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Scot Dollinger

Judicial Q&A: Scot “dolli” Dollinger

(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.

Scot Dollinger

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

I am Scot “dolli” Dollinger. I am running for the 189th Civil District Court in Harris County Texas. In Harris County in 2018, there are 10 Civil District Courts in play.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Harris County divides its courts up into the following categories: criminal, family, probate and civil. The 189th Civil District Court hears every kind of case except those in the criminal, family or probate categories and has no amount in controversy limit. It is a court of general jurisdiction meaning it takes all the cases not otherwise assigned to another case category. The court hears primarily personal injury and commercial litigation disputes but also hears other kinds of cases such as employment, civil rights and defamation cases. The court also has the power to issue injunctions – orders which prevent people from taking certain actions.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

For the last year, I have been going all over Harris County telling people I am running for judge of the 189th Civil District Court because I am completely and totally in love with the good people of Harris County in all its diversity. The people deserve a skilled, knowledgeable judge who will give all people fair access to a fair forum regardless of their race, gender, sexual identity, religion – or not, economic status or any other factor. When folks go to court they need to know they will be treated fairly by a skilled knowledgeable judge who will follow the rule of law. I cannot stand injustice. The law is my life. Justice and fair treatment are my passions.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have lived and worked in Harris County for over 25 years and been doing the work of the 189th Civil District Court for over 30 years. I have litigated cases in over 60 counties and every Texas U.S. District Court (N, S, E & W). I am well-educated (Northwestern University & Emory Law School), I have clerked with a federal judge, I am board certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, I have run my own firm for over 15 years, I am an equal opportunity employer having hired employees who are African American, Hispanic, Asian and Caucasian, both men and women and from the LGBTQ community, I have the highest rating from Martindale-Hubbell (AV) which is a rating service that rates lawyers based on the anonymous opinions of other lawyers in the community, I have tried 40 trials and prosecute 10 appeals from state and federal trial courts all the way up to the Supreme Court of Texas and the Supreme Court of the United States.

I have demonstrated a heart for the community by not only regularly giving to my church which helps to feed the homeless in Houston, but I also mucked 7 houses after Harvey and made phone calls to people to arrange for mucking services. I worked at the Houston and San Antonio Food Banks. Over the last ten years, I have donated over 1,000 in pro bono legal services. My wife and I have sponsored 3 World Vision Children for over ten years. We are trained as Child Advocates and have completed foster parent training and are close to receiving our license. We were guardians for an 8 year old girl for ten years until she turned 18 – she is 22 and about to graduate from college. We give to many charities such as Star of Hope, Salvation Army, Harbor House, Doctors without Borders, Northwestern University, Emory School of Law, Houston Food Bank, San Antonio Food Bank, Planned Parenthood, St. Jude’s, Sigma Gamma Rho – National Sorority, Susan G. Komen, Heifer International, Habitat for Humanity, Equality Texas, Montrose Center, #MeToo, Trevor Project, American Humanist Association, ACLU, American Cancer Society, Friends For Life Animal Rescue, La Union De Pueblo, Kennedy Elementary – Ms. Walker’s 5th Grade Class, Christmas gifts, Homeless Gay Kids, Alzheimer’s Association, Scripture Memory Fellowship International, One Patient – Global Health Initiative, Interfaith Ministries, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Villalobos Rescue in the Hood, Parkinson’s Foundation, Montrose Grace Place, Disabled Vets, CBMC – Christian Business Men, Lolas Lucky Day, Pld Dog Rescue, American Red Cross, Houston Independent School District Foundation, Educate 7 Foundation, JJ Watt Foundation, Central Texas Food Bank, Greater Houston Community Foundation, The Arc of Houston, A Simple Thread, Austin Pets Alive, Dallas DogRRR – Rescue Rehab Reform, Faith in Texas – Pico, Help Us in Mexico, End Homelessness in Houston, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Changing Hearts and Minds, Transgender Women of Color, Equality Texas Foundation, ASPCA and Work Faith Connection.

I believe in separation of church and state, separation of powers and evidence based decision making. I celebrate the strength of a diverse community such as Harris County. I care about people and want to help them as the law allows. I am here to work and serve, not retire.

5. Why is this race important?

We currently have a Republican problem at our court house: Every Republican district judge in Harris County refuses to marry same sex couples. I can appreciate folks may have a private objection to same sex marriage, but those private objections should never be used by a sitting judge in a secular society. Same sex couples have a right to go into our court houses and be married under the law of the land. If Republican judges refuse to follow the rule of law here, in what other areas will they refuse to follow the rule of law? The law is not a Luby’s. Judges are not allowed to walk down the line and pick and choose what rules of law they want to follow. They are obligated in a secular society to follow every rule of law whether they personally agree with that rule of law or not.

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

I am the more qualified candidate with a heart for the people having received endorsements from the Bay Area New Democrats, Area 5 Democrats and Tejano Democrats. These are the only Democratic endorsements released to date where I have gone head to head with my opponent. Any positive my opponent has, I have also but more and better. For example, I believe I have tried more cases, handled more appeals and clerked with a federal judge. I am board certified, I have run my own firm and I have hired more diversely.

I have a very strong work ethic which I bring to every task including campaigning and understanding what is necessary to win in Harris County. I have been campaigning for over a year. In 2014, when I was on the ballot in Harris County running for Civil Court No. 2, I made more phone calls than any other Democratic candidate.

I have represented individuals, not institutions, virtually my entire practice. I worked as a defense lawyer for eight years being hired to defend people who were accused of hurting others. So, I understand the law from a defense lawyer’s perspective. I worked as a plaintiff lawyer for the last 22 years helping people who have been hurt. So, I understand the law from a plaintiff’s lawyer perspective. I clerk for a federal judge. So, I understand the law from a judge’s perspective.

I understand that the courts belong to all the people. Judges are trustees of the judicial power given to our courts. That power must be exercised with the utmost good faith and checked at every turn to battle against the tendency for power to be abused.

I understand the law is here to protect the weak from the strong and powerful. The end of all government is justice for all – equal protection and fairness are corner stones of the house of justice. There are two things difficult for any person to accept:

– Being unjustly harmed/wronged;
– Being unjustly accused.

For every matter at issue, our courts must be respected and known for properly sorting out which is which. If a person has been unjustly wronged, then the courts must give and provide proper remedies. If a person has been unjustly accused, then the courts must release the wrongly accused and deny the accuser the remedy sought.

My work and life experience have prepared me for this job. I am ready, willing and able to service my community well on day one. Please vote for me. Thank you.

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.

Endorsement watch: County civil courts

I believe we are finally at the end of the endorsements line. Last to the table are thecounty civil courts, where in a slight change of pace the Democratic challengers were recommended in two out of three contested races:

Civil Court of Law No. 3: Gloria Cantu Minnick

A graduate of South Texas College of Law, Democratic candidate Gloria Cantu Minnick, 69, would bring not only trial experience but sorely needed management skills to this bench with a docket that has grown too long.

Minnick has served as assistant city attorney and senior assistant director for the Public Works and Engineering Department. Republican incumbent Judge Linda Storey has served on the bench since 2006. Also a graduate of South Texas College of Law, Storey, 46, told the Chronicle editorial board that she believed in the election process for judges.

In this case, voters need to vote for a change and support Minnick for this bench.

Civil Court of Law No. 4: Damon Crenshaw

Democratic candidate Damon Crenshaw, 55, is campaigning on the promise to make this court run more efficiently. A graduate of South Texas School of Law, Crenshaw has over 25 years of legal experience.

We agree that it’s time for a change. His opponent, Republican incumbent Judge Roberta Lloyd, received her law degree from Stetson University College of Law and an L.L.M. in taxation from the University of Miami. Her work in animal cruelty resulted in weekly appearances on the television show “Animal Cops-Houston” for several years. Lloyd, 59, has a reputation for being hard to work with on the bench. When you’re a judge, it’s not just about being right, but about how you manage your courtroom. Lloyd has served on this bench since 2004; it’s time for fresh ideas and a new energy.

As has been the norm, the Chron had some nice things to say about the Dem challenger they didn’t endorse, Scot Dollinger, whose Q&A you can see here. I don’t know how much these endorsements matter in the end, and I certainly didn’t agree with all of their choices, but kudos to the Chron for making the effort on all these races. There are a lot of them, and not a lot of sources for voters to learn about the candidates – the endorsements, the League of Women Voters Guide, the HBA Judicial Preference poll, and the various Q&As done by myself, Texpatriate, and Texas Leftist. I hope you feel you had enough information to make sound decisions.

Judicial Q&A: Scot Dollinger

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates on the November ballot. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates.)

Scot Dollinger

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

I am Scot Dollinger. I am running for judge of Harris County Civil Court at Law No. 2. (Civil Court No. 2.) (There are four civil county courts at law in Harris County numbered 1, 2, 3 & 4.)

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Civil Court No. 2 hears the following kinds of cases:

– 60% debt collection/breach of contract

– 17% injuries

– 15% evictions

– 4% occupational licenses

– 3% eminent domain (The government is taking your private property.)

– 1% tax and tow.

Except for eviction and eminent domain cases, this court has a jurisdictional limit of $200,000 which means if the amount in dispute is over $200,000 then the court cannot hear the case. This court will have anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 cases filed every year.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for Civil Court No. 2 because I do not think the court is being properly run. To be properly run, the civil county courts at law need judges like me with extensive trial and administrative experience. I want to use my 25 plus years of administrative and trial experience to improve Civil Court No. 2 so that the court is properly run for the benefit of all: equality of law for all. Every person in Harris County regardless of income, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation deserves to have fair access to a fair forum – because justice matters to everyone.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I am qualified to be judge of this court because my 25 plus years of administrative and trial experience give me the unique skills necessary to properly run this court. Everybody needs to know when they come to court they will be treated fairly by an experienced knowledgeable judge.

Administrative Experience. I have worked for an insurance company where I managed its in-house state-wide litigation department. There I setup computer databases to manage large caseloads and implemented systems for efficiently processing the Texas-wide docket. I also have run my own law office as a solo practitioner for over 12 years which required me to efficiently manage large caseloads and create and implement computerized management programs.

Trial and Appellate Experience. I have tried over 40 trials and worked on over 10 appeals. I have filed briefs and argued before the First and Fourteenth Court of Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. I have filed petitions for review with the Supreme Court of Texas and a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States. I have handled administrative hearings in the workers’ compensation system and matters in our justice of the peace courts. Thus, I have actually worked in virtually every kind of court or tribunal a lawyer can do work in Texas. In doing this work, I have done both plaintiff and defense work and clerked for a judge. I also was divorced years ago. So, I understand the cases from every perspective.

Education. I graduated from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois with a B.S. in Speech in 1984 and Emory University School of Law, Atlanta, Georgia with a Juris Doctor in 1987.

Licenses. I am licensed to practice law in all Texas state courts, all Texas federal courts, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States.

Awards and Honors. Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Rating of AV® PreeminentTM, Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Law – Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Law Clerk to the Honorable Howell Cobb, U.S. District Judge, Eastern District of Texas, Order of Barristers, Moot Court Society – intra and inter-state teams, Gavel of Honor, Distinguished Service in Moot Court Society, writing instructor, graduated in top 1/3 of law school class. Chief of the Fox Tribe, YMCA Indian Princess Program.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because when a court is not properly run it puts at risk the value of equal justice for all, one of our most sacred values as a community.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

We need an unbiased judge with my administrative and trial background. I have been representing individuals of all incomes, races, genders, religions and sexual orientations in civil matters my entire 25 plus year career. In the last ten years, I have donated over 1,000 hours in free legal services to individuals. My opponent has not had this diverse experience. Instead, she has worked for Harris County or the City of Houston (institutions) her entire legal career giving her a certain level of bias in favor of establishment institutions. This bias is manifested in Judge Chang’s improper practice of allowing legal entities to represent themselves in county court without a lawyer and not following the law when it comes to fairly setting appeal bonds in eviction cases. For example, in Cause No. 1050447 Williams Apartments v. Tiffany Franklin the judge improperly allowed the Plaintiff (a legal entity) to be represented without an attorney which is improper. This practice is ongoing in other cases. By so acting, the court is demonstrating a landlord bias against tenants. No judge should be biased. If the court is biased here, one wonders in what other ways the court is biased.

Civil Court No. 2 handles eminent domain cases involving Harris County and the City of Houston. I do not think this court should have a judge that used to work for Harris County or the City of Houston and was appointed by the Harris County Commissioners’ Court.

Currently, the four civil courts at law work independently of each other in the sense of having different procedures in each court. If elected, I would work with all the other judges to strive to have uniform procedures in all four courts to bring uniformity of procedure to all four courts and to increase predictability of outcomes.

Currently, the civil courts at law are not under the JIMS computer system that manages access to county documents. All the district courts are under JIMS. The civil county courts at law and probate courts have their own computer system for viewing documents. This method is duplication of effort. It should be noted that the criminal county courts at law are under the JIMS system. So, there is no reason not to move the rest of the county courts at law over to JIMS. As well, the civil county court database is not being properly used to establish a set of metrics to study the caseload of these courts. One sets metrics or gathers data in the database to measure levels of productivity. The current computer system either needs to be properly used at the encouragement of the judges or the civil county courts at law need to fall under the JIMS system and authority of the District Clerk in terms of case management. There is no reason for the civil county courts at law to be separately managed unless they are being managed in a much better way which they are not. The judges play a role in helping to cast the vision for management of these courts. Currently, the judges’ vision is lacking in my view.

Finally, the sitting judge tells lawyers via her procedures that she generally gives them 15 to 20 minutes to conduct voir dire (pick a jury). http://www.ccl.hctx.net/civil/2/procedures.htm#motions. Any experienced trial lawyer will tell you that 15 to 20 minutes is not enough time to properly pick a jury to determine if they are biased or prejudiced against the case. It is illegal for lawyers to strike jurors based on race. Lawyers need the time to properly test for this problem under the Batson case law. An experienced trial lawyer like me is more sensitive to Batson violations (illegally striking jurors based on race) and the need to properly question a panel and spend the time necessary to properly pick a jury.