A busy campaign season means busy journalists, but recently members of the Press Club of Southeast Texas took time out to hear from some of the candidates for a local criminal judge’s post.
Democratic candidates Nathan Reynolds, Raquel West and Stella Morrison are all seeking to be their party’s nominee for the Jefferson County 252nd District Court. After the March 4 primary, the winner will face Republican Carolyn Drawhorn Weidenfeld in the November general election.
The 252nd is one of Jefferson County’s criminal courts, and all three candidates have experience in criminal law.
West has been an attorney for 18 years, and said that her entire practice has been devoted to criminal law.
Reynolds has both a business degree and a law degree, which he received from the South Texas College of Law. He too has been practicing criminal defense law for more than 18 years.
An attorney since 1974, Morrison has practiced law in Jefferson County as well as in Washington, D.C., and New York City.
In the past, there have been allegations of discrimination in the criminal court, and each of the candidates stated how they would assure residents that their court would not be biased.
“It is our job make sure that everyone’s rights are protected,” Morrison said.
Reynolds said our legal system protects defendants from bias by placing the burden on prosecutors to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As officers of the court, he said, judges have a duty to assure there is no bias.
The Texas Constitution and the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure spell out the guidelines a judge must use in making a decision, West said. If the codes are followed properly, there’s no room for bias, she said.
When asked if they believe Texas should continue to have judicial elections, rather than appointments as in many other states, each candidate said they did want to continue electing judges.
They agreed that while elections should continue, judicial office seekers should not have a political party affiliation.
The candidates also talked about the backlog in dockets, the indigent defense fund, the death penalty and other issues.