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Judge, County Criminal Court at Law No. 12

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    Juan J. Aguirre (Dem) Criminal Defense Attorney

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    Cassandra Hollemon (Dem) Attorney

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Biographical Information

What are the most critical administration of justice issues facing the court for which you seek election as judge?

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.

A large percentage of 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 while awaiting trial. Do you support the use of personal bonds and Harris County’s Pretrial Services Department for defendants awaiting trial? Why or why not?

Education/Degrees Bachelor of Environmental Design - Architecture, Master of Urban Planning, Doctorate of Jurisprudence
Professional Experience Since January 2006, I have been a criminal defense attorney for those accused of misdemeanors and felonies. I have tried over 90 trials to a jury and handled over 8000 cases. From 2001 to 2005, I was an Assistant District Attorney in Harris County.
Community Involvement I have been involved in my church of St Joseph St Stephen, having helped raise over $240,000 in the past 5 years as chair of the Fall Festival & serving on the Finance & Pastoral Councils. I’m also involved in various programs at Wharton elementary.
Campaign Email Juan@JuanForJudge.com
Campaign Website http://Www.JuanForJudge.com
Campaign Phone (713) 295-0563
Twitter @JuanForJudge
The most critical issue facing the courts, including Criminal Court 12, is overcrowding of the dockets. There are 16 misdemeanor courts and on an average day there are close to 100 cases on the docket. Getting to trial takes up to year or more at times. Since Hurricane Harvey, that overcrowding is even worse as two courts are doubled up in each courtroom. Having to show up to the court dates means missed days of work or school for defendants, attorneys and witnesses. Since I don’t see the legislature creating more courts, there needs to be a more efficient use of court settings. The next issue that needs to be addressed is consistency between the courts. Though each court is independent of each other, there should not be a big disparity on pre-trial bond conditions, acceptance of plea bargains, and sentencing. There needs to be more consistency in this area as defendants are subject to scrutiny of whichever court they happen to land in.
Having the experience of 10+ years of doing appointements in the criminal courts, I live this every day. Currently, the Public Defender’s Office only represents defendant’s with mental health problems in the misdemeanor courts. In the felony courts, they represent all defendants. The Public Defender’s Office is very well equipped to handle the cases assigned to them and on a monthly basis hold training sessions, open to all the defense bar. The court-appointed lawyers assigned to the courts are for the most part also well-trained and zealously advocate for their clients. However, there are some that have become less involved with their client’s representation or jaded by the system and seem to just move cases along. The list of court appointed lawyers should be purged of these attorneys. I would only accept attorneys in my court that I feel are well-trained, and would be zealous advocates for their clients. If given the chance to use the Public Defender’s Office, I would.
I am a huge supporter of Pretrial personal bonds. I have the personal cell phone numbers of all the Pretrial Services Officers and regularly try to get personal bonds for my clients. Many times the client want to plead guilty, rather than await a trial date behind bars. I don’t want this to happen and seek personal bonds on many of my clients that plead innocence and want their day in court. Currently, the sheriff is under a federal court order to release misdemeanor defendants who do not have another hold, a felony pending or are otherwise charged will non-violent offenses, within 24 hours of their arrest. This does not always happen, but the attorneys have a duty to present the request for a Pretrial personal bond to a judge, for those who fell through cracks. Additionally, there are cases that should have pretrial bond conditions as required by statute or posing a higher risk, but definitely not every Pretrial personal bond needs to have conditions.
Education/Degrees South Texas College of Law - JD University of St. Thomas - BA - Legal Studies/Political Science Houston Community College - AAS - Legal Assistant Technology
Professional Experience I've been in private practice since 1995 practicing principally in the areas of Criminal Law, Immigration, Personal Injury, Wills & Probate and Business Law. I've also been appointed to cases for the Municipal Courts and Board of Pardons & Paroles.
Community Involvement Volunteer at Black Heritage Society - Juvenile Program
Campaign Phone (832) 606-8238
What I see are the most critical administration of justice issues facing the court for which I seek election as Judge are:

Ensuring that all defendants have a full and fair opportunity to a provide defense.

Combining accountability with rehabilitation and thereby 1) assisting Defendants in becoming productive members of society and 2) increasing the safety of our communities.

Not losing sight that the defendants before the Court are not just cause numbers.
The criteria I will use when making the final decision about assigning attorneys to represent indigent defendants will be grounded in justice and fairness. Indigent defendant’s are entitled to zealous representation and in some instances that requires additional resources that are more readily available through the Public Defender’s Office.

Attorneys in private practice that take court appointments do an excellent job of representing their clients when they have the time and resources they need for a proper defense. The Public Defender’s office was established, in part, to level the playing field for indigent defendants. It offers a collective think tank, combined experience and resources of more time and money to spend on cases.

There are cases appropriate for both. The decision would be made on a case by case basis upon request by the Defendant.
I do support the use of personal bonds and Harris County’s Pretrial Services Department for defendants accused of non-violent crimes and who pose little flight risk because although it may be unintended, many times it results in defendants giving up their right to defend themselves by accepting a plea bargain just to get out of jail sooner. In other instances, some just accept offers of "time served" as opposed to sitting in jail awaiting trial. Other reasons for which I support personal bonds and Harris County Pretrial Services include;

a) If they have a job, they need to keep it; b) If they do not have a job, they need to get one; c) If they are not in jail they can better assist with their defense; and d) Their family, if they have one, is kept intact pending the resolution.