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Criminal District Court 291

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    Jennifer Balido (R) Judge

  • Stephanie N. Mitchell (D) Assistant District Attorney

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Biographical Information

Length of residency in Dallas County:

Occupation/main source of income:

Education (include all degrees):

Highlights of current civic involvement/accomplishment:

Highlights of past civic involvement/accomplishment:

Previous public offices sought or held:

How much funding have you raised for your campaign?

Who are your top three contributors?

Have you ever been arrested or involved in any criminal proceedings or civil suits? If so, please explain:

What is an example of how you led a team or group toward achieving an important goal?

Which current or former judge do you most admire and why?

Why are you running for this office?

Why should voters choose you over your opponent?

Define and describe your view of a judge’s appropriate temperament.

As a lawyer or judge, what types of cases have you typically handled?

As a judge (if applicable), have any complaints been filed against you to with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct? If so, please explain the disposition of those complaints.

As an attorney, have you had any grievances filed against you with the State Bar of Texas? If so, what was the disposition (unfounded, private reprimand, public reprimand, suspension, disbarment)?

Because Texas selects its judges and justices through partisan elections, you chose to run as a Republican, Democrat or member of another political party. What philosophies of that party led you to choose it for this race?

Do you support our system of electing judges in partisan contests? Or would you favor moving to a different system, such as one where judges are appointed and then run later in non-partisan retention elections?

The Supreme Court oath that lawyers take requires them to say they “will avoid the appearance of impropriety.” In light of that, should judges accept campaign contributions from lawyers who have appeared, or may appear, before them in court?

What is your personal view of the death penalty and, if applicable, how will that view affect the way you handle cases in your court?

What specific innovations would you implement in your court to improve its efficiency?

The district attorney’s office has sought to bring defendants to trial more quickly, especially for repeat offenders on lower-level charges, to clear them from the system and reduce stress on the county jail. What is your view of speeding the pace in this way?

23 years, 3 months
Judge, 291st Judicial District Court
Texas Tech University School of Law, J.D. awarded, December 1990; University of Texas at Austin, B.A. in English awarded, August 1987; Midland High School, Honor Graduate, May 1983.
Presiding Judge, Criminal Court Central Jury Room (elected by fellow Criminal District Judges), Dallas Adult Community Supervision and Corrections Department Audit Committee, Judicial Staff Salary Board, Search Committee for Dallas County Auditor, Dallas Bar Association--Criminal Law Section and Courthouse Committee; I also supervise an after-care problem solving court that supervises probationers recently released from the Dual Diagnosis Clinic of the John C. Creuzot Judicial Treatment Center.
Texas Bar Foundation, Elected Fellow 1998; Dallas Bar Association: Criminal Law Section, Secretary 1995 and Vice-Chair 1996, Corporate Counsel Section, Board of Directors 2005; Mock Trial Coach, Hillcrest High School 2004-2006, Ursuline Academy 2007-2012, Bishop Lynch High School 2013; Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association; Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association: Board of Directors 2000, elected Secretary 2001; Dallas Young Lawyers Association: VoTexas Voter Education Program Chairperson for Sunset High School; Greater Dallas Crime Commission; United States Organization for Bankruptcy Alternatives: Legislative Committee, 2004-2005; Junior Leagues of Texas: State Public Affairs Committee; Junior League of Dallas: Coordinator for 75th Anniversary Gift of Victim’s Waiting Room at Frank Crowley Criminal Courts Building; Texas Stampede: Sponsor Liaison for Rodeo benefiting Children’s Medical Center and the Pediatric Programs UT-Southwestern, 2003 and 2005; Interfaith Housing Coalition: Project Manager, Renovation of Children’s Area, Board of Directors 1998; Habitat for Humanity Homebuilder; YMCA Soccer Coach (Pre-K and K); 6th Grade Girls Volleyball Coach, St. Monica School; Walnut Hill PTA Vice-President of Membership 2003. Ursuline Parent Board, Sophomore Class Representative.
Candidate for Justice, Fifth District Court of Appeals at Dallas, lost 2012 Republican Primary; Appointed Judge, 203rd Judicial District Court, lost 2010 General Election; Candidate for Judge, County Criminal Court #6, lost 2006 General Election after winning Republican Primary and Run-Off Election; Candidate for Judge, County Criminal Court of Appeals #2, lost 1998 Republican Primary.
$800; my first fundraiser is scheduled in September.
Willie Ingram, Peter Barrett, and the Dallas Police Association.
While I was in law school, I was arrested on a warrant that was issued when I did not pay a traffic ticket by the stated deadline. I spent approximately 4 hours in jail. The warrant was not valid—I had paid the ticket approximately 30 days before I was arrested, but no one pulled the warrant off the computer.

While employed as an Assistant Public Defender in Dallas County, I was sued for civil rights violations by a former client, along with the presiding judge and the assistant district attorney assigned to the case. The case was resolved by summary judgment granted against my former client.
When I became judge of the 203rd Judicial District Court in 2009 and the 291st Judicial District Court in 2013, I became the leader of a group of people with competing interests--prosecutors, public defenders, private defense attorneys, probation officers, clerks, a court coordinator and court reporter. Many people would have come in and "reinvented the wheel" by having people reassigned or letting people go. I have been lucky in both instances that the judges that preceded me ran very efficient courts with very talented and experienced personnel. I stepped in and let people continue to do their jobs under my new leadership, but without my interference. The transitions have been smooth, and both courts have proven to be some of the most efficient in the criminal courthouse.
I try to model myself to be a judge like Justice Lana Meyers of the Fifth District Court of Appeals. She is hardworking: there is hardly a day that she is not in the office or on the bench hearing oral arguments. She has a working knowledge of both trial and appellate law that makes arguing appeals before her a pleasure. She is fair and impartial. As a trial judge she “actively” listened to the witnesses and the attorneys and tried to make the right decision in each case based on the facts, the applicable law, and the unique situation of those parties in that particular case. Justice Meyers does the same on the appellate bench--she actively listens to the arguments before her, asking questions when appropriate, trying to get to the heart of the matter. I have found that, if a judge actively listens to participants in a case, looking the attorneys and witnesses in the eye, asking questions and making notes when appropriate, the participants know that they are being heard, and they are satisfied with the outcome, even if the decision does not go their way.
I have run for county criminal court, appellate court and criminal district court, but I truly believe that the criminal district bench is where I should be. In the 291st, I know I make a daily impact in the lives of the people that come to that court. Every day, I am faced with decisions that affect lives of victims, defendants and witnesses, as well as society in general. I enjoy listening to both sides of a case and making the best decision based on the law and the facts. My personality is suited to the job, and I think I have a good judicial temperament. I am fair, but tough; I let the probationers out of my court know what I expect of them, and they know that they can always walk through the door of the courtroom if they have any problems. I believe that my legal experience and community activism has prepared me to serve be a fair and impartial judge and treat all parties that come into my courtroom with respect.
Voters should choose me over my opponent because of my experience--not just the quantity, but the quality of my experience. I have been a prosecutor and a defense attorney. I have trial experience and appellate experience. I am the only person in this race that has actually tried a capital murder in which the State of Texas was seeking death and handled death penalty appeals. That is important because the 291st Judicial District Court is a court that can be assigned capital murder/death penalty cases, and I believe you should have tried one before you preside over one. As an attorney, I have tried over 150 jury trials to a verdict, and I have presided as judge over approximately 30 jury trials. I am the most qualified candidate for this bench.
A judge should be respectful of all people in the courtroom and listen to their arguments. A judge should be respectful of the time of the interested parties, jurors and attorneys. A judge should be fair but firm, and let the parties try their cases the way they want, within the law. A judge should be as prepared as possible in regard to legal issues that may arise in a trial. When I was practicing law, the last thing I do to prepare for trial was to review the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Rules of Evidence, and the applicable case law to prepare myself of the various legal arguments and issues that may arise during the trial—a judge should be no different. If a judge treats the people in his courtroom with respect, she will gain the respect of the people in the courtroom.
In my over 23 years of experience as a lawyer and a judge, I have handled cases from traffic tickets to capital murder cases in which the State sought the death penalty. I have worked as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney. I was assigned as Special Prosecutor to prosecute various cases in different felony courts. As a lawyer, I have tried over 150 cases to a jury verdict, and handled hundreds of other cases that were resolved by plea bargain, dismissals, open pleas to judges or trials to the judge. As a Judge I have tried approximately 30 jury trials, and handled a docket of over 2500 cases. Additionally, I have authored and argued appeals to the various Texas Courts of Appeal, and I have had other appellate remedies considered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
No complaints have been filed against me with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct as Judge of the 291st Judicial District Court or as Judge of the 203rd Judicial District Court.
I have had approximately 5 complaints filed with the State Bar against me in my almost 15 years of criminal defense practice. All have been dismissed by the State Bar with no disciplinary sanctions.
I have been a Republican all my life, and I plan to always be a Republican. Since the Democrat sweep of 2006, many attorneys have encouraged me to run as a Democrat, but I have declined because I am a Republican. I believe in personal responsibility, limited government, taking more of my hard-earned money home to my family, keeping my family safe, free-enterprise, and a strong military. In my opinion, these are Republican philosophies, and that is why I am a Republican.
Judicial elections have served Dallas County well, as evidenced by the fact that, historically, Dallas County has enjoyed a very qualified judiciary. Of course, there are exceptions. Even having experienced first-hand the Democrat sweep of 2006, I still believe the electorate should choose a judge rather than a small committee. I do favor, however, the elimination of straight-party voting in judicial elections. Judges should be elected on their qualifications, not because they have a D or an R following their name on the ballot. Moreover, appointed Judges rarely are removed by retention elections because, except on rare occasions, it is hard to vote someone out of office when you don’t know who will be her replacement, so I do not favor that alternative.
Judges are elected in Texas, and elections cost money. Who else will fund judicial elections if not members of the Bar? That necessarily means that lawyers that appear in court on a daily or weekly basis will contribute to judicial campaigns. If a judge treats both parties fairly and has a good work ethic and knows the law, lawyers on both sides are going to want to keep that judge on the bench. There is nothing inappropriate about that. As long as a judge and an attorney follow the rule that there is no campaigning at the courthouse, and there is no indication in the judge’s decisions that contributions are affecting their judgment, there is no “appearance of impropriety”.
As a District Judge, I am sworn to uphold the laws and the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Texas. Texas has a Death Penalty statute, and if a Capital Murder case is filed in my court, I am sworn to follow the law and apply the law fairly. My personal opinion of the law has no bearing on the way I handle cases in my court. The best way to make sure that the death penalty is applied fairly is to preside over death penalty cases and therefore ensure that justice is done.
As a court staff, we are constantly looking at how we can improve the efficiency of our court. We look at our trial dockets weeks in advance to see if we can resolve the cases without the expense or time of a jury trial, through the use of trials before the court, agreed pleas, and open pleas. We move low-level offenders through the system as quickly as possible by locking in pleas of guilty and granting them release from jail when the plea bargain recommendation is probation, thus allowing them to have their pre-sentence interviews and drug and alcohol evaluations outside of jail instead of in jail.

One specific thing that could improve the efficiency in my court would be to get my holdover elevator back in working order. The elevators in the Frank Crowley Courthouse are under repair, and my holdover elevator that brings inmates from the jail to the courtroom has been out of commission since February. It has put a great deal of strain on our daily dockets, especially in relation to getting female inmates to the courtroom.

I also believe that efficiency of my court could be improved if the District Attorney's Office would assign one prosecutor to one defendant--for example, many times a defendant may have one case that is assigned to the prosecutor in the Organized Crime Unit, one case assigned to the prosecutor in the State Jail Unit, and one case assigned to the prosecutor who is assigned to my court. The defense lawyer must then coordinate his actions with all three prosecutors and get separate plea bargain recommendations from each before he can set the case for a disposition. This sometimes takes weeks to coordinate, when it could only take days if all the cases for one defendant was assigned to one prosecutor.

I would also like to see the probation department lessen the time it takes to prepare pre-sentence investigations and drug and alcohol evaluations for defendants incarcerated in the Dallas County Jail. A quicker turn-around time would allow for defendants being able to resolve their cases in a more timely fashion.

I am not aware of the District Attorney's Office having such a policy. I do not believe that our trial dockets should be clogged with defendants facing low-level cases when victims of violent and dangerous crimes are waiting (sometimes years) for their day in court. Moreover, I believe in trying the oldest cases first to try to clear the docket, and many of these low-level offenders would end up sitting in jail for more than the length of their potential sentences (or for the length of plea bargains they would accept) before they may be reached on the trial docket. In my experience, focusing on giving a trial to low-level offenders at the expense of more violent and dangerous ones is simply not an efficient way to move a trial docket.
Address P.O. Box 195464
City/Town Dallas, TX
Age 37
Campaign Phone Number (469) 458-0291
Fax Number N/A
6 Years
Felony Assistant District Attorney assigned to the Gang Unit of the Dallas County District Attorney's Office
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), BA Political Science University of Kansas School of Law (KU), Juris Doctorate
As a strong believer in the opportunity for civic engagement to empower individuals and uplift communities, I have participated, organized and led a number of service-oriented organizations, advocacy projects and social associations. One of the activities I am most passionate about is volunteering at various schools and organizations to speak about domestic violence, gang violence and the criminal justice system in Texas. I am also involved in the following:

-Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Alpha Xi Omega Chapter - Member; -Citizens Prosecutor Academy - Guest Speaker and Host; -Concord Missionary Baptist Church - Hospitality Ministry; -Dallas Bar Association - Member; -Dallas Black Prosecutors Association - Founding Member -Democratic Party - Member; -Preston Hollow Democrats - Member
-Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. (KU and UNC) - Secretary; -Black Law Students Association - President and Thanksgiving Food Drive Committee Chair; -Black Student Movement - Programs Chair; -Dallas Basketball Officials Association - Member and Official; -Dallas NAACP - Member; -Dallas Volleyball Officials Association - Member and Official; -Hispanic Law Students Association - Member; -Minority Business Scholars Program - Member/Scholarship Recipient; -National Pan-Hellenic Council - Member; -North Asian Democrats - Member; -University Interscholastic League - Member; -Urban League of Greater Dallas Young Professionals - Member
Approximately $30,000
Anthony Lyons; Edward Spears; Vervice Mitchell
I spearheaded a Thanksgiving Food Drive to feed underprivileged families in Lawrence, Kansas. In the past we were able to feed approximately 50 families, but it was both a personal and team goal to exceed that. I recruited a team of approximately 10 law school students. In an effort to get the student body and faculty involved, we organized a competition between the classes to see who could raise the most canned goods and money. The winning team received a prize. We also solicited the support of local businesses. I negotiated a discounted rate to purchase turkeys with the monetary donations collected. Another local business also donated us a truck to deliver the food to various shelters and families. After collecting all of the canned goods, we worked to organize the food so that each family received a balanced Thanksgiving meal with a variety of side dishes. We were able to feed over 125 families, making it the most successful food drive in the history of our organization, and we helped our community.
Even though I have deeply admired many judges during my tenure, Judge Carter Thompson's unwavering commitment to fairness has always stood out to me. Embodying a judicial temperament that is conducive to remaining calm, providing respect and avoiding anger, he encompasses the qualities necessary to appropriately bring about justice in our community. As the judge of the 291st Judicial District Court, I would approach each case with the same steadfast disposition and awareness.
I decided to run for the 291st Judicial District Court because I felt the citizens of Dallas County deserved more. A judge is a public servant and as such, should take a more active role in the community it serves by being involved regardless of it being election season. Involvement allows judges to be socially conscious and aware of what Dallas County needs. This bench needs a judge that will assess facts, not stereotypes and biased perceptions. Most importantly, this bench needs a judge that understands everyone has a story and deserves the opportunity to be heard. If elected, I will bring these ideals to the court and my candidacy provides voters with an option for change.
I bring a diverse perspective to the courtroom having worked as both a defense attorney and a prosecutor in multiple counties across the State of Texas. I offer voters a fresh outlook on the criminal justice and a multitude of ideas to improve the status quo. As judge, I will engage the community in the criminal justice system and work to start programs that will positively impact Dallas County. For example I would like to start a diversion program for young offenders between the ages of 17 and 23. A large percentage of those accused of criminal offenses fall within this age range, yet our criminal district courts currently do not have programs in place to service these cases. This is a pivotal age range and how these cases are handled set the tone for whether these individuals will receive a second chance to learn from their mistakes, or be in and out of prison for the rest of their adult lives. The program I would like to start will provide these young, first time offenders with mentors, substance abuse treatment if needed, resources to get an education and develop job skills. Upon completion of the program, their case would be dismissed in the hopes that they will return to the community as a productive citizen without the stigma of a felony conviction on their record.
A judge must be patient, and careful not to make a quick rush to judgment. He or she must carefully weigh all the facts before making a decision. Additionally, judges must treat people respectfully and equally regardless of their gender, race, religion or socioeconomic background.
Prior to starting my prosecutorial career in Navarro County, TX, I did civil litigation and criminal defense work. Over the past 7 years I have handled the disposition of over 10,000 criminal cases ranging from misdemeanor level offenses to first degree felony offenses and involving both defendants and victims of diverse backgrounds. As lead attorney, I have tried over 100 criminal jury trials on cases including but not limited to Murder, Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Robbery, Burglary and Stalking. I am currently assigned to the Gang Unit of the Dallas County District Attorney's Office and handle all cases involving documented gang members and/or gang violence. I also worked in the Felony Family Violence Division and have prior experience handling juvenile criminal cases. The 291st Judicial District Court presides over felony criminal cases, which is my area of expertise.
I am running as a Democrat because I am and have been a life-long Democrat. The Democratic philosophy of being open minded and progressive is something I firmly believe in. The criminal justice system is constantly evolving and it is important that our judiciary be both cognizant and adaptable to change.
There are pros and cons to both systems. The appointment system will never be void of partisanship because party affiliations and connections play a huge role in who gets judicial appointments. I favor the current system of partisan contests because it encourages citizens to get involved in the democratic process.
The judiciary affects the community as a whole, not just lawyers and the law allows you to collect contributions from both. I agree with the law and will not allow any contributions to impact my courtroom decision making.
The death penalty is the law in Texas under limited circumstances. It is up to the legislature to change that. As a judge, your oath is to follow the law and that is what I will do.
The timeliness and efficiency of case disposition needs improvement. When elected, I will put together a steering committee of criminal attorneys representing both the Defense bar and the State to establish time guidelines for passing cases based on the offense level and severity. Additionally, I want to establish a twice weekly trial docket, so in the event that the trial docket is disposed of at the beginning of the week, we have an opportunity to hear and/or dispose of more trials later on in the week. This will ensure that both those accused of crime and victims of crime will have their day in court in a timely manner.
The Constitution guarantees those accused of a crime, the right to a speedy trial, not the district attorney. The reason for this is to protect the accused's right to due process and equal protection under the law. Unnecessary delays can be harmful to all the parties involved because with the passage of time, memories fade, witnesses disappear, evidence can be lost and/or destroyed. Additionally, pre-trial incarceration deprives those accused of his or her freedom. I believe that it is incumbent upon the judge to make sure that the speed with which cases are resolved is efficient without depriving either side their right to a fair trial.