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Criminal District Court 265

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    Jennifer Bennett (D) Assistant District Attorney

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    Lisa DeWitt (R) Attorney and Mediator

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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?

Address PO Box 820862
City/Town Dallas, Texas 75382
Age 47
35 years
Assistant District Attorney for Dallas County District Attorney's Office
Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Old Dominion University Juris Doctor - Southern Methodist University
Law in the Schools and Community Committee – Dallas Bar Association E-Mentoring Committee – Dallas Bar Association Criminal Justice Committee 2014– Dallas Bar Association E-Mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters Judging various mock trials for both high school and law school students Various projects throughout the year with the district attorney’s office including team leader for Big Brothers Big Sisters, MADD, and others North Texas Crime Commission Member
Criminal Justice Committee – Dallas Bar Association Training at Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center Previous E-Mentor for DISD Habitat for Humanity Volunteer at Planned Parenthood
None
$68,940 as of July 2014
Kendall Law Group, Modjarrad & Abusaad Law Firm, and Tom Cox Attorney at Law
Not applicable
In January 2011, I took over the Sexual Assault Unit, a unit that handles all sexual assault cases with adult victims. I led the team to ensure that justice was served and that victims received guidance through the criminal justice system from indictment until the conclusion of the case. Based on my work, in 2011, I was recognized by the Crime Victim’s Counsel of Dallas County for outstanding services to crime victims.
I greatly admire Judge Barefoot Sanders, United States District Judge, who was from Dallas and served as a Federal Judge from 1979 until 1995. Judge Sanders was instrumental in helping to desegregate Dallas Public Schools. Judge Sanders was a hard working judge, he had a passion for the law, and was committed to serving his community. He was well respected by all who knew him.
I have always aspired to be a judge because I am committed to seeing that justice is done in the community. I have dedicated my 15 year career to public service and want to continue to do so. I have vast experience handling every type of felony case and as a judge, I would bring that knowledge to the bench to administer justice in a fair and impartial way. I will see that justice is served for those accused of crimes as well as victims of crime.
Experience and qualification. Felony district courts hear the most serious types of cases and make decisions that significantly impact lives on a daily basis. I am the only candidate who has handled every type of felony offense, supervised and trained other felony prosecutors, and who has taught both prosecutors and police officers. The Committee for a Qualified Judiciary is a non-partisan organization that reviews judicial candidates’ education, conducts interviews, evaluates temperament, and looks at a variety of other non-political factors to determine whether candidates are rated as qualified for the bench that they seek. In many races both candidates are rated as qualified. In my race, however, I am the only candidate rated as qualified by the committee (see results at QCJdallas.org).
Judges should conduct themselves in a professional manner. They should treat everyone with dignity and should respect everyone’s time. They must be fair and impartial, and always understand the appropriate role they have in the courtroom.
I have handled criminal cases for my entire 15 year career. I have tried every type of felony case from animal cruelty, domestic violence, sexual assault, murders, and capital murders. I have handled thousands more felony cases. I have been a felony court supervisor, head of the sexual assault division, and the intake and grand jury homicide liaison for the district attorney’s office.
Not applicable
None
I believe the Democratic Party stands for fairness and equity and that is what I believe in. I want to stop the revolving door we have with some non-violent criminals. Dangerous criminals need to be locked up, but some non-violent offenders, especially drug offenders, should be rehabilitated so they can become productive members of society. This helps them and also saves taxpayer money.
There are weaknesses with both elections and appointments. Judges should be selected based on abilities and qualifications, but changing from elections to appointments might not achieve that goal any better than the current system. Non-partisan retention elections could be a good way to keep qualified people on the bench and get rid of those who need to go.
In a perfect world, judicial candidates would not accept contributions from anyone who might appear before them, but running any type of campaign requires money. Judges must not allow contributions to affect their decisions and must always follow the law and do things fairly and justly. That is what I will do as my integrity is priceless.
The death penalty is not an efficient punishment. If used, it should only be for the very worst offenders. Regardless of my personal opinion about the death penalty as a judge I would follow the laws of the State of Texas.
The 265th is one of the least efficient courts, with many people waiting too long for their cases to be resolved. The best way to improve the efficiency of any court is to be proactive. This is done by taking the bench early, making sure attorneys for both sides take care of business, and not leaving until the work is complete. Hard work and diligence are what will reduce backlog and improve efficiency.
I am in favor of that so long as both sides are able to prepare adequately for trial and everyone understands that justice is the most important factor. Judges can bring the accused to trial more quickly and efficiently by being proactive.
City/Town Dallas, Texas 75206
Age 41
Campaign Phone Number (214) 893-6010
Fax Number 214 631-7378
Email Address lisa_dewitt@msn.com
I was born in Dallas in 1956 and lived here until 1982 when I moved to Waco to attend Baylor Law School. I was married in 1985 and remained in Central Texas until 1989 when I returned to Dallas.
Law Office of Lisa Dewitt
University of Texas –Arlington 1976-77 Abilene Christian University at Dallas 1975-1981 Bachelor of Science, with honors Baylor University School of Law 1982-1984 Juris Doctor Southern Methodist University 2005-2006 Mediation Certificate

Certified Anger Resolution Therapy Certification, 2008
Peer Selected Dallas Best Criminal Defense Lawyer (Mental Health) 2013, 2014 Board Member Log Cabin Republicans Dallas Chapter Foreman, Dallas County Grand Jury, Panel B-2
2010 Log Cabin Republican Courage to Lead Award Winner Enclave at White Rock Home Owner’s Association Board of Directors Enclave at White Rock Home Owner’s Association Architectural Control Committee White Rock Republican Women’s Club Board Member North Texas Crime Commission Member Conservative Hispanic Society Member Dallas County Grand Jury Foreman and Secretary St. Bernard of Clairvaux School Advisory Board, Athletic Committee, volunteer coach Positive Coaching Alliance Austin Street Center (formerly the Austin Street Shelter) Dallas Police Reserve
Sought: 292nd Judicial District Court (2010) Criminal District Court 2 (2012)
5350.00
Jose Noriega Glenn DeWitt Senator John Carona
No arrests. I have been the complaining witness in two criminal cases.

Burnice Wilson vs. Lisa DeWitt DC-03-11121 Dallas County, Texas Pro Se inmate sued claiming I had wrongfully disclosed information about him. Case was dismissed at the trial court. Mr. Wilson appealed to the Court of Appeals (Fifth District) and the ruling of the trial court was affirmed.

Prior to filing this suit, apparently Mr. Wilson sued me in federal court. That case was dismissed as frivolous and I was never served with any notice of it, but did learn of it in the above litigation.

Lisa Donaldson Bennett vs. Kenneth Robert Bennett DF-95-14853 Dallas County, Texas Divorce from first husband

Lisa DeWitt vs. Margaret O’Brien CC-09-00564-C Dallas County, Texas

I sued a former client for the balance of a fee one year after conclusion of divorce litigation. Client counter-claimed for DTPA, negligence, malpractice, and breach of contract among other things. Matter was settled at mediation with client paying all of the fee balance and a portion of my attorney’s fees.
I have served on the Dallas County Grand Jury five times, Each panel consisted of a diverse group of citizens from all parts of the county selected by a district judge. In the four terms I was appointed Foreman, I presided over a twelve citizen panel that heard tens of thousands of cases.
Justice Lana Myers is the judge I hold up as a role model. I was first acquainted with her when she was the assistant district attorney prosecuting a defendant who assaulted me. I found her to be a thorough and meticulous professional who cared deeply about her job and her community.

Over twenty years later, she is a thorough and meticulous justice who cares deeply about her work and community. Time on the bench has neither jaded nor entitled her. She is of the highest personal character and inspires those around her, including defendants, to aspire to the same high standards.
As a veteran of the Dallas County criminal courts, I see the need for judges with experience, independence and character. I have the breadth and balance of experience to be a qualified and independent judge. In over a quarter century of criminal law practice, I have been a County Attorney and Public Defender. I have been both appointed and retained to represent criminal defendants. I have been the victim of a felony crime and the Foreman of the Dallas County Grand Jury four times. A criminal district judge hears the most serious cases and makes the decisions that have the greatest impact on a community’s quality of life. I believe that if people of principle are unwilling to serve as judges, the criminal justice system will fail.
Voters should choose me over my opponent for three reasons: training, experience and independence.

I have been a member of the prestigious State Bar College since 2006. This means I have gotten at least double the amount of continuing legal education required each year. In addition, I have post graduate education and training in dispute resolution, conflict management and anger management. Most criminal cases are resolved by pleas rather than trials. I am a capable problem solver who will take an interdisciplinary approach to conditions of bond, conditions of probation and staff issues that arise.

In thirty years of practicing criminal law, I have experienced nearly every role of criminal cases. I serve on the grand jury when asked in order to continue gaining a perspective that is not afforded in my criminal defense practice. I have the experience of standing next to an accused citizen knowing that the quality of my work could affect his outcome more than his own conduct. I have had the experience of being a complaining witness and enduring cross-examination. Because of my experience in criminal defense practice, I will be able to recognize the quality of representation being afforded a defendant and intervene with resources to ensure an adequate defense.

Finally, I am independent. I have never been a Dallas County district attorney and have no allegiance to the scores of assistants who will likely remain there throughout the four year term. I have asked no sitting Commissioner for an endorsement or contribution to my campaign. Conversely, as a conservative, I am very much in the minority of the criminal defense bar and have never sought any leadership position in a criminal defense organization. Even in my own political party, I have taken a public stand against the portions of the platform I believe are wrong and should change, occasionally to my detriment. A judge must have training to know the law, discernment to apply the law and the character and independence to uphold the law, even though unpopular. For these reasons, I think voters should choose me.
A judge’s temperament is the way he conducts himself toward all court participants during court proceedings. He must set the standard for the way adverse parties conduct themselves toward each other by his example of courtesy, punctuality and availability. I believe a judge’s work ethic is a reflection of his respect for the public he serves.
In three decades of law practice, I have handled civil and criminal, appointed and retained cases. The majority of my litigation practice has been in criminal law. Most of my office practice has been in probate and elderlaw.
Not Applicable
Criminal law and family law are the two areas of legal practice that generate the most grievances. In criminal law, court appointed indigent defense by far outpaces retained matters. I have practiced felony indigent defense for close to thirty years and represented thousand of clients.

Despite those high odds, I have an unblemished disciplinary record. I believe this is because of the courtesy and respect I show to my clients and their families and the breadth of experience I have in the criminal justice system.
Personal Responsibility

Individuals taking personal responsibility for their own actions and a criminal justice system based on this idea. With freedom comes responsibility. All citizens have a right to be safe in their homes with the unalienable right to defend themselves.

Judicial Restraint and Rule of Law Philosophy Courts must strictly adhere to the Declaration of Independence, Texas and U. S. Constitutions and not legislate from the bench.

Honest Compassion A society assisting those in need rather than a government trying to solve every problem by with the expenditure of public funds and regulation.

Limited Government A government should promote policies to unlock individual potential . . . and does not try to be all things to all people.
Yes. I believe that an individual’s history of group affiliation and party preference is indicative of his core values and view of the world. The primary election process serves to have each party chose the candidate that reflects their beliefs. However, I would support two reforms in the election process. First, I would support removing would judicial races from straight ticket voting on the ballot. Second, I would support conducting judicial elections apart from representative and executive branch elections.
Campaign finance laws limit the amount lawyers may contribute to judges. The Canons of Ethics and Code of Judicial Conduct require that judges and lawyers alike avoid the appearance of impropriety to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Thus, no law or ethical consideration prohibits accepting campaign contributions from a lawyer who may appear before the court

I will accept no more than half of the amount permitted by law from any lawyer who may appear before me during any reporting period. In so doing, no lawyer can contribute so much as to distinguish himself from other contributors or reasonably cast doubt on impartiality. My campaign contributions come from a mix of family, friends and community leaders.
Polls have consistently shown that the overwhelming majority of Texans support the death penalty, and therefore their elected representatives in the legislature have made the death penalty a sentencing option for particularly heinous crimes. My role as a judge is to follow the laws enacted by the legislature and not use a position of public trust to further my personal views.

Many of those who oppose the death penalty do so in fear of wrongful execution. My experience in criminal defense has prepared me to ensure that a defendant facing the death penalty has all of the resources necessary to a vigorous defense.
My experience in the Dallas County criminal courts tells me that innovation, when it involves major change, is not the most effective way to increase efficiency. There are seventeen district courts with six different county departments in each that are necessary to accomplish most court functions. The judge can only control the judicial staff and work together with the other with the other departments. However, I do find that a court tends to be the most efficient when a judge and his staff are available and predictable. To that end I would: conduct pretrial hearings and announcements on the Friday ten days before the jury trial setting, hear bond matters between 8:30 and 9:00 each day, set all matters concerning defendants in Outpatient Competency Restoration at 1:00 on Wednesday, and, institute a Summons Docket on the first and third Thursday of each month for violations of community supervision (probation) that are technical in nature and that do not involve the allegation of the commission of a new criminal offense. Probationers would be summoned to court to provide an opportunity for compliance rather than summarily issuing a warrant and putting them in jail. The benefits of this for the court are a reduction in jail costs and attorney fees. The benefit for the probationer is not losing housing or employment. It is also an opportunity for the court to modify conditions of probation to increase the likelihood of successful completion of community supervision.
The cases in question are often misdemeanor offenses where enhanced felony punishment is possible, but not mandatory. When the District Attorney routinely seeks penitentiary punishment for misdemeanor offenses, the result is likely to be an increase in cases set for jury trials and the corresponding stress on the jail population. If more discretion was exercised at the Grand Jury level to discern which defendants would benefit more from community services than jail, there would be fewer jury trials.

A felony level mental health diversion court based on the successful model created by Judge Kristen Wade would have a greater impact on the jail and the community than speeding up the pace of prosecution. Many of these offenses are committed by defendants with chronic mental illness. Examples of these charges are theft and prostitution. It is an unfortunate fact that the Dallas County Jail is the largest mental health service provider in North Texas. Speeding up the pace of disposition only serves to grease the revolving door of recidivism for mentally ill offenders. I would funnel those offenders out of jail and into services pending trial. I have worked successfully with the Adapt Crisis Services and Transicare with the 1115 Medicaid Waiver Program to provide wrap around services in the community for many of my clients and know the benefits first hand. The added benefit of this approach is the opportunity to collect data on the need in the community for services that is currently provided in the jail at a much higher cost with less efficacy.