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Paul Simon

Endorsement watch: Judges and more judges

For probate court.

Judge, County Probate Court No. 2: Michael Newman

Candidate Jim Peacock told us that temperament is the key issue in this race, and it’s true that good judges should be courteous, calm and respectful. But whether a candidate’s experience prepares him to don the black robe is easier to ferret out than whether his temperament is suited for it.

While Peacock and his opponent, Michael Newman, 61, have each been practicing law for more than three decades, Newman has handled more cases in the probate courts. The University of Houston Law Center graduate has practiced probate law for 19 years, and he’s running because he is tired of appearing before judges who don’t know the law, don’t know how to apply the law or who have prejudged his case.

[…]

Voters should cast their votes for Newman in this primary contest, and Peacock should run again. The winner in this race will face Republican candidate Ray Black in the general election.

Judge, County Probate Court No. 4: James Horwitz

James Horwitz worked early in his career as a social worker, and he’s running for this bench because it helps with the probate courts’ mental health docket. In his family law, estate planning and probate practice, Horwitz, 68, spent 40 years dealing with the grieving, the divorced and the disabled. The University of Houston Law Center graduate also wants to use the bench as a bully pulpit to help the community.

I’ve got a Q&A from Peacock here and from Galligan, whom the Chron also urged to run again, here. I’ve got one from Horwitz in the queue. These are tough races, with each candidate getting some support along the way.

In the meantime, here are the endorsements in the civil courts.

District Judge, 55th Judicial District: Latosha Lewis Payne

Our nod goes to Latosha Lewis Payne in this coin toss race. Both Payne and her opponent, Paul Simon, have spent 18 years practicing law and each has attained excellence in their respective careers. Both candidates have devoted significant volunteer time to helping indigent people secure needed legal representation. What’s more: Both candidates displayed a clear understanding of the present inefficiencies of this court and suggested thoughtful ways to improve them. Payne was raised in Acres Homes, graduated from the University of Texas Law School and went onto become a partner at a major Houston firm.

District Judge, 113th Judicial District: Rabeea Collier

Voters should cast their ballots for the more seasoned candidate in this primary contest. To put it simply, Rabeea Collier, 35, has the requisite experience to serve on this bench. A graduate of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Collier has practiced for more than a decade, currently specializing primarily in civil litigation, and has brought a considerable number of jury trials to verdict. She also earns high marks on her ability to communicate courteously and clearly, important skills for an effective civil district court judge.

District Judge, 189th Judicial District: Scot “dolli” Dollinger

The candidates for the Democratic nomination for this seat are among the most affable and personable of any whom we have screened. Both men are qualified, possess the appropriate temperament for the bench and appear to be in the race for reasons of public service. But decide we must, and Scot “dolli” Dollinger stands out for the intangible attributes of focus and advocacy that he exhibited during the screening.

Fred Cook has the advantage of a broader legal background, having tried banking, bankruptcy, construction, contract disputes, insurance, oil and gas, real estate and trust cases, while Dollinger’s practice revolves around personal injury suits in which he has represented both insurance companies and plaintiffs. Although Dollinger’s legal experience is narrower in content, he’s gained the distinction of being board certified in his field.

District Judge, 234th Judicial District: Lauren Reeder

Lauren Reeder, 33, earns our support for her crisp communication style, her impressive academic background and her passion for the job. This Harvard Law School graduate has experience in both civil and criminal matters; she started at a big law firm working on complex civil litigation and is now at the district attorney’s office trying felony cases.

District Judge, 269th Judicial District: Cory Sepolio

How can civil district judges use their position to ensure that everyone, wealthy or poor, receives true justice in their courts? We pose that question to candidates throughout the endorsement process, and Cory Sepolio’s precise answer reveals an admirable jurist in the making.

“The biggest thing to fix the playing field is jury service,” Sepolio said during a meeting with the editorial board. “One of the problems I see all the time is that folks that are flying down here with all the money and defending themselves, they have more representation in the jury box than the mom and pops. We need to get with the clerk’s office and we need to expand the pool of possible jurors.”

District Judge, 281st Judicial District: George Arnold

George Arnold has 26 years of experience in civil litigation, primarily insurance defense. He also appears to have the even temperament exhibited by the best judges. But the Baylor Law School graduate earned our support for his crisp communication style and his thoughtful specificity about ways to improve the existing system. Arnold, who will be 51 on the March 6 primary voting day, promised, if elected, to act on unopposed motions within three business days, to schedule hearings within 14 days of request through the use of contingency settings and to find an online scheduling system that can be implemented.

Whew! Here are all the associated Q&As:

Paul Simon
Scot Dollinger
Shampa Mukerji (269th)

Like I said, there are some tough choices, and there are some where there appears to be a consensus. I’ll definitely be leaning on the endorsements this year.

Judicial Q&A: Paul Simon

(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.

Paul Simon

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

I’m Paul Simon, your returning Democratic candidate, and I am asking for your vote to be the next Judge of the 55th Civil District Court in Harris County. I grew up in Northwest Houston, worked my through college at the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law, and have been a practicing attorney for 18 years. I am a member of several merit-based legal organizations, like the Texas Bar Foundation, which only admits the Top 1/3% of the Top 1% of Texas Lawyers, as well as scholarly organization like Phi Delta Phi (legal honor society) and the Order of the Lytae (academic achievement). I currently live in the Heights, where I have lived for many years.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Like all civil district courts, the 55th Civil District Court hears virtually every kind of lawsuit you can think of, from personal injury cases, contract and business disputes, consumer cases/DTPA, land disputes, property tax cases and virtually every kind of civil case you can think of. It’s almost easier to say what kinds of cases a civil district court does not hear than to list every kind of case they do. They do not hear family cases, criminal cases, juvenile cases or probate cases.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for this bench because I have an unparalleled dedication and passion for the law. Folks who know me know that dedication and passion is deeply-held. They know that I will listen to both sides, and I won’t play favorites. I am hard working and think it’s time for a change.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

Over my 18-year career, I have successfully represented plaintiffs and defendants in virtually every kind of case that this court will hear, including one case which was originally filed when I was a Junior at Cypress Creek High School. Some of my clients are “household names,” or multinational companies, and some of their cases had multiple millions of dollars at stake (one even had one billion at stake), but most of my clients were folks just like you. I have helped many people fight injustice.

5. Why is this race important?

Have you ever been sued or thought you might be? Have you ever been forced to file a lawsuit or thought about filing one? Have you ever been called to jury duty or served as a juror? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you should care about the people who want to serve as your judges. I cannot promise that I will rule in your favor, but if I am elected, here’s what I do promise:

  • I will give the parties a fair shake at justice.
  • I will work hard and be prepared every day I’m serving you and the people of Harris County.
  • I won’t waste the time of the jurors, the parties, or the attorneys.

In short, I promise to work hard every day so that cases are resolved quickly, and more importantly, fairly, and I promise not to be beholden to special interest lobbying groups.

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

People should vote for me because I have the relevant trial experience, commonsense life experiences, and judgment. That is why I am endorsed by the Honorable Dion Ramos, the last Democrat to serve as Judge of the 55th District Court, and the former Chief of the Houston Police Department, C.O. Bradford.

I would be honored to have your vote, and I promise that you won’t regret that vote.

Judical Q&A: Paul Simon

(Note: I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates on the November ballot. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. These Q&As are primarily intended for candidates who were not in contested primaries. You can see those earlier Q&As, as well as all the ones in this series and all my recorded interviews for this cycle, on my 2010 Elections page.)

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

My name is Paul Simon, and I am running for the 295th Civil District Court. I am happily married to my beautiful wife, Robin, and we live in The Heights with our two rescued Labrador Retrievers, Hicks and Bear. Robin and I are strong supporters of our community, she having co-founded, and each of us having served on various Boards of, a local charity that has given more than $600,000 in student scholarships. We also donate a lot of our time and resources to many other charities that help our community, particularly those that help the poor, medical research, animal rescue, and veterans/police. I have also tutored and mentored young children and law students.

Anyone who would like to learn more about my campaign can email me at psimon@shmfirm.com, visit my website (www.PaulSimonForJudge2010.com), or become my Facebook friend.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

A Civil District Court hears almost any kind of civil dispute. So it is almost easier to tell voters what this Court does not hear: it does not hear criminal, family (divorce and child custody/support), juvenile (young offenders) or probate (wills, guardianships) cases. So, what’s left? Car accidents and other personal injury cases, business disputes, contracts, consumer cases, employment, fraud, foreclosures and other disputes involving land, insurance, malpractice, oil and gas, and slander and defamation. The list literally goes on and on. Some long-time residents may remember the famous Pennzoil v. Texaco case, a very complex business case that resulted in a multi-billion dollar judgment, still one of the largest in history of its kind. That case was decided by one of the 24 Civil District Courts in Harris County in the 1980s.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for a Civil District Court because I believe “fair and balanced” isn’t just a slogan, and I believe the citizens of Harris County should expect our courts, which have huge backlogs, to be better managed. More efficient courts will lead to lower costs to litigants and taxpayers and more timely justice, and that is a principle everyone—Republican, Democrat, and Independent alike—should embrace.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

To me, being a judge is not just a job, but a commitment to the principle of the rule of law. That said, I am qualified because I meet the requirements (age, residency, etc.). But there is more to being a judge than simply meeting these requirements. I have the commitment it takes, a deep respect for the law, and a sense of fairness that is respected even by lawyers who have been on the other side of cases I have handled. Furthermore, because this Court hears a wide variety of cases, my broad litigation and appellate background and my no-nonsense approach and strong work-ethic, make me the best candidate for this race and provide me with the tools necessary to serve Harris County well.

Education: I have more than 22 years in the legal profession, having spent some of those years working my way though college and then law school as a paralegal. While at South Texas College of Law, I regularly made the Dean’s List, was an Assistant Articles Editor of the Law Review, authored a paper that was printed in the Law Review, and was on three of South Texas’ nationally-renowned moot court teams. Because of these academic achievements, after graduating, I earned a position as a Briefing Attorney for the Court of Appeals. To put that in some context, each year, hundreds if not thousands of people apply for this job, but only nine are selected for each court, and my strong work ethic and dedication to the law gave me the opportunity to be one of those nine.

Experience: After that year, I worked at a very large, well-respected Texas-based law firm where I primarily handled complex lawsuits. These cases were tried all across the country, and usually involved tens of thousands of documents, dozens of witnesses, novel legal theories, complex contracts, and millions of dollars. While there, I wrote a brief for the court on a point of law that had never before been decided in Texas, and ultimately, the firm’s client succeeded in establishing new law in Texas based in part on my work. Several years ago, I left that firm to start my own. Today, my firm represents individuals, family-owned companies and small businesses in a wide variety of cases—for both plaintiffs and defendants—like the kinds the Court I am running for hears.

What voters should expect in a Judge running for a court like this one is a well-trained lawyer, a broad background in the kinds of cases that lawyer handled before becoming a judge, and a lawyer who, like me, has earned the respect of other lawyers.

5. Why is this race important?

All races, but especially judicial races, are important. A lot of voters do not realize that there are more than 60 judicial races on the 2010 ballot. Because about half of us end up before a judge at some point in our lives, and because a judge can significantly impact your livelihood, your business, your care and a host of other things, oftentimes all by herself or himself, it is important that voters have confidence in their choices for judge.

If elected, Harris County will get someone who is supported by people from all walks of life: conservatives and progressives; Republicans, Independents and Democrats; business leaders and lawyers. In short, someone who is fair and balanced and someone the voters can trust.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

I think for all of the reasons I have given so far. After reading this entire questionnaire, my hope is that you will sense that I have a genuine commitment to the rule of law and its core principle of fairness, an ability to fairly judge all cases that will come before me, and the know-how to make the right decisions and to change the way things get done. But there are two things in particular I want to emphasize.

First, we need efficient courtrooms. It may surprise a lot of readers to learn that it takes at least two years for a case to go to trial. Some of the reasons for this can’t be avoided. For example, some rules have built-in waiting periods that a judge can’t change.

But a lot of it is controlled by how the Judge runs his or her courtroom. For example, 75% the court’s calendar is set aside for trials, but trials take up only a small fraction of what actually happens in a courtroom, usually 25% or less of the time. In other words, three-fourths of the court’s calendar is blocked-off for one-fourth of its work. That means that the other critical things to your case get delayed, often for months.

If you want to see what I am talking about, visit the courts. Usually what you’ll see is a lot of activity on Monday or Friday mornings, and almost nothing the rest of the week. That Monday or Friday morning is when the Court is handling the “other critical things.” The rest of the week are the days set aside for trials that aren’t happening. This slows down your case, delays justice, costs the parties more in attorney’s fees, and wastes your tax dollars.

Second, we need judges who are fair and who make the right calls. Another reason Independents and Republicans should vote for me is because, over the last five years, my opponent has the highest reversal rate of any current Civil District Judge in Harris County. Oftentimes, a reversal results in a new trial, which delays justice, costs the parties more in attorney’s fees, and wastes your tax dollars.

So, I leave you with this pledge: I will work hard to make sure my courtroom is run efficiently, I will be fair, I will put aside politics, and I will work hard to make sure I make the right calls. That may mean working more than 40 hours a week, but that is why I have the support of so many lawyers who have known me professionally, and even those who have represented clients adverse to my own. I thank you for taking the time to read my entire questionnaire, and I hope that I have earned your support.

Judicial Q&A: Paul Simon

(Note: I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. There are a lot of judicial races on the ballot in Harris County this election, and so 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. I will also be conducting some in-person interviews of candidates who will be involved in contested primaries for non-judicial offices. Please see my 2010 Election page for a full list of Q&As and interviews.)

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

My name is Paul Simon. I will be 42 this month and am married to my beautiful wife, Robin. We live in The Heights with our two Labrador Retrievers, Hicks, who we adopted from the SPCA, and Bear, who, with the help of Scout’s Honor (an animal rescue group), we rescued from someone who left Bear tied to a tree until he nearly starved to death (his brother did). I have been in the legal profession for 20 years (10 as a practicing attorney). I worked my way through college and law school as a paralegal, and graduated from each near the top of my class. My wife and I are strong Democrats and supporters of our community. We have served on the Boards of a local charity that has given more than $600,000 in scholarships to local medical students, and we donate a lot of our time and resources to many other charities, particularly those that help the poor, breast cancer research, animal rescue, and veterans/police, and I work with the Barbara Jordan Endeavors Corporation, a non-profit that helps students with disabilities.

I am running for Judge of the 295th Civil District Court. Anyone who wants to learn more about me can visit my website (www.paulsimonforjudge2010.com), send an email to me at psimon@shmfirm.com, or become my Facebook friend.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This Court (and all Civil District Courts) hears all kinds of lawsuits: personal injury; contract claims; consumer cases/deceptive dealings; employment disputes; boundary disputes; defamation and constitutional issues; oil and gas cases; and any other kind of case that is not criminal, juvenile, family or probate. But unlike other civil courts, like Small Claims or County Courts, there is no statutory limit on the amount of damages a person can seek in Civil District Court.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running because I have a passion for the law and because Harris County deserves better than what we have seen over the past 15 years. We deserve judges who respect the law, and judges who are hard-working. Perhaps the best expression of what I’m talking about is something I heard a defense lawyer say recently (of a Republican judge): he said that this particular judge was good for plaintiffs because this judge “bent over backwards to be fair.” It is a sad that someone would equate “being fair” as “favoring” one side or the other. I think we can do better, and that’s why I’m running. 2008 was a good start; let’s do it again in 2010!

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

Technically, I am qualified because I meet the requirements (over 25, resident of Texas, lived in Harris County the required number of years, etc.). But your readers need to know that there is more to being a judge than meeting technical qualifications: I am the best person for this job because I have the judgment, integrity, knowledge and passion to hold this position of trust. Anyone who knows me knows my passion for justice; they know my dedication to the law; and they know my strong work ethic: a work ethic that saw me work full-time and go to college part-time, a work ethic that had me leave the comforts of the Big Law Firm to start my own, a work ethic that my father instilled in me years ago and one that still burns deep inside me today.

5. Why is this race important?

All judicial races are important because judges have a lot of power over peoples’ lives, and we need to make sure we have people with good judgment who can be trusted with the power they have. But the March 2nd Primary is particularly important because of what will likely happen in November 2010. We Democrats are almost certainly going to win Harris County again. And that means whoever wins the Democratic Primary Election in March will almost certainly be sworn-in as Judge next year. There is a lot of trust placed in the hands of our judges, and that trust needs to be held by someone like me who has judgment, who has integrity, and who is earned the support of people who know both my opponent and me.

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

People should vote for me because I am the best person for this Bench, but your readers don’t have to take my word for it: they can look to the many endorsements I have earned, including the Coalition of Harris County Democratic Elected Officials, a group of 18 Federal, State and Local Democrats representing Harris County residents; the Houston Black American Democrats (HBAD); the Harris County Tejano Democrats; Area 5 Democrats, one of the longest-standing Democrat Clubs in Harris County; the Transport Workers Union of America (Local 260); and Stace Medellin’s Dos Centavos. I also have the support of the former Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party (John Odam), Ambassador Arthur Schechter (from the Clinton Administration), and Councilwoman Melissa Noriega. I have heard my opponent say that he is the only “real Democrat” in this race, but I would not have received these endorsements from these Democrats if that were true.

I have also heard my opponent say that he is the most qualified candidate, but a good lawyer must have good judgment, and in the judgment of the Democratic leadership, not to mention the Democratic clubs that have endorsed me, I’m their choice for judge. So if your readers don’t know who to vote for, I ask that they trust the judgment of their fellow Democrats and vote for me in the March 2nd primary. (But don’t wait until then: early voting starts February 16th and runs through February 26th.)

Saturday video break: It gives us those nice bright colors

News item: Kodak is retiring its iconic Kodachrome film after 74 years. I think you know what’s coming:

Makes you think that all the world’s a sunny day, doesn’t it?