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Sherri Cothrun

Judicial Q&A: Sherri Cothrun

(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.)

Sherri Cothrun

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

I am Sherri Cothrun and I am the Democratic candidate for the 311th Family Court in Harris County.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The Family Courts hear divorces, child custody cases, paternity suits, adoptions, enforcement of prior orders of the court and CPS cases.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

When I announced my candidacy in September of 2013, Denise Pratt was the presiding judge and I ran against her for all of the reasons she ultimately resigned and was publicly reprimanded by the State Commission of Judicial Conduct. My opponent now is Judge Alicia Franklin who was appointed by Governor Perry on June 13, 2014, after she had won the primary run off against Judge Pratt. In the course of reviewing Judge Franklin’s campaign reports, her web site and her vouchers to the County for services rendered in Children’s Protective Service (CPS) appointments on behalf of children or indigent parents whose paternal rights were subject to termination, I discovered several ethical violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The ethical violations include misrepresenting her position on her web site after she was appointed (Re Elect Judge Franklin) which has now been corrected, and accepting a campaign contribution from a party during the pendency of the case when she was the appointed amicus attorney for the child.

Most of Judge Franklin’s family law experience has been appointments in CPS cases and in private cases to represent the child or the child’s best interest. A review of her vouchers to the county for work in these CPS cases revealed she was charging the county for 18 to 38 hours in a single day. From January 1, 2010 to July 31, 2014, Judge Franklin was paid by the County over $800,000 for the CPS cases. Additionally, after Judge Franklin was sworn to the bench on June 13, 2014, she continued to practice law both in CPS cases and in private cases. A Judge cannot practice law.

A criminal complaint has been filed with the Public Integrity Unit of the District Attorney’s office by attorney Greg Enos against Judge Franklin for tampering with governmental documents related to her vouchers submitted to the County on the CPS cases.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have practiced family law for over 30 years. I am Board Certified in Family Law which means I am an expert in family law. I am a mediator, arbitrator and litigator of family law cases and have vast experience in family law matters. I am also married to my second husband of 17 years and I am a step mother to his boys who were ages 9 and 11 when we married. This experience gives me first hand insight into the issues involving step and blended families. This combination of legal and life experience makes me well qualified to serve the families of Harris County as Judge of the 311th Family Court.

5. Why is this race important?

We must restore experience, competence and integrity to the 311th Family Court. Judges are and must be held to the highest standards of the legal profession. Judges must respect and honor the judicial office as a public trust and work to enhance and maintain confidence in our legal system. Ethical violations and potential illegal activities is evidence of a lack of good judgment, ignorance of the law or indifference to the law. None of which qualify Judge Franklin to remain on the bench.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

I am the more qualified candidate and I will restore integrity to the 311th Family Court.

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.

Enos files complaint against Judge Franklin

Here we go again.

Alicia Franklin

Lawyer Greg Enos filed a criminal complaint this month with the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Division alleging 311th District Court Judge Alicia Franklin submitted false and questionable pay vouchers to the county for court-appointed work in Child Protective Services cases, including one in which she billed for nearly 24 hours of work in a single day and others for work apparently done after she had been sworn in as a judge, a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. She also is accused of billing for trips to the post office and other administrative tasks.

“Taxpayers should not pay attorneys to print documents, e-file pleadings, lick envelopes or drive to the post office to put envelopes in the mail box,” Enos wrote in the complaint. “These amazing time entries are proof that the CPS lawyers submitting invoices have no shame and no fear of their bills being reviewed. It is definite proof that the judges not even read the time entries being submitted before they approve them for payment.”

Enos’ 20-page complaint is based on CPS pay vouchers he obtained from Franklin’s Democratic opponent in the November general election, Sherri Cothrun. The complaint details vouchers filed on four separate days in May when Franklin billed anywhere from 19 hours to 23.5 hours, and show that she billed only in 15-minute increments.

Since filing the complaint, Enos said he has discovered additional vouchers that show Franklin billed for more than 32 hours in a single day, something legal experts say could be either unethical or illegal, if true.

Consultant Jim McGrath, whose public relations firm Franklin hired, was dismissive of Enos’ complaint, calling it a “political smear job” by a “self-described ‘liberal Democrat.'”

“It stinks to high heaven as far as we’re concerned, but it’s the season for politics,” McGrath said.

[…]

Outside experts said the evidence in Enos’ complaint is sufficient to warrant an investigation.

“It’s problematic on its face, there’s no doubt about that,” said Robert Schuwerk, professor emeritus at the University of Houston Law Center. “I think it’s got to be looked into.”

Jim McCormack, former general counsel and chief disciplinary counsel of the State Bar of Texas, said the complaint “raises serious questions of fraud, theft and dishonest conduct.”

“Those allegations should be fully investigated by the appropriate prosecutor and the State Bar of Texas,” he said. “Allegations of fraudulent payment requests by a lawyer to a government entity, as well as the alleged charging of unconscionable fees implicate both the criminal laws applicable to everyone and the disciplinary rules governing lawyers.”

See here for the background, see here for the complaint, and see here for invoices submitted by Franklin for work done after June 13, the day she was sworn in as a judge. A sample of the vouchers Franklin submitted with the problems that Enos highlights with them is here. I’ll be very interested to hear what the attorneys out there think of this. As was the case with the complaints filed against now-former Judge Denise Pratt, Enos is requesting that an independent prosecutor be appointed to investigate this. We’ll see what DA Devon Anderson does with this complaint. The latest issue of Enos’ “The Mongoose” newsletter that sums up what he’s got so far on all this is here.

Perry appoints Pratt replacement

As expected.

Alicia Franklin

Gov. Rick Perry on Friday appointed Houston family lawyer Alicia Franklin as presiding judge of Harris County’s 311th state District Court, a position left vacant in March after the resignation of disgraced freshman jurist Denise Pratt.

Franklin won a May 27 Republican primary runoff against Pratt, who appeared on the ballot despite her resignation, which came after a deadline to withdraw her name and later was revealed to be part of a deal with the Harris County district attorney to avoid indictment. She will face Democrat Sherri Cothrun in the November general election.

Franklin, who applied for the appointment, said she has already consulted with the visiting judges who have been hearing cases in the 311th since Pratt’s resignation and plans to work with them closely during her transition. The 36-year-old, who has no prior judicial experience, said she also has sought the advice of other family court judges about how they run their courts and keep their caseloads manageable.

“I’m very, very excited and eager to get started,” Franklin said.

See here for the full Pratt archives if you need a refresher. It’s been pretty standard for nominee to get appointed in a situation like this. Would have been interesting to see what Perry would have done if Pratt had managed to win the runoff, but we’ll leave that for the alternate-history books. I’ll be voting for Sherri Cothrun in November, but I wish new Judge Franklin all the best in straightening out Pratt’s ginormous mess. All the people that have been adversely affected by Pratt’s disastrous term in office will thank you for whatever progress you can make. Texpatriate has more.

How can we miss you if you won’t go away?

Denise Pratt is a gift that keeps on giving.

Judge Denise Pratt

Denise Pratt may not be gone just yet.

Two days after announcing her immediate resignation as presiding judge of the 311th family District Court – and the suspension of her re-election campaign – Pratt sent a text message to supporters on Sunday asking them to “call or txt” an influential endorser, Dr. Steven Hotze, and encourage him to wait a few weeks before announcing his support for her challenger in a May 27 runoff, Alicia Franklin.

“I am stil heavily favored by the party and attys as seen by wed fundraiser,” Pratt wrote. “And let him know he will b supported also.”

“It’s bizarre,” Franklin said on Tuesday, noting that Pratt had called her on Friday to concede, making her promise to “win in November.”

Despite Pratt’s resignation late Friday, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said her name still will appear on the ballot next month because she missed a March 12 withdrawal deadline. If she wins, Stanart said, her name would appear on the November general election ballot unless she becomes ineligible by moving out of the county, being deemed mentally incompetent by a court, being charged with a felony or dying.

That was followed this morning by a statement, which I also received, that reads, in full, “Despite published reports to the contrary, I have, in fact, suspended my reelection efforts and I am not conducting a campaign.” That, I suppose, clears that up, but there’s still the fact that she’s on the ballot. Like I said yesterday, if her name is on the ballot she can still win the runoff, and thus be the nominee in November. If she withdraws at that time, Democrat Sherri Cothrun wins by default. If she tries some kind of evasive maneuver by claiming to be a resident of another county, which would allow for a replacement candidate to be selected a la Tom DeLay’s “I’m a Virginian” scam in 2006, you can be certain it will wind up in court.

(By the way, remember when Greg Abbott filed an amicus brief on DeLay’s behalf in that fiasco? Good times, good times.)

“If your name is on the ballot, you can win, on a technical basis, yes, that is technically possible,” said Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill. “The question would be: Is she going to run a campaign?”

Nice try, Jared, but “technically” winning is the same as winning. Feel free to make that argument in court if it comes to that. As Mark Jones says, y’all better hope she loses in May, because it gets messy for you otherwise.

Pratt resigns

Good riddance.

Judge Denise Pratt

Under investigation by Harris County prosecutors for dismissing hundreds of cases without notice, embattled family court judge Denise Pratt resigned Friday, abruptly ending her re-election bid.

The freshman Republican jurist campaigned as a conservative advocate for children and families, touting her unique policy of keeping boyfriends, girlfriends and lovers of recently divorced litigants away from children. While a bevy of Houston-area lawyers and families who have rallied against Pratt challenged that claim, the Baytown native defended her record Friday in a statement that said her departure from the 311th state District Court was due to the damage that “relentless attacks by my political opponents” were having on the court, the local Republican Party and her family.

“I cannot, in good conscience, allow it to continue,” she wrote on her campaign website. “My goal has always been to serve the children and families of Harris County, but I won’t sacrifice my family’s well-being any longer to continue to serve as judge. … I don’t want to see my party, which I have worked to build, dragged down by the media circus.”

[…]

On Friday, Pratt critics said they were elated by the resignation, but also frustrated that she continues to deny wrongdoing.

“Instead of taking responsibility for her actions, she’s blaming people like me, when all the lawyers want are judges who show up to work and follow the law and treat people fairly,” Enos said. “Had she done that, she wouldn’t be in this position.”

See here for all the previous entries. I received a copy of Pratt’s statement on Friday, and it’s an epic miasma of whiny self-pity; I’ve pasted it beneath the fold so you can experience it for yourselves. Putting all partisan considerations aside, this is good news. Her incompetence and petulance were causing real problems for a lot of people, and her departure makes the judiciary better overall. I’m glad to see her service come to an end.

That said, as the story notes the deadline to withdraw from the ballot for the runoff was two weeks ago, so despite her resignation she could still be the nominee in the 311th District Family Court. If she manages to win the runoff against Alicia Franklin and then withdraws from the race, Democrat Sherri Cothrun will be unopposed in November. I’m thinking that might cause a bit of a hubbub in the media – if she really wanted to avoid any circuses, she should have submitted her resignation before the March 12 deadline for the runoff. Given Pratt’s refusal to admit any flaws on her part and her insistence that all the bad things we negative nellies have been saying about her are just dirty politics, one has to wonder what prompted this. One might speculate about the status of the latest complaint against her and the ensuing investigation. If we hear any news on that front, we’ll know. Beyond that, as I said I don’t really care. A bad judge is stepping down. That’s what matters. See below for her statement, and Texpatriate has more.

(more…)

Still more from the Pratt files

What a mess.

Judge Denise Pratt

Embattled family court judge Denise Pratt, under investigation again this year by the Harris County District Attorney’s office, was removed from five more cases on Thursday by a visiting senior judge who criticized the freshman jurist’s recent decision to make a final ruling in a child custody case without hearing any testimony or evidence.

“It’s pretty fundamental for judges that, in order to rule, you must hear evidence,” retired Harris County Civil Judge Sharolyn Wood said during a hearing at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center. “I don’t know if that is due process under the Bill of Rights, but to me, it’s pretty durned important – OK? – that we in our system have judges that hear evidence before they rule.”

In the case in question, Pratt on Dec. 30 modified the terms of a temporary court order – to which both parties had agreed – without hearing any evidence, then finalized it by scratching out the word “temporary” with a pen and writing “final” above it. As a result, the case officially was closed and the 34-year-old mother effectively lost her right to visit her two children, something the opposing lawyer in the case acknowledged was not his client’s intention.

Houston lawyers Ed Chernoff and Anna Stool, who is representing the mother in the case, told Wood they recently had been interviewed by the district attorney’s office about the case as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into Pratt and expressed concerns about the impact that could have on her impartiality.

[…]

In a video on her campaign website, Pratt, who is running for re-election this year and will appear on the ballot in a May 10 runoff election, explains that “things are handled a little differently in the 311th court than any other family court. When someone files for divorce who has children and they request a temporary restraining order that orders that the parents not have their children around their girlfriend, boyfriend, lover or paramour from 10 p.m to 8 a.m., we changed that to read, ‘You are not to have your children around your girlfriend, boyfriend, lover or paramour at all.’ Not only are the parents still married, the children are not ready.”

Stool, though, said Thursday that she made it clear during a meeting last year with Chernoff and Pratt in the judge’s chambers that the mother and her fiancé were engaged and planning to marry soon, which they since have. The former federal prosecutor said barring the fiancé from seeing the children after that “implies terrible wrongdoing on my client’s part and on her now-husband’s part. So, now we have a husband that she lives with in a home where the two children can’t go.”

The runoff is May 27, not May 10 – that’s the date of the SD04 special election. I’ve noted this particular case before, and you can go here for the full Pratt experience. You lawyers out there – this isn’t normal, right? Surely Pratt is an outlier among judges. I have to believe that. Normally one would expect an incumbent that could only muster 30% in a multi-candidate primary would be in trouble for the runoff, but Pratt stil has plenty of establishment support, so who knows what will happen in May. Just remember that Democrat Sherri Cothrun will oppose whoever comes out of that race. One way or another, you’ve got a chance to vote Pratt out.

Judge Pratt update

The most embattled Family Court judge in Harris County is still on the ballot, in case you were wondering.

Judge Denise Pratt

Embattled state District Court Judge Denise Pratt, accused of falsifying court records to cover up tardy rulings, intends to remain on the ballot to face the voters, her lawyer says.

In late October, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office filed a criminal complaint against Pratt, alleging she falsified court records in an effort to cover up tardy rulings. A Webster family lawyer filed a similar complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

County Republicans have said they are awaiting the outcome of a grand jury investigation before taking any action against Pratt, such as asking her to step aside.

But it may be a moot point. Today is the filing deadline for candidates, and candidates have only until Tuesday to withdraw from the ballot.

Pratt denies any wrongdoing and has no plans to withdraw from the ballot, her lawyer Terry Yates said Friday.

“She did nothing improper or illegal,” he said.

Pratt’s clerk resigned after allegations surfaced that the judge altered and backdated court records to make it appear that she issued rulings and filed documents sooner than she actually did.

Yates confirmed that the criminal complaint against Pratt is under review by a grand jury and said his client is “cooperating fully.”

If the grand jury does not come to a conclusion in time for the advisory board to act, Woodfill said voters will have their say. As of Friday, Pratt had garnered one Republican primary opponent, Donna Detamore.

That story was from Monday, so it’s up to the voters now. Thanks to a couple of late filings, they now have even more choices.

Embattled state District Court Judge Denise Pratt had garnered four challengers in next year’s GOP primary election by the filing deadline on Monday.

A complaint against the Republican freshman judge that led to the resignation of her lead clerk and an investigation by the Harris County District Attorney’s office is being reviewed by a grand jury. The complaint was filed with the DA’s office and the state Commission on Judicial Conduct by Webster family attorney Greg Enos.

As of Friday, only lawyer Donna Detamore had filed to run against Pratt. By 6 p.m. on Monday, though, lawyers Alicia Franklin, Anthony Magdaleno and Philip Placek had also joined the 311th District Court race.

Republican politico and lawyer Gary Polland, whose endorsements are considered key to GOP primary wins, said last week he would endorse Franklin if she filed. He endorsed Pratt during her first run in 2010, but said he would not do so again because he considers her a “political liability.”

Pratt, however, says she will not withdraw from the ballot and flatly denies the allegations being made against her.

“I’m sure you have heard the rumors that are being spread by the Democrats and the liberal media,” Pratt wrote in an e-mail sent Monday to GOP precinct chairs. “I wanted to take this time to let you know that the allegations brought against me by the Democratic faction are false. I am a conservative Judge and because of my principles I am being attacked. I have already filed to run for re-election as judge of the 311th Family District Court, and will not let the underhanded political tactics by the Democrats keep me from doing my job.”

And I’m sure the Commies are out to get you, too, Judge Pratt. At least until the District Attorney decides whether or not to charge you with official misconduct. For the record, Sherri Cothrun is the Democrat running for the 311th Family District Court in November. Cothrun was a candidate for the 246th Family District Court in 2010, and she is law partner to Rita Lucido, the Democratic candidate for SD17. I’d advise Judge Pratt to be more concerned about facing a quality opponent like Sherri Cothrun than anything the media might report about her.

If Judge Pratt wins the nomination and then subsequently withdraws for whatever the reason, she could not be replaced and the Democrat would be unopposed; this is the one thing for which we can be thankful to Tom DeLay, since he firmly established that fact in 2006. We’ll see what the grand jury has to say, as I presume their verdict will have a large effect on that.

See here, here, and here for the background. For what it’s worth, I recently asked a friend of mine who practices family law what he thought about Judge Pratt. My friend confirmed all of the things we have heard so far about her courtroom demeanor and management. It’s probably fair to say she’s not well liked by the lawyers that appear before her.

Speaking of the lawyers, the story adds this little tidbit:

The political situation would appear to put local Republican Party leaders, including Woodfill, in an awkward position.

Since last year, Pratt has appointed Woodfill to cases for which he has made nearly $10,000. He is not the only lawyer and Republican Party leader Pratt has appointed to cases in her court since taking the bench in 2011.

According to information obtained under the Texas Public Information Act, former party chairman Gary Polland, whose endorsements are considered key to judicial GOP primary wins, has made more than $79,000 in legal fees from appointments by Pratt. Lawyer George Clevenger, chairman of the party’s finance committee, has made more than $114,000.

Judges giving appointments to lawyers with whom they have political or other ties long has been the subject of controversy.

You could say that. It’s why Gary Polland is such a fierce opponent of the Harris County Public Defender’s office as well – he makes a ton of money from appointments, so having a public defender cuts into his bottom line. Just something to keep in mind.

Endorsement watch: Family Court judges

Ten more benches, ten more endorsements, only this time the score is 8-2 Democrats:

245th Family District Court: Janiece Horn, a Democrat, is our choice for this open bench.

246th Family District Court: Sherri Cothrun, the Democratic challenger, says she would bring a more “contemporary perspective” to this bench than the 16-year incumbent.

280th Family District Court: Kathy Vossler, the Democratic candidate, is our choice for this open bench, which has been designated to handle family violence cases.

308th Family District Court: Bruce Kessler, the Democratic candidate, would bring sensitivity and thorough knowledge of the law to this open bench.

309th Family District Court: Bill Rice, the Democratic candidate, would bring 35 years of family law practice experience to this bench.

310th Family District Court: Judy Dougherty, the Democrat, is our choice for this bench.

311th Family District Court: Deborah Wright, the Democratic candidate for this open bench, has extensive experience in private practice and as an associate judge in the family courts.

312th Family District Court: Robert Hinojosa, the Democratic incumbent on the 312th bench, is a veteran of 36 years of family law practice.

And here are their Q&A responses:

Janiece Horn (note: from the primary)

Sherri Cothrun

Kathy Vossler

Bruce Kessler

Bill Rice

Judy Dougherty

Janiece Horn emailed me last night to say that she will send her updated responses shortly. I have not received responses from Deborah Wright or Judge Robert Hinojosa. Responses from the two Democratic candidates who did not get the Chron endorsement are here:

Mary Kay Green, 247th Family Court (note: from the primary)

Sandra Peake, 257th Family Court

You can see Q&As for the Republican candidates at Big Jolly Politics.

Judicial Q&A: Sherri Cothrun

(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?

I am Sherri Cothrun and I am running for election as Judge of the 246th Family District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 246th Family District Court has jurisdiction over matters including divorces, division of marital property, child custody, adoptions, paternity, termination of parental rights, cases involving Children’s Protective Services as well as enforcement proceedings relating to child support and possession (visitation) orders.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I will bring a more contemporary perspective to this court that reflects my greater understanding of the realities the families of Harris County are facing in today’s world. This includes the reality that the poor and middle classes are not receiving the legal assistance they need to pursue their family law cases. This is an equal access to justice issue that affects both self represented litigants and those who have legal counsel.

Issues relating to step and blended families are increasingly prominent at the Family Law Center and I believe, as a step mother for the last 13 years, I have unique insight into the complex dynamics of these relationships that will be beneficial as a Judge.

I have a greater understanding and practical experience with the technology of today and will move the court into the 21st century with electronic filing capabilities and a comprehensive court website with forms and tutorials to address the increasing number of self representing litigants and increase the access to justice for all before the court.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have litigated, mediated and arbitrated family law cases in Harris County for 29 years. I am a Board Certified Family Law Specialist and a member of the Texas Academy of Family Law Specialists and the Gulf Coast Family Specialists.

5. Why is this race important?

The Judges in family courts decide the most basic personal issues of family life: where your children live; the financial obligations of each parent in raising the children and the division of your property accumulated during the marriage, just to name a few. The families of Harris County deserve judges who know and will follow the law and will consider the individual facts and circumstances of each family. With a national divorce rate of approximately 50%, these may be the courts that will affect the most people and, most importantly, our children. I encourage all voters to become informed and take the time to research the candidates by checking their campaign web sites (www.cothruforjudge.com) and attending upcoming events at which they can meet the judicial candidates in person.

6. Why should people vote for you?

The families of Harris County need a judge who is familiar with the technology of today, understands the issues of step and blended families and the growing problem of equal access to the courts and who is committed to a diverse and multilingual staff which will reflect the diversity of our county and will improve the trust and confidence in our judicial system. I will be that Judge.