You still have a few days left for early voting.  The lines are small and the weather is great so no excuse.  Voting early is easy.  Voting is your right and duty, so get out there and do it!  Take action on who will be in charge of your community, state and country.   The Democrats and Republicans parties are out doing what they should which is pushing for their candidates and a straight ticket vote.  I don’t vote straight ticket because neither party has every candidate that I support.  To be clear, I am fed up with both of the major parties. On the state and national level, each party talks about how the other will destroy the country, taxes will go up, morals will collapse, etc., etc. but it appears what the parties really want is to continue the status quo of making sure they get in office and stay in power.  If the politicians are really serious about doing what is best for our country they should do what all of us have to do – don’t spend more than you have –period.  Further if you pass a law you should have to live by it.  You want new health care for the country?  Great!  Dissolve your current government provided plan you enjoy and live under the program you enacted into law.  You want to change retirement fund regulations?  Then do the same for your plan.  Don’t tell us we have to cut back and be more conscious of our environmental footprint and then hop on your jet and fly around the country.  How about calling Southwest and booking a flight like the rest of us and really saving some money?   They won’t even charge you for all that baggage:>)   They will even set you up with a rapid rewards number where you will get to fly free after a few of your vacations- sorry fact finding missions.

So what does all this mean to us voters?  Look at the person not the party.  How many times to we have to see someone elected who is not qualified just because he or she is in the ——— party?  We have lost great people because they were voted out on a sweep in the judiciary by one party or the other.  I have heard people say that I don’t agree with everything they are doing, but they are better than the other party.  Stop!!  Why are we settling for they are not as bad as the other instead of demanding the best from our elected officials.  So when you are voting, before you pull that straight ticket – just think and look down the list.  Then ask yourself:  Do I want this person to decide my JP case? Do I want this Judge to be the one to decide my family’s case?  Who is this clerk and what do they want to do or change and what are their qualifications?   This brings me to Judges and their election.

In Texas we get to vote for our judges.  I am a firm believer that is the right way to go.  But it means you have to actually do some thinking before you vote.   Judicial candidates are almost always associated with some political party.  However;  I suspect most of them would prefer to just run on their qualifications if they could.  So each election we get to select judges based upon —-what??  If you don’t practice in front of them and/or know them you may get a sound bite here or there or a five minute speech at a meet the candidate event.  I have had the great privilege of being a trial lawyer for almost 25 years and have had cases before Courts around the country and specifically Fort Bend, Harris, Brazoria, and Wharton Counties.  There are some great judges and some great candidates for judges in races in these counties.  But how do you know who to vote for?  Ask a trial lawyer.  We are before the judges on a fairly regular basis and if we don’t know a judge we call around to anyone we know who has been before them before we go to a hearing or trial in that Court.  Why wouldn’t you do that before you vote to have someone make decisions which will impact you and your family for years to come?  I am constantly amazed when one of the parties put up a candidate who is technically qualified in that they are a licensed lawyer, but has virtually no trial experience.  Every lawyer has to start somewhere and get experience.  I am all for that and court room experience is something that can only be gained through time.  However we are not talking about hiring a lawyer.  We are talking about voting for a judge.  I firmly believe a candidate should have trial experience and should have practiced in the court (district, county, jp) that they hope to be elected to.  What do I look for in a judge?

If the candidate is an incumbent I want to know how they have ruled on motions.    Do they follow the law? Do they treat lawyers, court personnel, witnesses, juries, etc. with respect?  Do they move their dockets, but understand that justice can require continuances to make sure all the parties have adequate time to gather their evidence? Do they treat all parties equally? Do they use common sense along with the law? Do they allow lawyers to do their jobs representing their clients while following the rules of procedure?  What do other lawyers say about the judge?  Finally what is it about the current judge that causes you concern about their ability to continue?  If they are doing a good job why would you replace them simply to put someone from a different party in office?

If the candidate for judge has not sat on the bench previously I want to know how much trial experience they have?  Who knows them and what do those lawyers say about them?  How are they perceived by the lawyers they have tried cases against?  Do they know what they are doing?  If they tell you something can you believe them?  Do they have an agenda i.e. do they believe all personal injury cases should be thrown out or conversely that all personal injury claims are valid and should result in a recovery?  Do they believe that anyone charged with a crime is guilty and should be convicted or alternatively that most persons charged are probably wrongly charged and should be dismissed?    I believe judges should follow the law and apply it to the case in a fair and impartial manner.

Finally what is the candidate’s qualification to be a judge?  The fact that they have not been one before is not an issue.  Obviously until they are elected (or appointed) they will not have had that experience.  If you take all the other information gathered from lawyers that have been against them or worked with them you should have a good idea of their ability and qualification to be a judge.

In all this ranting, information, questions, etc. about how to select a judge did any of it come down to what their political party platform states? Why not?  Because I want a judge who is impartial and not going to decide a case on the party stance on an issue, but on the law and do so impartially and fairly  It seems kind of simple to me, but I am just a small town lawyer, what do I know.  Let me know your thoughts.