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Jim Evans

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.

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 revisited: Jim Evans

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 six people who have expressed an interest in the new 507th Family District Court. Five of them have submitted judicial Q&As to me for prior candidacies; the sixth will send in responses separately. I had considered soliciting new Q&A responses from the candidates that I knew about, but ultimately decided that there was not likely to be much difference in the responses, so I’m going with reruns from those past candidacies. I will be publishing them over the next two weeks.

Jim Evans was a candidate for the 308th Family District Court in 2014. Here are the responses he sent to me for the primary that March.

Jim Evans

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

My name is Jim Evans, and I am running for the position of Judge in the 308th Family District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court, like each of the nine Harris County family district courts, hears family law matters such as divorces, child custody disputes, child support cases, child support enforcement actions, name changes, and adoptions.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for this bench because I am qualified to do the work required of a judge and because I am passionate about doing that work with integrity and with an understanding of the enormous consequences of my decisions.

Furthermore, I am running for this bench because it belongs to the people of Harris County, and it should not be used as a means to provide financial benefits to my political benefactors and cohorts. The presiding judge in this court has the ability to appoint ad litem attorneys, amicus attorneys, and receivers in hundreds of cases each year. The current Republican presiding judge, James Lombardino, appoints almost exclusively people who have donated to his campaign. Additionally, in the three years that he has been on the bench, he has appointed Jared Woodfill, the Harris County Republican Party chairman, numerous times (and more than any other family judge in Harris County). This sort of favor is inappropriate and not in the best interest of the children who are the subjects of the cases before the court.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I understand Texas family law, the culture of Harris County, and the legal environment in Harris County. I am a Harris County native, a graduate of Houston Baptist University, and the University of Houston Law Center. I have practiced law for over 10 years. For the last five years, I have practiced family law almost exclusively. I know the family judges in Harris County, the family attorneys in Harris County, and the statutory and common law bases for family law decision-making in Texas. I currently maintain my law practice in downtown Houston.

While in law school, I graded onto and served as the Research Editor on the Houston Law Review, which shows that I am diligent and a hard worker. At the beginning of my legal career, I practiced chapter 7, 11, and 13 bankruptcy law, so I have a necessary understanding of the complicated property issues that sometimes arise in divorces. In 2009, I obtained certification as a family law mediator, and I understand the value and the limitations of mediation as a tool that can be used to resolve family law disputes.

Prior to attending law school, I taught in Louisiana public schools and worked as a Baptist minister for a number of years serving churches in Texas, Maryland, and Louisiana. These prior careers gave me an appreciation of the enormity of the pressures that people face with regard to their family lives and decision-making. This appreciation will inform my rulings on the bench as I strive for fairness and justice.

I have a life outside of the practice of law, and I believe that this will help me make decisions that are practical and that have good long-term results. I am a parent, divorced parent, step-parent, and adoptive parent. I married my husband, William Flowers, in Connecticut in 2010. I teach Sunday School at Deer Park United Methodist Church, and I serve on the church’s Staff-Parish Relations Committee.

5. Why is this race important?

If elected, I will be the first openly gay family judge in Texas (and probably the first in the South). While this, in and of itself, does not qualify me to be a family judge, it will be significant to have an openly gay person on the bench. Currently, the family courts in Harris County negatively discriminate against gay and lesbian people. For example, none of the family judges, all of whom are Republican, will grant an adoption in a case where the prospective adoptive parent is an “out” gay or lesbian. If I am elected, I believe it will create a moral imperative for the other judges to do the right thing and either grant or deny an adoption based on the best interest of the child instead of the sexual orientation of the prospective adoptive parent. Moreover, my promise, if I am elected, is that I will do nothing for the gay community except that I will not discriminate based upon a litigant’s sexual orientation.

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

People should vote for me in the primary because I am energetic and a hard worker as evidenced by my successful campaign efforts collecting almost 1300 signatures on my petition to be placed on the ballot; and I intend, if I win the Democratic primary election, to work hard and run a winning general election campaign.

Additionally, I believe that my candidacy in the general election will inspire greater volunteerism and voter turnout for me and other Democratic candidates among members of the Houston GLBT community. This is particularly so because, if I am elected, I will be the first openly gay family district judge in Texas. I have already personally spoken to over one thousand GLBT people in Houston about this possibility; and their response is universally positive and enthusiastic.

Democrats in Harris County know that our county is fairly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Moving even a few thousand voters from the Republican column to the Democratic column could have a significant impact on election night. I am a native of and a current resident of Deer Park, generally considered to be a Republican stronghold. I have already done block walking in parts of Deer Park and have found many Democrats who are discouraged because they believe that they are the only Democrats in town; I have also found Republicans who are excited about the possibility of voting for a Deer Park “local boy.” If I win the primary, I will consider it my job to get Deer Park Democrats to vote and to get Deer Park Republicans to cross the aisle and vote for me and other Democrats on the ballot. I believe that my intentional efforts to engage with Deer Park people will yield those successful results.

Finally, while my opponent is a good man and a good attorney, between the two of us, I am the only strong Democrat.

We precinct chairs will have at least one more nomination to fill

Alyssa Lemkuil

As everyone knows, Democratic precinct chairs in Commissioners Court Precinct 1 will be selecting a nominee to replace the late El Franco Lee on the November ballot. If we wind up selecting someone who is also on the November ballot for this slot – Sen. Rodney Ellis being the prime, possibly only, example of this – the precinct chairs in the affected entity (in that case, SD13) will have to then make another selection to fill his abandoned place on the ballot. We’ve been over this before, we know the drill.

What you may not know is that all Democratic precinct chairs will have the job of making a selection for another nomination elsewhere on the ballot. The reason for this is because the 2015 Legislature created a new judicial district, the 507th Family Court, here in Harris County. On December 28, Greg Abbott named Alyssa Lemkuil to be the first Judge of the 507th. Because that happened after the filing deadline was closed (*), there is no Democratic nominee for that bench. As such, by the same laws that give precinct chairs the power to replace El Franco Lee on the ballot, precinct chairs (in this case for the whole county) will pick a nominee for the 507th Family Court as well.

I bring this up because last week I started hearing from people who are interested in being that nominee. So far, Chip Wells (who ran for the 247th Family Court in 2010 and 2014), Sandra Peake (who ran for the 257th Family Court in 2010 and the 246th Family Court in 2014), and Shawn Thierry (who ran for the 157th Civil Court in 2010) have all made their interest known in one way or another. According to The Police News, Julia Maldonado (candidate for the 246th Family Court in 2014 and the 308th Family Court (for which Judge Lemhkuil had been an associate judge) in 2010) had applied to be appointed to the 507th and will presumably seek the nomination now. That site also mentioned Chip Wells and Jim Evans (candidate for the 308th Family Court in 2014) as others who would likely seek the nomination as well.

That’s what I know about this court and the candidates for it at this time. I’m sure that there are other people who have looked at this court, and I’m sure that by publishing this post, anyone who is interested and who isn’t named here will make his or her presence known to me one way or another. One more thing to note is that this court, like all the other Family courts, will be on a non-Presidential year cycle after this election, so whoever wins in November will have to run for re-election in 2018.

(*) Why was the appointment made after the filing deadline? The law that created the 507th Family Court specified that it was to begin operations on January 1, 2016, so Abbott was always going to appoint the first judge. Both the Police News site and a Greg Enos newsletter mentioned that Republican precinct chairs will also get to pick their November nominee, by the same process as us Dems. That doesn’t address the question of the timing of the appointment. Why not make it before the start of filing season in November, so that the eventual nominees could be chosen the normal way? It may be that there is some provision of the Elections code that mandates this, but I have no idea if that is the case or what it might say if so. Perhaps one of the attorneys in attendance could say something about in in the comments. Practically speaking, it doesn’t really make sense to name someone to a job more than six weeks before he or she can take the job, indeed more than six weeks before the job has even been created. Politically speaking, it would be embarrassing for the Abbott appointee to lose in a contested primary. This could still happen at the precinct chair level for Judge Lemkuil, though one would think that Abbott’s appointment would receive a fair amount of deference. Again, none of this directly answers the question, so if someone out there actually knows the answer, please do let us know.

Endorsement watch: Family courts

The Chronicle gets in the endorsement game by getting started on the long list of judicial races that will be on your 2014 ballot, and it’s a big helping of good news for the Democratic slate of Family Court nominees, as five of the six Dems running get the Chron nod. Here’s a blurb from each:

246th Family District Court:Sandra Peake

By process of elimination, our choice is Democratic candidate Sandra Peake for this bench. A graduate of University of Houston Law Center, Peake has practiced law for 30 years with a concentration on family law. We believe Peake, 59, would do a better job than her Republican opponent Charley Prine in dealing with the cultural, ethnic and religious diversity of Harris County.

247th Family District Court:Clinton “Chip” Wells

Wells, 62, has practiced law in Texas for nearly four decades, from El Paso to Beaumont, Dallas to Brownsville. Wells, a Democrat, has a lifetime of legal experience, with specific focus on family law. Voters should put that knowledge to use in our family courts. His Republican opponent in this race, John Schmude, demonstrates an admirable passion for service. However, his legal resume is distinctly thinner than Wells’, and he has run perhaps the most partisan campaign of any judicial candidate. His website is long on endorsements from groups unrelated to family law, such as anti-abortion advocates and the National Rifle Association, but short on the usual tempered judicial rhetoric. Meeting with the Chronicle editorial board, Schmude, 40, said that such campaigning was necessary to win the primary. Primary season is over. Texans should expect better from their judges.

280th Family District Court:Barbara J. Stalder

During the Democratic primary, we wrote that Barbara Stalder was one of the few people in our state who is prepared to handle the challenges of this court, which hears protective orders that involve domestic violence. In the general election, Stalder, 54, is still uniquely qualified for this bench.

308th Family District Court: Jim Evans

In this closely matched race, we go with Democratic challenger Jim Evans. A graduate of the University of Houston Law Center, Evans, 47, has a pastor’s compassion that comes from working as a Baptist minister, not to mention a master’s degree in religious studies.

311th Family District Court: Sherri Cothrun

When the race to replace disgraced Judge Denise Pratt was crowded with contenders, Sherri Cothrun was the most qualified candidate. Now that the race is finally down to the general election, Cothrun is still the most qualified candidate. With 30 years’ experience practicing family law, she has a full slate of awards and achievements befitting her extensive career, including board certification in family law and certification as a family law arbitrator.

Couple things here. First, it’s interesting and heartening to see the Chron ding the GOP incumbent in the 246th and the GOP nominee in the 247th for touting on their campaign webpages opposition to same-sex marriage in the former case and a plethora of right-wing shibboleths in the latter. You can believe what you want to believe, but as a judge you’re supposed to be fair and impartial, and you’re supposed to look and sound like someone who is fair and impartial. If you’re going to be loud and proud about these things, you shouldn’t expect the benefit of the doubt.

Also of interest: The Chron did not mention the recent troubles of Judge Alicia Franklin in the 311th Family Court, even though they apparently came up during her joint interview with Sherri Cothrun. I guess they only had so much space for this.

Anyway. You can see the Q&A’s I did for the Democratic primary with Sandra Peake here; with Barbara Stalder here; and with Jim Evans here. I will be publishing a Q&A with Cothrun on Tuesday, and will publish one from Wells in two weeks; I hope to receive one from Kathy Vossler, the Democrat in the 309th Family Court race, in the near future. Those of you that have experience with these courts, what do you think of the Chron’s endorsements?

UPDATE: Texpatriate has an interesting take on this.

Judicial Q&A: Jim Evans

(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.)

Jim Evans

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

My name is Jim Evans, and I am running for the position of Judge in the 308th Family District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court, like each of the nine Harris County family district courts, hears family law matters such as divorces, child custody disputes, child support cases, child support enforcement actions, name changes, and adoptions.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for this bench because I am qualified to do the work required of a judge and because I am passionate about doing that work with integrity and with an understanding of the enormous consequences of my decisions.

Furthermore, I am running for this bench because it belongs to the people of Harris County, and it should not be used as a means to provide financial benefits to my political benefactors and cohorts. The presiding judge in this court has the ability to appoint ad litem attorneys, amicus attorneys, and receivers in hundreds of cases each year. The current Republican presiding judge, James Lombardino, appoints almost exclusively people who have donated to his campaign. Additionally, in the three years that he has been on the bench, he has appointed Jared Woodfill, the Harris County Republican Party chairman, numerous times (and more than any other family judge in Harris County). This sort of favor is inappropriate and not in the best interest of the children who are the subjects of the cases before the court.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I understand Texas family law, the culture of Harris County, and the legal environment in Harris County. I am a Harris County native, a graduate of Houston Baptist University, and the University of Houston Law Center. I have practiced law for over 10 years. For the last five years, I have practiced family law almost exclusively. I know the family judges in Harris County, the family attorneys in Harris County, and the statutory and common law bases for family law decision-making in Texas. I currently maintain my law practice in downtown Houston.

While in law school, I graded onto and served as the Research Editor on the Houston Law Review, which shows that I am diligent and a hard worker. At the beginning of my legal career, I practiced chapter 7, 11, and 13 bankruptcy law, so I have a necessary understanding of the complicated property issues that sometimes arise in divorces. In 2009, I obtained certification as a family law mediator, and I understand the value and the limitations of mediation as a tool that can be used to resolve family law disputes.

Prior to attending law school, I taught in Louisiana public schools and worked as a Baptist minister for a number of years serving churches in Texas, Maryland, and Louisiana. These prior careers gave me an appreciation of the enormity of the pressures that people face with regard to their family lives and decision-making. This appreciation will inform my rulings on the bench as I strive for fairness and justice.

I have a life outside of the practice of law, and I believe that this will help me make decisions that are practical and that have good long-term results. I am a parent, divorced parent, step-parent, and adoptive parent. I married my husband, William Flowers, in Connecticut in 2010. I teach Sunday School at Deer Park United Methodist Church, and I serve on the church’s Staff-Parish Relations Committee.

5. Why is this race important?

If elected, I will be the first openly gay family judge in Texas (and probably the first in the South). While this, in and of itself, does not qualify me to be a family judge, it will be significant to have an openly gay person on the bench. Currently, the family courts in Harris County negatively discriminate against gay and lesbian people. For example, none of the family judges, all of whom are Republican, will grant an adoption in a case where the prospective adoptive parent is an “out” gay or lesbian. If I am elected, I believe it will create a moral imperative for the other judges to do the right thing and either grant or deny an adoption based on the best interest of the child instead of the sexual orientation of the prospective adoptive parent. Moreover, my promise, if I am elected, is that I will do nothing for the gay community except that I will not discriminate based upon a litigant’s sexual orientation.

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

People should vote for me in the primary because I am energetic and a hard worker as evidenced by my successful campaign efforts collecting almost 1300 signatures on my petition to be placed on the ballot; and I intend, if I win the Democratic primary election, to work hard and run a winning general election campaign.

Additionally, I believe that my candidacy in the general election will inspire greater volunteerism and voter turnout for me and other Democratic candidates among members of the Houston GLBT community. This is particularly so because, if I am elected, I will be the first openly gay family district judge in Texas. I have already personally spoken to over one thousand GLBT people in Houston about this possibility; and their response is universally positive and enthusiastic.

Democrats in Harris County know that our county is fairly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Moving even a few thousand voters from the Republican column to the Democratic column could have a significant impact on election night. I am a native of and a current resident of Deer Park, generally considered to be a Republican stronghold. I have already done block walking in parts of Deer Park and have found many Democrats who are discouraged because they believe that they are the only Democrats in town; I have also found Republicans who are excited about the possibility of voting for a Deer Park “local boy.” If I win the primary, I will consider it my job to get Deer Park Democrats to vote and to get Deer Park Republicans to cross the aisle and vote for me and other Democrats on the ballot. I believe that my intentional efforts to engage with Deer Park people will yield those successful results.

Finally, while my opponent is a good man and a good attorney, between the two of us, I am the only strong Democrat.