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Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3

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  • Mark Bennett (L)

  • John Granberg (D) Attorney

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    Bert Richardson (R) Senior Judge, Of Counsel to LM Tatum PLLC, Adjunct Professor St. Mary's University Law, Sports Photographer

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Biographical Information

Length of residency in Texas:

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? If so, please explain:

Have you ever been involved in any civil lawsuits or declared personal or professional bankruptcy? If so, please explain:

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

What judge or attorney do you most admire and why?

Why are you running for this office?

Why should voters choose you over your opponent?

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)?

What do the many DNA-proven exonerations say about weaknesses in the Texas justice system and how should the court address that?

What changes, if any, would you like to see made to the administration of the death penalty in Texas?

This court has a reputation for being tough on crime, sometimes unreasonably so. Is this reputation deserved?

Describe what you see as the proper temperament for a judge.

For appellate court incumbents (if applicable), what's the average time it takes from the time a case is filed to when it is disposed of in your court?

If you have been a judge in a county or appellate jurisdiction, what was your reversal rate?

Is there a problem with the availability or quality of legal services provided indigent defendants in this state? If so, how would you seek to address it?

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 all lawyers take requires them to say that “we will avoid the appearance of impropriety.” In light of that, how can judges justify accepting campaign contributions from lawyers who have appeared or may appear before them in court?

The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
City/Town El Paso
Age 41
Campaign Phone Number (915) 253-2091
Fax Number 9155433201
25 years
Legal Practice
BA in Philosophy BA in Communication Studies JD in Law
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
Candidate for Justice of the Peace in 2006
Very little
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
No
No
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
To bring a different voice to the court. One that comes not only from a defense perspective, but from a border perspective. The demographic of Texas is changing and the interplay between criminal and immigration law will only become more important in the years to come. As a criminal defense attorney from a border region, I have firsthand experience with those issues. Experience which is really the tip of the spear in these issues that the rest of the state can benefit from.
I am uniquely qualified for the position. I have the temperament necessary to serve the Court and the citizens of Texas well. I bring a perspective to the bench that better reflects the changing demographic and values of Texans.
NA
No
It shows that our system of justice is a work in progress. Our system through no fault of its own, needs to catch up medical technology. As these DNA tests become cheaper to perform, money should be set aside to test cases in which DNA evidence exists to verify that no innocent Texans and being unduly, unfairly and unjustly incarcerated.
I would like to ensure that the accused had zealous representation at all stages of his case. Beginning with pretrial proceedings, to trial and ultimately through the appeals process. We must ensure than those charged with an offense punishable by death receive competent representation.
This Court is famously conservative. Perhaps it is a reflection of the values held by a majority of the state. However as Texans values and demographics change, I'm sure the Court will reflect that in the makeup of the Court as well as in the decisions it hands down.
I would say that a judge needs to be impartial, fair, and patient. A judge needs to let the attorneys have adequate time to present their cases to the jury, and must give the attorneys in that court his or her utmost attention. After hearing the arguments of counsel the public deserves a competent judge to make not only and impartial decision, but one that comports with existing laws and legal doctrine.
NA
NA
I would suggest that adequate funding be set aside to attract and retain competent litigators and ensure they have the resources necessary to present their case in chief on a level which matches if not exceeds that of the prosecution.
The Dallas Morning News did not receive a response from the candidate prior to the deadline.
I would support a separate ballot for the judiciary. One that omits their political affiliation entirely.
They can avoid the appearance of impropriety by making sound decisions in a transparent and consistent manner. It would also be wise to avoid closed doors and cronyism as well.
Address Unlisted
City/Town San Antonio, Texas
Age 61
Campaign Phone Number (210) 264-1710
Fax Number N/A
42 years
Senior Judge, Of Counsel to LM Tatum PLLC, Adjunct Professor St. Mary's University Law, Sports Photographer
St. Mary's University Law, J.D. Brigham Young University, B.S., Judson High School, Converse, Texas Fluent in Spanish
University and Local College Instructor 1996 to present. Frequent mentor of local college and high school students (including current State Bar President) National Mock Trial Judge for Annual Competition sponsored by St. Mary’s University Staff Photographer - Inside Texas Running & Texas Runner Triathlete, Contributing photographer – State Bar Journal, ESPN/Dyestat, Letsrun.com, Runnerspace.com Active in local church congregation, as teacher and public affairs committee member.
Frequent mentor of college and high school students (including current State Bar President) Pro bono assistance in 2004 & 2008 to San Antonio/New Zealand Olympian http://images.jw.com/com/publications/401.pdf http://images.jw.com/com/publications/966.pdf Guest Lecture UTHSC Department of Psychiatry on Expert Witness Testimony Frequent Lecturer San Antonio Police Department Academy 1998-2008 Annual Lecturer NISD Alternative Schools 1999-2008 Active in Booster Club and Sports Programs, including school sports photographer at Ronald Reagan High School 2002-2006 Assistant Photo Editor Yearbook BYU 1981-82 Church Mission to Argentina 1976-1978 High School Photo Editor 1973-74 Alternate Congressional Appointment USAF Academy 1974
Judge 379th District Court, Bexar County, 1999-2008. Senior Judge, State of Texas, 2009 to present.
About $35,000
Bill Nash, Civil Attorney, San Antonio, Pat Hancock, Attorney, San Antonio, USAA PAC (and several others at same amount)
No
My wife reported a colleague in 1999 for running a personal business out of a government office on government time with government equipment. He sued both of us as an intimidation tactic, but he never made any appearance in court and the case was dismissed.
As a newly promoted lead prosecutor of a trial court and supervisor of several attorneys, I inherited a backlog of 40+ murder cases in the late 1990’s. San Antonio led the nation in violent crimes during that time period. My job was to dispose of those cases, supervise the attorneys handling them (in addition to hundreds of other cases) and delegate the cases based on the complexity and experience of the lawyers. By time I was offered a job as an Assistant United States Attorney in 1998 they were all cleared by way of trials or plea agreements. One of those prosecutors I supervised was later appointed to be a judge and the other is a Major Crimes Chief at the US Attorney’s Office.
Judge Sid Harle. I worked in his court for 4 years. He played a significant role in my appointment to the bench. He has the admiration and respect of lawyers on both sides of the bar, treats everybody with respect, understands the Rules of Evidence and knows and follows the law. His early and very difficult rulings in the Michael Morton case were instrumental in setting aside a wrongfully obtained conviction.
I was encouraged by several of my colleagues to run for one of the 3 vacancies. My father’s and brother’s military service has also been a great example of the importance of service to one’s State and country in my family. At this stage in my career, I am still young enough and have the desire to contribute my time and experience to the Court. More importantly, I am qualified for the position. As a lawyer, I obtained my Board Certification in Criminal Law in 5 years, in addition to trying all types of criminal cases as a trial lawyer and judge I have significant capital experience and worked exclusively on appeals for over 2 years. As a Senior Judge I have spent the last 5 years presiding over a variety of complex cases that are currently before the Court of Criminal Appeals and that have required significant writing.
Keeping in mind this is the State’s high criminal court and not a trial court, I am the most qualified for this position. I believe I am the only candidate for this position that has a combination of significant capital and appellate experience as a practicing lawyer and judge and that is Board Certified in Criminal Law (less than 2% of lawyers are certified in this area). As an elected judge in Bexar County I was consistently ranked at the top of local Bar Polls for knowledge of the law, work ethic and judicial demeanor. As a Senior Judge I receive a steady stream of judicial assignments for routine matters (both civil and criminal) and high profile cases across the State. I have never had a trial verdict reversed by an appellate court. I have taught at the local colleges and law school for over 15 years and consistently receive high marks on all of my student evaluations.

Two by inmates that were dismissed without any hearings, following my written responses and providing the record of the proceedings.
No
DNA exonerations are not unique to the Texas justice system. What it says is that advances in science, not previously available during a trial, can right a wrongful conviction based on evidence previously considered reliable and legally admissible (such as eye-witness testimony). It says our system is not infallible, that mistakes can happen, but also that in many cases, those wrongful convictions can be corrected. It is not and has never been a perfect system.
Based on my experience as a State & Federal prosecutor, trial judge in Bexar County and 40 other counties in Texas, there is no consistency in deciding when the death penalty should be imposed in the State system. In the federal system, although the decision process is longer, a panel of qualified individuals in DOJ reviews each case and makes recommendations on whether the death penalty should be sought given the facts of the case and the background of the defendant.

A reputation of being tough on crime would more appropriately lie with the local DA, juries, or the trial court (the judge specifically). Those are the parties in the criminal justice system that dictate the punishment imposed on defendants. Whether the TCCA has a reputation as a pro-prosecution or pro-state court might be a more accurate question. As a general rule I would agree that the court has a reputation of being pro-state.
Because this is an appellate court bench, the interaction between the judges and lawyers is limited; nevertheless, it is my opinion that all litigants and parties in my court should be treated with respect and dignity (that would include inmates). I believe lawyers should have the opportunity to present their cases and have the judge rule fairly, consistently and intelligently on the matters presented to the court. As an elected judge in Bexar County I was consistently ranked at the top of local Bar Polls for knowledge of the law, work ethic and judicial demeanor.
N/A
I have been a judge since September of 1999, since that time I have never had a trial verdict reversed. In those 14+ years I have had 2 cases abated for additional evidentiary hearings (based on pre-trial rulings). One of those hearings has taken place and my original decision was affirmed. In the second case I awarded attorney's fees to the mother in a child custody dispute, that is still pending. In other words I have a very low reversal rate (significantly less than 1%)
I have presided in 40 counties in the last 5 years. Many of the counties are very small. In many of those counties there is a problem with the quantity of lawyers able to provide quality services for both indigent defendants and defendants able to retain attorneys. I currently preside over prison dockets across the State. Those are crimes committed by inmates, guards, or civilians on prison property. The State has a specialized unit that represents many of those defendants, that works very well. Some counties have funding available for a Public Defender’s Office or contract with a defender service. That system works best, in conjunction with judges appointing qualified lawyers from a list approved by the courts when the PD is conflicted.

Both of my parents are Republicans (my father is deceased). I was raised in a close-knit military family and lived all over the world. My father was frequently gone for extended periods of time as a fighter pilot, including a year in Vietnam and for months at a time during the “Cold War.” The values he instilled in me and my religious upbringing and education were more in-line with the conservative values in the Republican party, but both parents taught me the importance of respecting others' religious and political beliefs. I was appointed to the bench by a Republican Governor. At the time I was appointed and subsequently elected judges in Bexar County were elected based on qualifications and local endorsements rather than party affiliation.
After receiving almost every major endorsement (from newspapers, law enforcement groups and lawyers) and being ranked at the top of most bar polls, I was a “victim” of a partisan sweep as an elected judge, so I am of the opinion that there has to be a better way to select our judges. However, the party in power is rarely motivated to change the system. Since 2008 in Bexar County there have been “judicial sweeps” in each election. In San Antonio the elections for judicial positions have been referred to by members of the media as a “Judicial Lottery.” Even for this race at the State level, most average voters have no idea what the TCCA does, or the qualifications needed to do the job. I would be in favor of a different system in order to attract the most qualified candidates for the bench.
In large part, because the legislature still requires judges to run in partisan elections, it is the only way to get elected, unless one is willing to bankroll their entire campaign. In the TCCA race, few if any of my contributors will ever appear before the TCCA. The contributions for this race are minimal compared to other judicial races. In those instances where lawyers contribute and appear before judges, it is important that judges give all lawyers the opportunity to present their cases and have the judge rule fairly, consistently and intelligently on the matters presented to the court.