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VOTE411 Voter Guide

Dallas County Court-at-Law 4

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    Ken Tapscott (Dem) Judge

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    Paula Rosales (Dem) Attorney

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Biographical Information

PERFORMANCE & EXPERTISE: Please outline your legal experience, including any specializations and peer review status. Describe any public reprimands or suspensions you have received.

ACCESS TO JUSTICE: What, if anything, should be done to improve access to justice for low income residents in civil cases?

MENTAL HEALTH: What, if anything, should be done to change ways in which mental health cases are handled?

OTHER ISSUES: What other issues do you believe will be most pressing in the County Courts at Law and how would you address them?

Age 48
Education B.S.B.A. University of Alabama-Huntsville, 1992 J.D. University of Miami School of Law, 1995
Campaign Phone (214) 668-3601
For the past 11 years, I have been Judge of Dallas County Court at Law #4. In that time, I have delivered over 420 cases to jury verdict, more than any other civil judge in Dallas County since 2007. Additionally, in the same time period, I have decided more than 1600 non-jury cases. I have been consistently rated by the Dallas Bar Association as one of the best civil trial judges in Dallas County (See Dallas Bar polls at Prior to taking the bench(1997-2006), I was a civil litigator for ten years with Baron & Budd, P.C., handling toxic tort asbestos cases all over Texas and the United States. Prior to Baron Budd, P.C., I was an attorney and decision writer with the Office of Hearings and Appeals (Soc. Sec. Admin).
If someone is poor, they have the ability to file a pauper's affidavit and file their case without paying filing fees. Access is there, but many litigants who choose to represent themselves are lost in the courtroom. Although I cannot help someone prosecute a case, I often refer self-represented litigants to Northwest Texas Legal Aid and the SMU law student civil clinic to aid them in getting advice in their cases.
Dallas County has a probate court, Probate Court #3, that deals with mental competency hearings. I do not hear mental health cases, and I do not feel I am qualified to offer an opinion on this matter.
Right now, I feel my docket moves quite smoothly. I have motion dockets nearly every Monday, and litigants can call the clerk at any time to schedule a hearing. My jury and non-jury trials dockets also function well Tuesday-Friday. I have maintained a judicial website since 2007 so litigants can always see the status of their cases and docket position. Right now, I do not see the need to change anything, nor do I see any pressing issues that are not being dealt with.
Age 37
Education Texas Wesleyan School of Law, J.D. Southern Methodist Universtiy, B.A.
Campaign Phone (214) 838-8843
Twitter @Paula4judge
No public reprimands or suspensions. Currently, I am an attorney at Miller Weisbrod LLP, a personal injury and medical malpractice law firm. Prior to that, I served as a Dallas Municipal Court Judge and Community Court Judge. During that period, I presided over hundreds of proceedings, including jury trials, bench trials, and various motions. I have served our country working with the U.S. Department of State as a Human Rights Advisor. I have also served Dallas County residents as an Assistant District Attorney fighting for justice for victims in the misdemeanor-trials and appellate divisions. I began my legal career as a solo practitioner working on personal injury, immigration, and family law issues.
The civil system must be made more user-friendly to non-lawyers and non-English speakers. As a municipal judge, I heard many stories of individuals who didn’t know their rights during their eviction appeal and suffered defaults from creditors when they did not know how to answer suit. I plan, among other things, to a) develop a multimedia guide addressing procedural matters often overlooked by self-represented litigants (i.e. correctly filing a complaint, timely filing an answer, and properly serving a party) and b) spearhead a specialty docket I call, “Responsible Citizen Docket,” to improve the administration of justice in the types of cases affecting low income residents.
Mental health is the most pressing public health issue of our time. As a municipal judge, I regularly presided over cases involving individuals suffering from behavioral health conditions. In that capacity, I initiated a revision of our court procedures and worked with city and county stakeholders and community advocates to safely divert defendants with unmet mental health needs from jail into appropriate mental health services. I believe the county courts could benefit from similar revised procedures or at a minimum court referrals to services when requested by self-represented parties suffering mental health challenges.
As discussed in section 2 above, local conditions in Dallas are such that self-represented litigants are increasing every year.

It is imperative to address the Texas State Legislature’s proposal to eliminate 3 of 5 county courts at law. Elimination of these benches will increase the caseload for the remaining courts. For litigants, this will result in delayed justice. The legislature’s rationale for closures is that there has been a 60% decrease in filings in these courts. I understand the cases have not gone away but are being filed in district courts. I would propose creating a joint committee with lawyers to address their concerns.