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District Judge, 185th Judicial District

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    Maritza Antu (Rep) Attorney

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    Stacey W. Bond (Rep) Former Judge / Attorney

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    Brennen Dunn (Dem) Lawyer

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    Jason Luong (Dem) Attorney

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Biographical Information

What criteria will you use when making the final decision about assigning attorneys to represent indigent defendants? Please discuss selecting attorneys from the Public Defender’s Office vs. the selection of private attorneys.

What will you do to ensure that the commissioners that you appoint to oversee the grand jury selection for your court will use a process that is unbiased and ensures that grand jury members reflect the diversity of our community?

A large percentage of the inmates in the Harris County jail are pre-trial detainees. Other large metropolitan areas in Texas are increasingly using no-cost personal bonds for defendants who are accused of non-violent crimes but pose little flight risk; thereby, enabling them to be released prior to trial. Do you support using personal bonds and the services of the Harris County Pretrial Services Department for non-violent defendants as they await trial? Why or why not?

Education/Degrees University of Texas at Austin - B.S., Public Relations 2002. University of Houston Law Center - J.D., 2005.
Professional Experience The Antu Law Firm, PLLC - 12/31/16 - Present. Harris County District Attorney's Office - 9/6/05 - 12/30/16.
Community Involvement Volunteered in Republican Campaigns.
Campaign Email
Campaign Website
Campaign Phone (832) 930-2373
I will appoint attorneys that are experienced, hard working, good advocates for their clients and will go above and beyond the call of duty.
Fortunately, the law in selecting grand jurors in the State of Texas was recently reformed. Currently, the law requires that district court judges select grand jurors from a jury pool comprised of citizens in the community who reflect the composition of Harris County.
Yes, under certain circumstances and on a case-by-case basis.
Education/Degrees Texas A&M University BBA 1989 University of Houston Law JD 1993
Professional Experience Former District Court Judge - 4 yrs Extensive trial experience as both a prosecutor (Harris County) and as a private attorney. Board certified in criminal law for 17 yrs; lawyer for 25 yrs. I have tried 120 jury trials and presided over 100 trials.
Community Involvement Judge of STAR (Success Through Addiction Recovery) Drug Court for 3 1/2 years. Pro bono legal services to the indigent; National Charity League; Church involvement includes Sunday School teacher for adults, youth and children, Board of Trustees, VBS.
Campaign Email
Campaign Website
Campaign Phone (713) 854-2405
Once a defendant has been determined to be indigent and requests counsel it is incumbent upon the judge to appoint him/her counsel. In Harris County there is a process in place where the court requests a list of available, qualified attorneys. The Public Defenders Office (PDO) may or may not appear on the random list generated by the Fair Defense Act Wheel. My practice when I was formerly appointing lawyers was to choose lawyers I knew to be diligent, conscientious, and competent. I tried to use a mixture of private attorneys and PDO. If the client was not a native English speaker, I would try to the extent possible to appoint lawyers who could speak the client’s native language. If the client had special circumstances such as a mental health diagnosis, was a veteran, or had lengthy history of addiction I would attempt to appoint attorneys who had special expertise in those particular areas.
Commissioners are no longer used to select Grand Juries. The process now requires that Grand Juries be selected from a regularly called jury panel. Once properly qualified by the court, jurors are selected to serve for three month terms. This new selection process ensures that the panel is more diverse and includes citizens from all areas of the county. One potential drawback for the citizens chosen to sit on a grand jury is that the service is compulsory (required) and some individuals find it difficult to serve two days a week for a three month period if they work regular business hours. That being said, I have never had a Grand Juror who was sorry that they served. Most enjoy the opportunity and the experience very much.
I support the use of personal bonds and Pre Trial Services for non violent offenders who are indigent. Pre Trial Services provides very valuable information and insight into the likelihood of a defendant returning to court as required. Additionally, the use of Pre Trial Services affords a level of supervision for certain defendants and helps the court monitor compliance with any bond conditions. Defendants who are on bond are in a better position to aid in their defense, they are able to make decisions about entering into plea bargains based on guilt and not on a desire to be released, and if inclined they may seek treatment in the private sector they would not have access to if incarcerated.
Education/Degrees B.S. Psychology- Xavier University M.B.A.- American Intercontinental University J.D.- Thurgood Marshall School of Law/TSU
Professional Experience Solo Law Practitioner- 2010 to present
Community Involvement Harvey Relief Volunteer Student Career Day Speaker Gang Injunction Volunteer Advocate Law Student Litigation Coach
Campaign Email
Campaign Phone (281) 826-2198
Twitter @legalmynd
I believe in using all resources at my disposal. My goal is to have contract attorneys, public defenders, and private attorneys all in use. The contract attorneys and PDO attorneys will designate the number of cases they can handle at any given time in my court. Private attorneys will be used for all cases that cannot otherwise be handled and selected based on appointment qualifications. The contract attorneys will have as one of their primary objectives probable cause assessment and examining trial execution. I believe that working on probable cause issues on the front end will decrease the load for public defenders and private attorneys and create a more efficient judicial process.
I will look at their past community involvement to see how active they are. Any potential commissioner should understand the diversity of the county and understand the necessity to ensure fair minded individuals are selected for grand juries. The commissioners will also be asked to ensure that potential grand jurists have a firm understanding of probable cause and how it should be examined. Additionally, the commissioners will be instructed that a focus on minority selections should be a major concern and that the selections should reflect the minority makeup of the county as a whole.
I absolutely agree with the use of PR bonds. I believe that the current system encourages a debtor's prison bail system while also imprisoning people for months prior to any conviction. There are many nonviolent and low level pretrial defendants sitting in jail for the sole reason that they cannot afford the bonds. By giving defendants bond amounts in the first place, we are saying that they are not so dangerous that they need to be held without bond. We are simply saying, pay us to go free until your case has been completed. The constitution provides that bail is intended to ensure that a defendant shows up to court, not that they show that their freedom is worth everything they own.
Education/Degrees Rice University, B.A., cum laude University of Texas School of Law, J.D., with honors
Professional Experience Owner/Managing Attorney, The Law Office of Jason Luong, PLLC, 2012-present); Assistant District Attorney, Harris County District Attorney's Office (2008-2012); Senior Associate, Smyser Kaplan & Veselka, LLP (2005-2008)
Community Involvement Board of Directors, Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association (2015 to 2016); Board of Directors (Spray and Neuter Assistance Program SNAP! Houston); Board of Directors, Asian American Bar Association (2008-2010); Volunteer, The Mission Continues
Campaign Phone (713) 256-8650
Currently, qualified private attorneys are appointed using a random selection process to ensure that court appointment are made without favoritism or bias. I would strictly adhere to that process in assigning private attorneys to represent indigent defendants. In certain instances, the representation of indigent defendants is assigned to the Public Defender's Office. I would use the resources of the Public Defender's Office as warranted, for example, in cases were there are mental health issues, where the Public Defender's Office has specialized resources. Above all, I would make sure that court appointments are assigned fairly and only to attorneys qualified to handle such cases.
In 2015, we greatly improved the selection of grand jurors by selecting them from a pool of random citizens, much like we select jury members for trial. Previously, judges would select commissioners who would then select grand jury members. This process gave the appearance of bias in that judges could greatly affect who would ultimately be selected as grand jury members. I would follow the new process to ensure that grand jury members are randomly selected from a pool of qualified citizens and not selected by people appointed by me. I would also further admonish grand jury members as to their duties to be fair and impartial judges of the facts and the law in determining whether to return an criminal charge. A grand jury is the first safeguard in our criminal justice system, and as a judge I would protect the integrity of that system.
By some estimates, over 50% of the people in the Harris County jail are there, not because they are serving a sentence, but because they are awaiting trial and cannot afford a bond. That type of "pay or stay" system is both extraordinarily costly to the County but also unfairly punishes the poor and indigent. I support the use of personal bonds for non-violent defendants because it greatly reduces the direct and indirect costs to our county without compromising the safety of our communities. When people sit in jail waiting for trial, the county has to pay to house them, but, equally important, those individuals, who have not yet been found guilty of a crime, cannot work and cannot support their families. Therefore, I support the use of personal bonds for non-violent defendants.