 primary in which they both competed for the nomination for the 246th Family Court (Peake eventually won the primary by a 51-49 margin). Maldonado filed a complaint against Peake prior to the election alleging that she had an insufficient number of petition signatures. Greg Enos highlighted some of the testimony from the hearing, in which Maldonado ultimately failed to receive injunctive relief. An anonymous (of course) mailer last week brought all of this up, including the same testimony that Enos flagged. I have no idea if this was intended as a hit piece on Maldonado or on Peake because it was anonymous (duh!) and because I barely glanced at it, awash as I was with Precinct 1 mail at the time.

That and the argument about statistics and qualifications have been the main points of contention in this race. Maldonado, Tanner, and Thierry have been the most active in sending email to precinct chairs, with Maldonado and Tanner being the most vocal about qualifications. Chip Wells and Sandra Peake have been much more quiet, and Jim Evans has been basically invisible. I bring this up mostly to note that the lesson everyone should have learned from Saturday is that no one is actually a candidate for any of these positions unless they know for a fact that at least one precinct chair intends to nominate them for the position. My advice to all nine candidates – the 16th Criminal Court at Law race has been far more sedate – is to make sure you have a commitment from a precinct chair for that.

Judicial Q&A revisited: David Singer

As you know, in addition to selecting a Democratic nominee for County Commissioners Court in Precinct 1, precinct chairs everywhere in Harris County will get to select two judicial nominees, for newly-created courts. There are three people who have expressed an interest in the new County Criminal Court at Law #16. All three have submitted judicial Q&As to me for prior candidacies. I will be revisiting these for the test of this week.

David Singer was a candidate for the 177th Criminal District Court in 2016. Here are the responses he sent to me for the March primary.

David Singer

David Singer

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

David L. Singer. I am running for the 177th Criminal District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

All Felony Criminal Cases (from small drug cases to Capital Murder).

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I have been training for this job my entire adult life. (see #4) I didn’t want to run against a Democratic incumbent or a former Democratic Judicial candidate in a primary, so my choices this year were very limited. The current Judge, Ryan Patrick, only practiced law for 5 years before he was appointed and then elected for this bench. I felt my experience would be in sharp contrast to his, in a general election contest.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

Graduated from South Texas College of Law (1983) Assistant Editor of the Law Review and author of the Phillip Burleson Award for the best article in the field of criminal law (April, 1983).

Worked at the 1st Court of Appeals 2 ½ years, as an intern, and then a Briefing Attorney for Justice Murry Cohen.

Six years as an Assistant District Attorney at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office (1984 – 1990).

25 years in private practice as a Criminal Defense attorney. My practice has been more than 95 % criminal defense in State and Federal court in 15 Texas counties and several other States. Primarily State Criminal cases in Harris and surrounding counties.

I have handled well over four thousand criminal cases in Harris County alone and have tried approximately 150 – 200 jury trials including Capital Murder cases.

5. Why is this race important?

All Criminal Court races are important. The quality of justice in our county depends in large part on the quality of our judges. This particular race is important because there is a drastic difference in experience between myself and the current judge.

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

My opponent in the primary (Robert Johnson) is also relatively inexperienced. He has only been licensed for 12 years, handles less than 50% criminal cases*, has never tried a Capital Case, and has never been in law enforcement.

*According to the Harris County District Clerks office, Mr. Johnson has handled 468 criminal cases in his career and over 600 civil (mostly family law) cases. In contrast, the same source has me handling over 3400 criminal cases, not counting my 6 years as a prosecutor, and only 75 civil cases over 25 years. The only non-criminal cases I handle currently are expunctions and forfeitures, both related to criminal cases.

Update on the nomination selection processes

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In six days, Democratic precinct chairs in County Commissioners Court Precinct 1 will select a nominee to replace the late El Franco Lee on the November ballot. In 11 days, all Democratic precinct chairs will select nominees for the 507th Family Court and the County Criminal Court at Law #16. This is a brief update on activity related to those races.

About a week ago, I received a letter addressed to precinct chairs concerning the 507th Family Court race. It was sent by fellow precinct chair Natalie Fairbanks and it enumerated the number of Harris County family court cases that each of the six known candidates had been involved in since 2008. I did a scan of the letter, which you can see here. A couple of days later, candidate Germaine Tanner sent an email to precinct chairs arguing that the data in the Fairbanks was inaccurate and incomplete, as all the attorneys in question have been practicing since well before 2008 and the count of cases did not include those “that were filed as post-divorce proceedings between the years 2008-2015, but with a case number that preceded the year 2008”. You can see this email here. Later that same day, candidate Julia Maldonado sent her own email pointing out that there are qualifications beyond number of cases worked, such as board certification, and that some attorneys handle cases outside of Harris County as well. You can see that email here.

As for the County Criminal Court at Law #16 race, the HCDP lists three candidates who have stated an interest in that nomination. Two of them have made themselves known to precinct chairs recently. David Singer, who up till recently was the only candidate I was aware of for this position, sent a letter to precinct chairs outlining his background and qualifications. I thought he had also sent that via email, but if so I can’t find it. This is the back side of his push card from the March primary for the 177th Criminal District Court, which is from an email he did send to precinct chairs in February. It’s a succinct summary of what was in the letter. Last week, I received an email from Darrell Jordan, who was a candidate for the 180th Criminal District Court in 2010. You can see that email here. The third candidate in this race is Raul Rodriguez, who had run for the 174th Criminal District Court this March and like Singer had been a candidate for one of the County Criminal Courts in 2014. I’ve not yet heard anything from him on this race. I do have Q&As from all three from past candidacies – Singer and Rodriguez for 2016, Jordan for 2010 – and will be revisiting those this week.

Finally, on the Commissioners Court race, candidate Georgia Provost made a pair of robocalls to precinct chairs this week. It was the first contact from a candidate not named Ellis, Locke, or Boykins that I received. And I have to say, of all the ways available to reach out to voters, I have no idea why she chose the robocall route. Robocalls have their place in the firmament – they’re a pretty efficient way of reminding people that there is an election in the first place – but given that nobody listens past the first five or ten seconds and you don’t know who actually picked up the phone, why would you do that for a more detailed sales pitch like this race? I mean, there’s 125 voters total for this race. At a very leisurely pace of five contacts per day, you could reach everyone in less than a month, and ensure that you personally get to talk to them. I can’t imagine a less effective strategy for a race like this than robocalls.

Finally, a few days ago I received a letter from Rep. Harold Dutton endorsing Gene Locke for the position. To the best of my admittedly spotty recollection, it’s the only letter I’ve received from an elected official endorsing someone other than Rodney Ellis. At the very least, it’s the only one I’ve received recently from an elected official.

Six days till we pick a Commissioner. Eleven days till we pick two judicial candidates. Hang in there, y’all.

Judicial Q&A: David Singer

(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 2016 Election page.)

David Singer

David Singer

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

David L. Singer. I am running for the 177th Criminal District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

All Felony Criminal Cases (from small drug cases to Capital Murder).

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I have been training for this job my entire adult life. (see #4) I didn’t want to run against a Democratic incumbent or a former Democratic Judicial candidate in a primary, so my choices this year were very limited. The current Judge, Ryan Patrick, only practiced law for 5 years before he was appointed and then elected for this bench. I felt my experience would be in sharp contrast to his, in a general election contest.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

Graduated from South Texas College of Law (1983) Assistant Editor of the Law Review and author of the Phillip Burleson Award for the best article in the field of criminal law (April, 1983).

Worked at the 1st Court of Appeals 2 ½ years, as an intern, and then a Briefing Attorney for Justice Murry Cohen.

Six years as an Assistant District Attorney at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office (1984 – 1990).

25 years in private practice as a Criminal Defense attorney. My practice has been more than 95 % criminal defense in State and Federal court in 15 Texas counties and several other States. Primarily State Criminal cases in Harris and surrounding counties.

I have handled well over four thousand criminal cases in Harris County alone and have tried approximately 150 – 200 jury trials including Capital Murder cases.

5. Why is this race important?

All Criminal Court races are important. The quality of justice in our county depends in large part on the quality of our judges. This particular race is important because there is a drastic difference in experience between myself and the current judge.

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

My opponent in the primary (Robert Johnson) is also relatively inexperienced. He has only been licensed for 12 years, handles less than 50% criminal cases*, has never tried a Capital Case, and has never been in law enforcement.

*According to the Harris County District Clerks office, Mr. Johnson has handled 468 criminal cases in his career and over 600 civil (mostly family law) cases. In contrast, the same source has me handling over 3400 criminal cases, not counting my 6 years as a prosecutor, and only 75 civil cases over 25 years. The only non-criminal cases I handle currently are expunctions and forfeitures, both related to criminal cases.