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District Judge 288th Civil District Court

Judges serve for four years, hearing divorces, child custody cases and lawsuits. They have no limit to the amount of money they can award.
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    Joseph P. Appelt (Rep) Attorney/Municipal Court Judge

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    Cynthia Marie Chapa (Dem) Attorney

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    Milton Fagin ATTORNEY AT LAW

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    Clint Lawson (Rep) Board Certified Family Law Attorney

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    Aida Rojas (Dem) Attorney

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Biographical Information

Describe your particular legal experience for the type of judicial position you seek, including how many jury trials you’ve tried as lead counsel.

Discuss your view of proper judicial temperament.

Why are you the best candidate for the position you are seeking? Are you certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in any area of the law?

How would you change the Presiding Court system?

Do you think that judicial races should be non-partisan? Why or why not?

Campaign Phone (210) 375-1212
Campaign Email
Experience LEGAL EXPERIENCE City of Devine, Alternate Municipal Court Judge – perform all duties associated with the Devine Municipal Court including but not limited to: traffic docket, ordinance docket, taking pleas on Class C Misdemeanors, presiding over bench trials and jury trials for Class C Misdemeanors. August 2013 - Present Law Office of Joseph P. Appelt, San Antonio, Texas; Sole Practitioner - Perform all duties associated with operating a law office and the general practice of law. 1994 - Present • Criminal: Provide representation to individuals charged with misdemeanor offenses including but not limited to: assault, drug possession, DWI, and theft. Represented individuals charged by both indictment and information with felony offenses including but not limited to: assault, drug possession, DWI, deadly conduct, sexual assault, forgery, and organized criminal activity. Performed all tasks necessary for litigating both misdemeanor and felony cases including but not limited to: draft motions, argue motions, legal research, jury selection, and trial to verdict. • Family: Provide representation for individuals in all aspects of family law matters. Litigate all types of family issues including child custody cases and complex property issues. Draft all documents necessary for the litigation of divorce, modification, enforcement, child support, child custody, property division, parental rights, grandparent rights, and alimony issues. Prepare all closing documents required upon finalizing family law matters including real estate documents, income withholding documents for child support and alimony, and Qualified domestic Relations Orders for the division of retirement and pension plans. • DTPA: Research and analyze validity of claims of malfeasance asserted by consumers. Draft demand letters, pleadings, discovery, and all other documents necessary to prosecute and defend consumer law actions. • Injury: Prosecute valid claims of persons injured by the negligence of others. Also provide representation for and defend individuals and companies accused of harming individuals either intentionally or negligently. Investigate and research the facts, prepare documents and pleadings associated with litigating the case as necessary. • Wills & Probate: Prepare wills and other estate planning documents. Draft, file, and appear as necessary in Probate Court to probate estates. • Contracts: Prepare and review contracts of all types including asset purchase agreements, employment contracts, non-compete agreements, residential leases, commercial leases, and litigate as necessary. • Business: Provide legal counsel for individuals and businesses related to the formation of their business entity, prepare and file necessary documents to create the appropriate entity, represent and litigate as necessary various business disputes. • Court Cases: Provided representation in over 2,000 District Court cases and over 1,500 County Court cases. • Trials: Over 300 contested hearings, non-jury trials and jury trials • Appellate: Research legal issues, draft briefs as necessary, and argue appeals to county courts, the 4th Court of Appeals, 8th Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Texas. • Federal: Licensed in the Western District of Texas Bexar County District Attorney, San Antonio, Texas; Intern, Felony Intake and Grand Jury – 1992 – 1994. • Prepare and present cases to the grand jury for indictment. Indicted over 300 felony cases. Researched legal issues and prepare legal memos. EDUCATION Juris Doctor awarded May 1994, St. Mary’s University School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Activities: ○ Freshman Moot Court; best speaker two rounds ○ Mock Trial Competitor ○ Criminal Law Association - President Bachelor of Business Administration – Accounting awarded May 1987, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION • Board Member – Catholic Charities Legal Advisory Board • Named one of San Antonio’s Top 12 Family Lawyers by the San Antonio Current, 2012 • Named 10 Best Law Firms by the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys • Volunteer/participant – fundraiser for Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program • Volunteer/participant – fundraiser for Special Olympics • Volunteer - National Mock Trial Competition; Judge • Volunteer – Habitat for Humanity
I have been practicing law for 25 years, primarily in Bexar and surrounding counties. During this time I have gained actual, in-court trial experience in many types of cases encompassing many types of law, including but not limited to: complex construction cases, contract disputes, business disputes, injury cases, property disputes, and over 2,000 family law matters. These are the very types of cases the 288th District Court decides daily. Also, I have experience appealing cases to the Courts of Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court. In addition to my extensive trial and appellate experience gained through maintaining my private practice, I am also a Municipal Court Judge and have been for over 4 years. As an attorney, I have had over 500 contested hearings and non-jury trials. Also, I have tried to jury verdict approximately 15 cases involving different areas of the law. As a Municipal Court Judge, I have presided over approximately 25 non-jury trials and a dozen jury trials.
Even after practicing law for 25 years, all over the State of Texas, in counties large and small I still view the Courtroom as a special place. My view has only been confirmed over the past 4 years in my position as a Municipal Court Judge. I view the Courtroom as a sanctuary if you will where it doesn’t matter who you are, who your parents are, how much money you have or who your attorney is; what matters is why you are there, the facts of the case and the Law. For everyone deserves to be treated the same, with respect and dignity; and the Law should be applied equally to all.
In my 25 years practice as an attorney and the last 4 years as a Municipal Court Judge, I have maintained a general practice. That is, I have actively sought and provided legal counsel in a variety of areas of law by design. This has enabled me to gain invaluable experience, in court trial experience, in a variety of cases. This has expanded my legal knowledge, experience, and enhanced my passion for the law. The 288th District Court hears and decides cases that involve all areas of civil law, not just one type. In addition, my 4 plus years experience as a Municipal Court Judge has further expanded my knowledge and capabilities. It has provided me the opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of people. Experience matters, and my experience as an attorney and Judge means there is no "learning curve" and make me the best candidate for Judge of the 288th District Court.
In my 25 years practice as an attorney I’ve had the opportunity to appear in many different counties and courts. Bexar County’s Presiding system is unique and I believe it is the most efficient. If I were to change our system, it would be to have one judge available during the morning dockets to hear and decide the “not ready” announcements, “motions for continuance,” and other short matters. I feel this would “free up” the other judges for the longer, more complex matters and improve the efficiency of our courts.
Politics and special interests have no place in the courtroom. Judge’s are sworn to uphold the law and should do so, applying the law equally to all without bias. Having judicial candidates identify with a political party has resulted in “wave” elections and the loss of a number of very good judges. The downside to having non-partisan judicial elections is it could result in a lack of vetting of the candidates and a very small portion of the electorate determining the winner; like in the Mayoral and city council races.
Campaign Phone (210) 326-2528
Campaign Email
Experience I, graduated from St. Mary's University in 2002 with a B.A. in Political Science and St. Mary's University School of Law in 2006 with a Juris Doctorate. I was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 2007. I earned a pro-bono certificate for clinical work at the Center for Legal and Social Justice Immigration Clinic. As a Student Attorney, I represented clients before the Immigration Court and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. From May 2007 to December 2011, I was a partner in the Law Offices of Arellano and Chapa which was the firm I started right out of law school. In 2011, I went to a solo practice. I have also had the unique opportunity to work with state issues serving as State Representative Joaquin Castor's District Director from 2003-2011 and for State Representative Justin Rodriguez from 2012-2017. I helped parents collect child support from errant parents; organized book drives to raise thousands of books for local schools, arranged clothing drives to benefit the San Antonio Children's Shelter, SAM Shelter and various other shelter's across San Antonio; and helped neighbors come together to have a voice in local and state government. I worked with judges, attorneys, community leaders, legislators and families to help draft and pass legislation that directly impacted Texas Families. In my law practice, I have run a general practice that focused primarily on Family law but also in the areas of Criminal, Personal Injury, Real Estate and Probate law, Litigation, and Business law.
I have had my own law practice for over a decade. My firm is comprised of a general practice in the areas of family law, real estate, probate, civil litigation, business and criminal law. The vast majority of my cases are focused in family law cases which require temporary orders, emergency orders, bench trials, social studies, etc. The seat I am seeking is a Civil District court that encompasses family law cases and civil litigation. The diverse areas of practice have prepared me for this position. Bexar County requires that all cases go to mediation prior to jury trial and because of that my cases have all settled before having to go to a full blown jury trial.
A judge's temperament should be calm, not easily shaken or frustrated, open to opinions, able to listen and hear what is being said before them and impartial. A judge's temperament should be easy going and yet stern when necessary.
I am the best candidate for the position because I bring not only my legal experience but my work with the community of over 14 years to the position. I have had a unique opportunity to work for City Council and State House of Representative both jobs allowed me to work one on one with the community to find out what issues directly concerned them and impacted them. I was able to work with judges, attorneys, community leaders, organizations and families to draft and pass legislation that directly impacted Texas Families in the areas of Family Law. My dedication to families and our community is unwavering and serving as the next Judge of the 288th District Court I will continue to be able to serve families by providing them with a court that offer equal justice to all those who seek it. I am not certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in any specific area of law.
I think that the Presiding Court System has been designed to be as efficient as possible to keep attorneys and pro se clients from taking advantage of the system by preventing favoritism. The local rules for Bexar County already allow for the removal of complex cases at the discretion of the monitoring judge. I would encourage attorneys, pro se clients and judges to take greater advantage of this procedure for complex cases. This would allow for a judge maintain a case and to gain a deeper understanding of these case, which would allow for more effective adjudication which is one of the most frequent complaints about the current system. I would also make sure that attorneys are aware of the ins and outs of the system and the local rules. Some of the problem may be that attorneys may not be aware of what is exactly available to them.
Yes, I believe that judicial races should be non-partisan. A judicial candidate's views and biases should not be brought into the courtroom. Candidates are not allowed to discuss the specific views on issues that may be brought in front of them in a courtroom because they would then have to recuse themselves. Ideally we would want to be able to pick our Judges based on character, experience, and temperament. Judges should not be making decisions based on their biases but rather based on based on the law and the evidence before them on a case by case basis.
Campaign Phone (210) 736-4423
Campaign Email
Experience I have over 40 years of actual trial experience in the Court Room. I have jury trial and appellate law experience.
I am the only candidate Board Certified In Family Law. Family and matrimonial law are half of the cases in the Civil District Court. I have tried over 50 jury trials to verdict in not only family, divorce, child custody law but also deceptive trade, personal injury and commercial construction. I have tried over 2500 non-jury trials and over 4500 ancillary hearings (contested hearings before final hearing). I am a Member of the College of the State Bar of Texas. I maintain my continuing legal education beyond the minimal requirements. I know what it's like to represent women who have been the victims of Family Violence, left alone without shelter and money. I know how to obtain Protective Orders for my clients to protect them and their children. This Is what a Civil Court is all about. Our citizens go into Court to obtain relief and seek compensation whether it be for child support, property division, damages sustained by personal injuries. This is a serious Court, not for a beginner
I have told people on the campaign circuit the Judge runs the Court, not the lawyers. The Judge is kind of like a referee in a football or basketball games. The Judicial System has law, rules of evidence and procedure that govern each and every case. As a lawyer, when I go into that Courtroom, I expect that Judge to know the law . A Judge is expected to keep the decorum in the Court Room that of a place of dignity and not a shouting match or a place to play games. The Judge has the responsibility to sit up on that bench and preside in a dignified manner. I have practiced in each and every one of the Civil District Courts for decades. I have earned the respect of not only the Judges, but also the Court Clerks, Court Reporters and Bailiffs, why because although I am an advocate, I have never been mean to any Court personnel, I respect all of them, I dress nice and consider all of the Courthouse employees who I have known for decades my friends. That is the kind of demeanor required.
I am Board Certified in Family Law, one of the most contentious areas of trial law. I have come up against some of the toughest lawyers in town. This has prepared me to be a very knowledgeable person about not only the law, but the rules of procedure and evidence that every lawyer must abide by. I have actively practiced trial law before every Civil District Judge who has sat in the Courthouse for over 40 years. This experience has taught me not only how to advocate for my clients, but also the different fact patterns and solutions that can be applied to cases. This is what we call real life Court Room experience. I did not just wake up one day and dream that I would be Judge. I have worked very hard and diligently over my entire and lifetime to be prepared to be District Judge.
I would like to see more cases that are complicated remain with one Judge and not the rotating system that we have. Many times this prevents consistency in Court rulings in a big case. One time I went before 6 different District Judges in one day on the same case. I would like to see cases that involve Family Violence, Sexual Abuse of either the adult or a minor child remain in the same Court through final hearing. I would like for any case that has either a social study or psychological study ordered by a Court to remain with that Court so the Judge can make sure the testing or study has been completed and make further rulings of the Court incident to those test or studies. In addition there should be a way to move the pro se (those who represent themselves) on uncontested divorces, faster than the present time. At present the Pro Se litigants in Divorces have to wait over 6 months for a Staff Attorney to review their papers. When you have an attorney it takes half the time.
I like that Judicial races are partisan. As long as our Federal Government does the same with appointments, we should remain that way. There are different groups that tend to back and give money to certain Judicial Candidates. Once they are exposed you have an idea how a Judge might rule in certain cases. The law is not black and white, a Court has wide discretion to rule any way it wants. Many of these cases are very close. You need to know the background of the Judge. The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure allow for an attorney to file a Motion To Recuse a Judge if that Judge cannot act fairly or has a bias. I have had to recuse Judges before and in one case the recusal was permanent because the Judge could not be fair and impartial to me. In another case I had to recuse two (2) other Judges because their comments in Court indicated each had made up their mind and could not be fair to my client. In one case the Judge made a very derogatory comment about my client and had to be removed.
Campaign Phone (210) 646-1845
Campaign Email
Experience I have a 22 year legal career focused on Family Law matters that dominate the docket of the 288th District Court. I am a Family Law Board Certified Attorney and who is best to decide issues related to our children and families than a Family Law Board Certified Attorney.
Over the past 22 years I have resolved countless family law cases to conclusion either through mediation, negotiation or a contested final trial. Although I have tried fewer than 10 jury trials, I have handled cases at every level of the appellate process, including the oral argument of a case in front of the Texas Supreme Court.

I am a recognized leader with the bar. I am the past president of the San Antonio Family Lawyers Association, an organization of family law board certified attorneys.

I have been honored and recognized by my peers for professionalism within the bar. I am consistently rated "AV Preeminent" for ethics and legal ability by Martindale Hubbell's Peer Review Rating Service. In addition, I have been designated a "Fellow" in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and also the Texas Bar College.
I respect attorneys and their challenging job. My expectation is that attorneys abide by the Texas Lawyer's Creed and demonstrate professionalism at all times. I will not lecture attorneys nor talk down to them. We need to resolve cases collectively and exhaust every pretrial settlement option. Constant litigation is a burden on the children involved in a divorce or child custody dispute so we need to consider all possible settlement options, including mediation.

I want to resolve cases fairly, efficiently and without the need for extensive litigation that drives up the parties costs. I have a conservative philosophy and will strictly apply the law to the specific facts of each case. The words in statutes have plain meaning and should be applied accordingly. I will not engage in judicial activism.
As a Family Law Board Certified Attorney, I have exceeded the State Bar requirements for special competence requirements plus high standards for individual character, conduct and reputation. I am a leader within the bar, having served as past president of SAFLA and participated on the board of the Family Law Section of the San Antonio Bar Association. I am honored by my peers for professionalism. As a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, I am one of only 9 local family law attorneys that have earned this superior distinction. I am a Fellow of the Texas Bar College.

In addition, I have been honored as a 2016 Pro Bono Partner with Disability Rights Texas for charitable work with disabled persons.

Remember, my opponent was captured on video destroying the campaign signs of Judge Stephani Walsh during his failed 2014 judicial campaign. This irrational behavior has absolutely no place in our courts..

One improvement that should be given serious consideration is a requirement that mediation be required prior to a temporary orders hearing to resolve a pending child custody dispute . The potential for minimizing litigation through the early settlement of child custody cases needs to be evaluated against the additional expense of early mediation.
Ideally, non-partisan judicial races would be optimal however I anticipate that the level of voter participation would drop to the levels seen in our Mayoral races. The existing 2 party system provides an opportunity for each party to advocate for their party's nominee and educate the public. In a non-partisan election, I am concerned that the level of information presently available to voters would drop along with voter interest. Unfortunately, I don't believe that a non-partisan election will improve voter interest or turnout. The non-partisan election issue deserves further discussion to overcome the apparent shortfalls.
Campaign Phone (210) 299-4600
Campaign Email
Experience Over 15 years of Family Law (trial experience), Criminal Law (trial experience), and Personal Injury (trial experience)
During my fifteen and a half years as a practicing attorney, the primary focus of my practice has been the wellbeing and safety of Texas families. I have handled over 1,200 of the types of civil cases heard by this court, and have conducted over 30 civil jury trials. I am proud to be a member of the Texas Bar College and to have a robust pro bono component to my practice.

Family Law: In addition to serving as an attorney ad litem for Bexar County children I am proud to represent parents, grandparents and children stuck in the CPS system of Bexar County. I also represent parties in divorces, custody matters, adoptions, terminations, and protective order proceedings. I represent parties in probate court for wills and guardianship issues.

Civil Litigation: I represent parties who have been harmed through no fault of their own in personal injury and sexual harassment matters.

Criminal Law: I provide defense in both misdemeanor and felony cases.
Proper judicial temperament encompasses the ideals of respect, dignity, patience and tolerance to everyone that the Judge serves whether they are parties, attorneys, or courthouse staff. I believe proper judicial temperament comes from the application of experience and compassion in the unbiased application of the law and by remembering that a Judge is a public servant.

I have seen first hand the consequences that judicial decisions have on the lives of the people that come before our courts. There is nothing that can prepare you for holding the hand of a mother as a judge decides whether she will be allowed to keep her children, or explaining to a child why the judge decided they can no longer live with the only family they have ever known. The next judge of the 288th district court must have more than courtroom experience, they must have the compassion and temperament that can only be born of such experience.
I have spent my legal career fighting for Texas families, and I want to put my experience and knowledge to work for our community. Our neighbors rely on this bench at some of the most important moments in their lives, and they must know that the judge who serves them will treat them fairly.

The 288th District Court hears a large variety of civil cases and has a focus on family law matters. It is critical that the judge that replaces retiring judge Sol Casseb, has the experience and work ethic necessary to effectively serve our neighbors. By focusing on families, I have had an opportunity to work through a wide variety of legal issues, and have handled over 1,200 of the types of civil cases heard by this court.

I am the one candidate in this race who has the necessary combination of experience and temperament to be an effective public servant.

My legal practice is diverse and not focused on a single aspect of the law; I am not certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
The overwhelming majority of cases entering Presiding Court concern Family Law matters. I would encourage our legislators to consider creating specialty courts that hear only Family Law cases. These specialty courts could be assigned family law cases and hear these cases in their entirety through final hearing or trial. Clearly, having these specialty courts hear the same case through final hearing or trial would help to minimize the costs for clients and allow for other cases to be heard effectively.

Presenting the same case to different Presiding Court Judges is an inefficient use of public resources and I believe the introduction of specialized Family Law Courts could reduce the costs to litigants, as well as taxpayers, and help reduce the strain on our court system.
It seems likely that removing judicial races from the November General election would negatively impact voter participation. I think it is important to encourage as many voters as possible to participate in our democratic process, and we should be very cautious in making any change that creates a new impediment to voter participation.

Additionally, the Judicial Code of Conduct prevents Judicial candidates from publicly taking positions on many issues. As a lifelong Democrat, I believe Party affiliation is an important way that judicial candidates can express to voters what they personally believe.