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Judge, County Criminal Court at Law No. 07

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    Danval Scarbrough (Dem) Attorney

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    Andrew A. Wright (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 University of Houston B.S. Political Science and Psychology Thurgood Marshall School of Law J.D.
Professional Experience I have been a solo practitioner licensed in the state of Texas since 2011. My practice consists of family, probate, civil and misdemeanor level criminal cases.
Community Involvement I am an active member of Superneighborhood 52. I am a Board member of the Near Northside Management District. HLSR Black Heritage Committeeman 2016-2017
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I think the main issues that are critical to the administration of justice in Harris County Criminal Courts at Law are bail reform, indigent defense, probable cause hearings and young offender diversion. We need to limit incarceration to those who are violent or flight risks.Judges should extend the use of personal recognizance bonds to nonviolent offenders with enough local ties to the county (job, family, property ownership). Indigent defense is an issue that needs to be addressed, many times defendants are appointed lawyers but those lawyers aren't paid for out of court work needed to prepare a proper defense. Probable cause hearings need to be taken more seriously by judges and examined more thoroughly. Youthful first-time offenders need to be diverted away from jail by utilizing social programs to address underlying reasons for their offenses. It is imperative that we give those who can be helped, a chance and protect society from those that would harm others.
I would examine an attorney's years of experience and his or her activity in programs, such as Gideon's Promise and The Innocence Project, which seek to bolster those that defend the accused. I would also like to look at the amount of cases they are handling on their personal dockets to be sure they have the time to provide adequate representation. I personally believe that in Harris County, the Public Defender's Office provides some of the best defense on average compared to the average appointed private attorney. From its inception the Public Defender's Office sought to hire experienced criminal attorneys many of whom were former Assistant District Attorneys.
YES! I believe that if the accused is non-violent and not a flight risk, our first thought should be whether this person would be a good candidate for a personal recognizance bond. If we can help it we should minimize the use of jailing as a means to secure appearance for these types of defendants Jail needs to be reserved for those who are violent and those who may flee.
Education/Degrees South Texas College of Law - JD The University of Texas at Austin - BBA
Professional Experience Andrew A. Wright, Attorney at Law - Self Employed (4/2009 - Present) Harris County Deputy Organization - Of Counsel (10/2011 - 5/2016) Bohreer & Zucker LLP - Associate (11/2007 - 3/2009)
Community Involvement Fort Bend County Criminal Defense Attorney’s Association College of the State Bar of Texas Harris County Criminal Lawyer’s Association Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Assoc. Eastwood Civic Assoc. East End Chamber of Commerce – Light Rail Committee
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Campaign Phone (713) 581-0457
(Bail Reform). Too often people that have limited to no funds will sit in jail and ultimately plea guilty just to get out. These people need to have their bond reduced or be granted a PR bond. This will help reduce the amount of people that end up with a criminal conviction just to get out of jail. They need to be given a way out of jail so they can continue to work and maybe even enter into a diversion program or similar program that helps address the issue rather than labeling them a criminal. It can easily become a circular situation where employment is difficult to obtain due to convictions thus making it hard to contribute to society. PR bonds should be the default, not the exception. (Immigration Consequences). In addition to this, another issue I continuously see is not addressing the immigration consequences. Harris County has a simple form they deal with, but it does nothing to address that defendants’ personal immigration status.
I believe the Public Defender's Office is doing a great job. At the County Criminal Court at Law level, their involvement is limited to mostly Mental Health situations. When applicable, I would use the Public Defender's Office. In cases where they are not able to be used, I would use private attorneys. The criteria I would use consists of the financial affidavits defendant's fill out as well as interviewing them at the bench. I think the affidavits will be a huge factor in determining indigency. However, there is more that goes into it. Many times, just interviewing the defendants and discussing their relative financial situation another great method to determine their indigent status.
I highly support personal bonds. I think PR bonds should be the default, not the exception. I also favor the Sheriff's Office use of unsecured bonds. The fact that financially strapped individuals were pleading just to get out of jail and return to their families and jobs is inexcusable. Keeping these people in custody does nothing but create massive issues. In addition to this, it adds cost to the taxpayer via additional jail costs. Harris County has regularly practiced sending detainees to other counties and paying for their detention incurring cost to the public. Lowering the amount of pre-trial detainees can help to reduce these costs.