Surrounded by family, public officials and “high-dollar attorneys,” Jefferson County 58th District Court Judge Bob Wortham announced his candidacy for Jefferson County District Attorney on Wednesday.
“I’m going to make the (county) a safer place to live,” said Wortham, a Democrat, while addressing a crowd gathered in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont. “I’m going after the big cases.”
With experience as a trial lawyer, a civil court judge and U.S. attorney, Wortham said he has the success rate and experience needed to impact the District Attorney’s office in a big way.
To prove his point, the judge pointed to his accomplishment of changing the way timeshare pitchers did business nationally, saying his efforts impeded fraudulent mailings aimed at potential customers.
A day prior to Wortham’s Nov. 6 announcement, the current district attorney, Tom Maness, declared he would not run for an eighth term.
However, even though he will not be running against an incumbent, Wortham said he plans on campaigning with everything he’s got.
And if elected, Wortham promised that he would treat facts as facts, essentially ignoring political lines.
“I want to represent the people, not political action groups,” Wortham said, adding that he enjoys a broad section of support, which includes the backing from the police officers and firefighters standing with him to the “high-dollar attorneys over there.”
Wortham, 66, earned his degree in government in 1971 in the last graduating class from Lamar State College of Technology, which became Lamar University. He graduated from Baylor Law School in 1974.
He began his career as a Jefferson County assistant district attorney and, at age 31, was appointed to serve an unexpired term as judge of 60th District Court – the youngest district judge in the state.
Appointed by President Ronald Reagan, he served 12 years as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas before becoming a partner in the Reaud, Morgan & Quinn Law Firm.
Highlights of Wortham’s career as U.S. Attorney include successful prosecution of the drug-smuggling case against wealthy rancher Rex Cauble and the “Cowboy mafia,” including the first enforcement of a federal racketeering law passed years earlier; cases that brought about changes in the timeshare industry; enforcement of environmental laws; and bringing federal, state and local law enforcement agencies together in what became a national model.
As a state district judge, he worked to assist other judges with caseloads and led in developing a prototype for court scheduling orders that are now standard.
He is currently presiding over the 58th District Court. His term is set to expire in 2014.
Recently, Wortham served as the presiding judge in the Bartholomew Granger capital murder case. Granger was convicted of capital murder in a shooting death in front of the Jefferson County courthouse as he was about to go on trial in an unrelated sexual assault. The case was moved to Galveston County for trial, with Wortham presiding.
Assistant District Attorney Perry Thomas has stated he is interested in running for the DA's seat as a Republican, but he has not yet made a formal announcement.