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VOTE411 Voter Guide

County Probate Court No.4

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    Michael Galligan (Dem) Probate and Estate Planning Attorney

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    James Horwitz (Dem) Attorney

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Biographical Information

What skills do you possess that make you uniquely qualified to serve as Probate Court Judge?

What are the major administrative issues facing the Probate Court and how will you work to address them?

What will you do to ensure that the interests of all parties in the cases before the court are addressed and protected?

Education/Degrees South Texas College of Law; Houston, Texas. Doctor of Jurisprudence. University of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Bachelor of Arts, Communications and Public Service.
Professional Experience Galligan & Manning; Houston, Texas. May 2010 – present. Associate Attorney. Estate Planning, Estate Administration, and Probate and fiduciary litigation.
Community Involvement I have served as president of Attorneys in Tax and Probate here in Houston. I have been a little league baseball coach for Bellaire and Westbury. For the last two years I have participated in the Walk to End Alzheimers.
Campaign Phone (832) 368-5003
I have worked as an estate planning and probate attorney my entire career. I have been involved in various proceedings in Probate Court, including will contests, will construction suits, petitions demanding accountings of executors and trustees, actions to determine the heirs of a decedent, and actions involving creditors. I have been appointed by Probate Courts as an attorney ad litem to represent the interests of unknown heirs in court proceedings. I have handled approximately 200 Cases in Harris County, alone (more than double that of my primary opponent). A substantial part of my practice also involves consulting with clients and preparing their estate plans including wills, trusts, medial and financial powers of attorneys, appointments of guardians, and business entities. As such I have been involved with the entirety of the process, from planning, to implementation, to resolution of conflicts. I believe that I would bring an energetic and vital presence to this Court.
I believe that too much weight is given to courtroom advocacy, at the expense of expedience and justice in probate court. Too often, attorneys are able to raise arguments in hearings that require additional analysis by the judge, which often requires additional hearings. This increases the expense of matters in probate court and prevents matters from reaching a final resolution. In my court, attorneys will be charged with making any arguments they plan to present in their pleadings in advance of any hearing so that it may be considered by the court. No additional arguments shall be raised in court unless there is a good reason for them not to have been included in the pleadings. This will promote efficiency and justice.

I also believe that access to a trial must be protected. Too often, trials are delayed and pushed back. Without the possibility of trial on the horizon, there is no incentive for parties to reach resolution and no chance for the parties’ arguments to be finally heard.
As a probate attorney, I frequently see the disparity between the legal services available to those with significant resources and those from comparatively disadvantaged groups. Those with the means are able to set up their estates to bypass or move quickly and easily through Probate Court. Those who don’t have the resources, or who have a well-founded mistrust of our legal systems are often forced into situations that are time consuming and costly. The Court’s responsibility is to ease that burden to the extent possible. This means carefully supervising fees of appointed attorneys and professionals. It also means holding lawyers to deadlines imposed by the court to ensure matters are wrapped up as expeditiously as possible. Harris County is increasingly one of the most diverse counties in the country. Harris County can rely on me to apply the law without favor or prejudice toward any group, but with understanding of the inequities and realities of our community.
Education/Degrees University of Houston (B.S.), 1971 University of Houston (J.D.), 1978
Professional Experience Admitted to the Texas Bar, 1977. President of James Horwitz P.C., 1977 to Present.
Community Involvement I have more than 40 years of legal experience, emphasizing probate and estate planning work. I have previously been a candidate for the Houston City Council, and was the Democratic nominee for this Bench in 2014.
Campaign Email
Campaign Website
Campaign Phone (713) 521-0373
Twitter @VoteHorwitz
The qualifications for a successful judge include experience, wisdom, compassion and knowledge. In my more than four decades of legal practice, I have tried more cases than I can count, particularly regarding probate matters. I am qualified in knowing the law. I also have experience in the areas of criminal, family, civil, juvenile, corporate and appellate law. These experiences have provided me with the wisdom that, when combined with experience and knowledge, make me uniquely qualified to serve as a Probate Judge.

The probate courts are also courts of equity. Many lawyers can memorize the law, to know things such as, for example, when a will has or has not been executed in compliance with the law. But the probate courts require more; they require judges to make equitable decisions when the law fails. And for that, there is no substitute to wisdom.
Currently, because of the recent flooding from Hurricane Harvey, setting cases for trial, either by judge or by jury, requires the cooperation of the judiciary and the Bar.

Since the storm flooded the Criminal Justice center, criminal cases must be held in civil courthouses. The Constitution specifically protects the right to a speedy trial in criminal cases, thus giving these cases precedence over civil causes such as probate matters. Accordingly, there will likely be delays in trials in such matters for the near future. I will work to set more pre-trial conferences and recommend mediation before trial in order to reduce the backlog, and ensure that, in cases wherein trial is absolutely imperative, there is not an unduly burdensome delay.
A significant portion of my platform is to increase community outreach. Courts have not held that there exists a constitutional right, and the legislature has not enacted a statutory right, to a probate lawyer. So if one stands accused of a crime, a lawyer can be provided. The same cannot be said if one is embroiled in a probate matter.

I propose that the probate courts go out into the community to first educate the public about probate law. For example, many people are unfamiliar with the concept of holographic wills, which states that a handwritten will need not comply with will formalities such as witnesses or attestation. Second, I will encourage the probate bar to provide more pro bono legal services to folks in the community who wish to write wills or otherwise plan their estates.

Everyone will have a voice in my courtroom, irrespective of demographics such as sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic status or education.