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Fifth Court of Appeals, Place 5

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    Ken Molberg (D) State District Judge, 95th District Court

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    Craig Stoddart (R) Justice, 5th Court of Appeals

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Biographical Information

Length of residency in this appellate district:

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 specific innovations would you advocate for the appeals court to improve its efficiency?

City/Town Dallas
Age 65
Campaign Phone Number (214) 544-0381
Fax Number n/a
Email Address
Youtube Channel
40 years and 6 months as of August, 2014
State District Judge, 95th District Court
Law Degree, Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, 1976; Bachelor's Degree, University of North Texas, Journalism, 1973
Most of my time outside the courthouse is spent as an active participant in professional legal organizations, such as the Dallas Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Center for the Judiciary, the American Board of Trial Advocates, and numerous other groups. I am a frequent speaker for legal education events, often involving trial practice, professionalism and ethics. For the past five years, I have served as a member of the State Bar’s Pattern Jury Charge Committee, which writes jury instructions that are widely used by judges throughout the state. I serve periodically as a visiting juvenile judge to do adoptions. I am involved in high school, college and law school mock trial programs. I am a judicial member of Dallas County's information technology committee at the George Allen Courts Building. I am an original founders' board member of the University of North Texas Dallas College of Law, and only recently hosted many members of its inaugural class as observers of proceedings in the 95th District Court.
On three occasions, my judicial colleagues elected me to serve as the Presiding Judge of all Dallas County civil district courts. As an attorney in Dallas for 33 years, I was an active participant in local politics and community groups, as well as in professional organizations such as the Dallas Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas, the American Board of Trial Advocates, and the like. I served on numerous boards or committees within these groups (e.g., the State Bar's Appellate Law, Litigation, Labor & Employment, and Judiciary sections), and also served as a speaker for many continuing legal education events, with sponsors such as the State Bar and the University of Texas School of Law. I was one of the founders and a past president of the Texas Employment Lawyers Association. I served as one of six members of the U.S. Fifth Circuit District Judges' Advisory Committee on Pattern Jury Charges in Employment Litigation. In the past, I have been on the boards of my local voluntary homeowners association and church school parent-teacher association.
Current State District Judge, 95th District Court, elected 2008, re-elected 2012
Approximately $130,000 as of the time of submitting this information
I have received donations large and small from nearly 250 citizens for this campaign thus far. These contributions include those from all segments of the legal profession. My campaign finance records are a matter of public record and are available at the Texas Ethics Commission website.
I was arrested around 1972 while I was in college for popping firecrackers within the city limits. I was a plaintiff in a civil proceeding as a result of being mauled on a public sidewalk by a loose dog.
In my role as a state district trial judge, I am often called upon to, among other things, lead adverse parties to a reasonable compromise short of a full-blown courtroom battle. In my role as a three-term presiding judge of all civil district courts in Dallas County, I was tasked with bringing together the views of 13 judges on important matters relating to associate judge selection, court security at the George Allen Courts Building, technological improvements in the courts, and budgetary proposals. In my pre-judicial career, as president of the Texas Employment Lawyers Association, for example, I was frequently in a position to lead a statewide group of attorneys to an important goal, whether it concerned "friend of the court" briefs, proposed rule changes, the content of pattern jury charges, and so on. This is a role I've played for many years.
Three individuals readily come to mind: U.S. District Judge Barefoot Sanders and State District Judge Merrill Hartman, both deceased, and former U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson, now Dean of the new UNT Dallas College of Law. In their judicial roles, these three possessed a keen and genuine interest in the parties and the cases that came before them. They understood the importance of those cases to the parties and their lawyers. They were decisive in a manner that was fair and just, and they knew the consequences of their decisions. All three were innovative jurists who understood people, possessed common sense, had deep legal knowledge, and recognized the value of the right to trial by jury in our constitutional framework. They understood that access to our courts by those of modest or little means was something that benefits us all. I will defer mentioning currently serving judges because I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to do so in my current position.
This court is one of the region's most important. When civil, criminal and family court cases are appealed in this district, the appeals court is the first, and often the last, recourse for those who believe they have received an unfair judgment from a lower court. Consequently, this court deserves a Justice who has a profound sense of fairness, a deep knowledge of Texas law, integrity, common sense and independence, as well as an unquestioned work ethic and significant judicial experience. With nearly 40 years of legal experience, and having twice been elected as a trial judge, I offer the voters a compelling choice.
The decision should come down to experience and track record. I am the only candidate in the race with experience as a trial judge, having presided over the 95th District Court since 2009. To me, prior trial court experience is a must for effective appellate court service. We often have too many generals who have never seen the battlefield. Before entering public service, I was in practice for over 30 years, with extensive experience in trial and appellate matters in our state and federal courts. As an attorney, I was a member of the Bar of the United States Supreme Court, the Fifth and Eleventh U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, numerous U.S. District Courts and all courts in Texas, including the Texas Supreme Court, where I appeared for oral argument several times. My temperament, strong work ethic and overall performance as a judge have been recognized by the legal community and my peers. My colleagues elected me three times to serve as Presiding Judge of all the civil district courts in Dallas County. In 2011 I was honored with the Trial Judge of the Year Award by the American Board of Trial Advocates.
I believe that judicial excellence is defined by three key components: a passion for the law, a broad base of legal and practical experience, and a profound sense of fairness. Good judges are avid students of the law. This is especially important for justices who are compelled to review trial court decisions and in some cases correct mistakes within the context of law. I also believe that a solid legal background, with extensive hands-on experience in the trial courts is critical. When you are reviewing the rulings of trial courts, it most certainly helps to previously have been a trial court judge. Most importantly, any judge or justice must make the concept of fairness the centerpiece of their work. This has to do with listening, making sure both parties are heard, setting the appropriate tone for the court, and following the law and applying it evenhandedly. Ultimately, society's faith in the justice system is at stake every time a ruling is made. It is a solemn responsibility requiring wisdom, experience, integrity and independence. Justice must come without an agenda.
As a judge, I have handled a mixture of matters, from complex business, insurance and product liability cases, to less complex matters involving breach of contract, tort, property and the like. As an attorney, I handled or tried hundreds of cases, primarily involving labor and employment, torts, contracts, voting rights and election law in both state and federal courts. I also did substantial appellate work in our state and federal systems, and I have appeared in or argued cases before our appellate and supreme courts.
I've had only one matter classified as a grievance in some 40 years--and that was under the old system, many years ago. It was summarily dismissed because it was not filed by a client.
I am a lifelong Democrat. As a consequence I am running as a Democrat because of the Texas electoral system. Partisanship, however, has no seat at the courthouse. There are no blue robes or red robes. As a judge, my job is to provide a fair hearing for all parties, follow Texas law, and provide an environment for the just resolution of disputes within the law.
I support the election of judges because I have faith in the voters of Texas and I think electing judges creates a level of accountability that might be lost in an appointment and retention election system. Nor would politics necessarily be eliminated in an appointive system, depending on how those appointments were made, and by whom. Witness, for example, the recurring political tumult accompanying federal judicial appointments which are classically "non-partisan," yet are anything but. However, I am not opposed to a system to elect judges in non-partisan elections, as the courthouse is not the legislature and judges must conduct themselves without reference to party politics.
Judicial campaigns, especially in large districts, are costly. The current system, which has support under the first amendment, allows any citizen to help the candidate of her or his choice, and attorneys do take a great interest in these elections. To prevent the appearance of impropriety, I have faith in the campaign finance rules every judicial candidate must follow that are dictated by law. These rules limit the total amount any one attorney or law firm may donate to a campaign, and also put constraints on the time frames in which these donations may be made.
The Fifth Court of Appeals is the largest appellate court in Texas, and it carries a heavy caseload. The current justices work hard to keep that load in check. I would not be so presumptuous as to advocate specific recommendations until such time as I have sufficient experience on this Court to make meaningful recommendations. Generally, the Court needs more help and a few more justices should it maintain its current geographical configuration, which consists of six counties, with Dallas and Collin providing the bulk of appeals. While civil and criminal appeals are generally evenly split in number, it is no secret that most judicial time is devoted to the resolution of civil matters, many of them very complex in nature. Technological advances can no doubt move the ball forward, and I am a strong advocate of such innovations, as well as a hands-on approach to Court management. But such specific innovations will hardly deal with the larger problem of court size and caseload, both of which can become unwieldy. In the end, the geographical area of the Court should be realigned. That can only be accomplished by the Texas legislature.
Address P.O. Box 1454
City/Town Rockwall, TX
Age 53
Campaign Phone Number (214) 738-3304
Email Address
With the brief exception of attending law school, I have been a lifetime resident of the 5th Judicial Appellate District.
I am currently a Justice on the 5th Court of Appeals.
University of North Texas, BA

Texas Tech University School of Law, JD
I am currently the sitting co-chair of the Government Appellate Lawyers Committee for the appellate section of the State Bar of Texas. I am a frequent speaker at local organizations, schools and civic groups addressing a wide range of legal topics. I am an active member of the Republican Men's Club of Rockwall County, Texas. Along with my family, I am a long time member of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Heath, Texas where I have served both as an usher and delegate to the diocesan convention. For the past two years, I have co-authored the annual criminal law year in review for the Texas Bar Journal and have been asked to do so for this year as well.
It was my great pleasure to serve as a delegate to the Rockwall County Republican Convention and to this year's State Republican Convention in Fort Worth. I have served on many boards and committees, including the veteran's diversion program committee at the Rockwall County Criminal District Attorney's Office, the Rockwall Mental Health Task Force, and the Rockwall County Bail Bond Board. For two years I served as an attorney coach for the YMCA's "Youth in Government Program" as well as an attorney coach for the Royse City Teen Court. I am a past member on the Hubbard Chamber Music Board of directors and have coached children's soccer and football.
This is the first public office that I have held or sought.
To date I have raised between twelve and fifteen thousand dollars in pledges and contributions. I have plans for additional fundraising events in the coming weeks.
Winstead P.C.; John Browning of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith; Timothy Hartley, esq.
As the First Assistant Criminal District Attorney for Rockwall County, Texas, I helped our office to manage the explosive population growth in Rockwall County over the last ten years. In my tenure, we grew from an office of three prosecutors into one that employed 25 people, including 12 prosecutors, 3 investigators and support staff. I am proud to say that the Rockwall County Criminal District Attorney's Office has become a model of integrity and professionalism across the State.
That is a difficult question, as there are several that I respect highly. The Honorable Antonin Scalia certainly resonates with me as a highly conservative Justice and a diligent protector of the United State's Constitution. I am also a great admirer of Chief Justice Carolyn Wright of the 5th Judicial District Court of Appeals. She has been a strong voice for judicial conservatism and sits as Texas' first black female Chief Justice. She is remarkable.
I have spent the last 22 years serving as an appellate prosecutor for the State of Texas, representing the citizens and victims of our State who had no voice of their own. I am very proud of the role I have played in making Rockwall County one of the safest and most desirable places to live in our State. Now that my wife and I have mostly raised our four children, I want to turn my attention and focus to a much larger playing field. It is my hope to continue to serve as a Justice on the Fifth Court of Appeals so that I can apply the same energy, passion and enthusiasm that I displayed as an appellate prosecutor to being a relentless defender of our laws and rules for all six counties in the Fifth Judicial Appellate District.
I have spent the last 22 years as an appellate prosecutor, representing the State of Texas in the Fifth Court of Appeals and other appellate courts across the State. I have prosecuted in excess of 125 appeals and argued between 30 and 40 cases to the appellate courts. The Fifth Court of Appeals is the largest and busiest appellate court in the State of Texas, filing approximately 1,800 new appeals each year. Roughly half of the cases are civil and the other half are criminal. The Fifth Court has a very strong civil demographic, with 9 of 13 justices concentrating on civil practice before taking the bench. The 22 years of criminal appellate background that I bring to the Court has helped to even the balance between civil and criminal experience and makes the 5th Court a stronger and more capable Court of Appeals.
An appropriate temperament for a judge is one of quiet, consistent and unflinching respect for the rule of law. Neither personal ego nor bias has any place on the Court. A justice must be able to understand the law as written and apply it to the facts of the case at bar. It is never the role of the Court, or any Justice on the Court, to attempt to legislate from the bench or to rewrite the laws and statutes. Their sole role is to protect, defend and interpret our laws, not to create them.
I have spent the largest part of my career as an appellate prosecutor, handling predominantly criminal cases. I have successfully prosecuted cases ranging from simple to complex, from misdemeanors to murder. In addition to Criminal Cases, I have handled a broad range of civil matters for Rockwall County, including contract disputes, employment law matters and inmate litigation. As a Justice on the Court of Appeals I have presided over both civil and criminal cases.
No complaints have been filed against me.
No grievances have been filed against me.
I have chosen not only to run as a republican but also to embrace the republican philosophy because I am a great believer in judicial restraint and conservatism. Our system of government provides its citizens a voice by allowing them to choose who will write their laws. That role does not belong to the judiciary. I am a firm believer in the constitution - not as a fluid document subject to change, but as the solid foundation upon which our laws must be based and interpreted.
While politics have no role in a judge's chambers or the disposition of a case, I will always strongly believe that citizens should have the right to chose their leaders, including judges, who have the background, morales and beliefs that most closely reflect their own.
While a simple answer to the question could easily be "no, judges should not accept campaign contributions from the lawyers who appear before them," it is not necessarily the right answer. First, to exclude attorneys from contributing to judges would dilute their ability support the candidate of their choice, a freedom enjoyed by all citizens of our country. Second, in order for citizens critical to make informed and responsible voting choices, information about the candidates must somehow be communicated to the public. It is an unfortunate reality that such communication costs money. I think that the true burden lies with the judges. It is their responsibility to safeguard the sanctity and integrity of our legal system by never allowing the receipt of a contribution from any person to dictate their conduct or decisions on the bench.
While there are certainly growing pains associated with electronic filing, I believe that it is an important key to increasing the efficiency of our appellate courts. Not only will it speed the administrative process by making the transfer of documents instantaneous, it will reduce costs by eliminating the need to print, store and manage voluminous appellate records and files.