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County Court-at-Law No. 15

Judges serve 4 years and hear misdemeanor crimes, mostly DWI cases.
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    Cesar Garcia (Dem) Attorney

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    Melissa Vara (Dem) Attorney at Law

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Biographical Information

Please describe what combination of education, motivation and experience qualifies you for the office.

What would you do to make your court (or the court you are running for) more efficient?

Please explain your thoughts on recidivism and how your court can reduce repeat incarcerations.

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

Campaign Phone (210) 551-7612
Campaign Email cesargarciacampaign@gmail.com
Experience 11 years as an attorney
I received my undergraduate degree at UT Austin, then attended Texas State University - San Marcos and obtained my Master's in Business Administration. Afterwards, I attended St. Mary's University School of Law. I'm currently a board member of the Rape Crisis Center and San Antonio Youth Literacy. Additionally, I'm a Reading Buddy for San Antonio Youth Literacy where I tutor 2nd graders in their reading comprehension skills. For the previous six years, I've been a volunteer mediator with the Bexar County Dispute Resolution Center. I've had two experiences that have given me a unique perspective on life and the justice system. When I was about 11 years old, my dad and I were driving back to San Antonio from the Rio Grande Valley and were driven off the road by a drunk driver. Additionally, when I was in high school, I was playing in a tennis tournament and there was a drive-by shooting at the tennis center where the players were shot at as part of a gang initiation.
Efficiency starts with organization and planning. In order to be an efficient court, the court must be organized and the schedule must be planned out. This means that all the parties must communicate with one another effectively, in writing and electronically if possible, so everyone is on the same page concerning court dates and times. Secondly, everyone including me must be on time for court. Court should start promptly at designated times. Thirdly, scrutiny should be applied to excessive requests for continuances on defendants' cases. The court shouldn't have to deal with a huge back load of cases simply due to attorneys excessively postponing cases as a trial tactic. Lastly, every court should be able to adapt and make changes to increase efficiency based upon feedback from court officials and members of the community.
I believe recidivism is one of the biggest issuing with the criminal justice system. Recidivism not only adversely affects the defendant's livelihood but also adversely affects the defendant's children in the areas of growth and development. Recidivism can also adversely affect a community's income inequality and economic development potential. One way to help reduce the rate of recidivism is through a program of restorative justice and sentencing alternatives for low risk, non violent, first time offenders. The court system should divert these defendants into community service, diversionary and educational programs along with mental health treatment if necessary, then upon successful completion of the program, the court should allow the defendant to seal his/her court records. This would allow the defendant to confidently seek gainful employment and become a productive member of society, not only for themselves but their children as well.
In a perfect world I would like judicial races to be non-partisan so voters can vote for the person they believe will be the best for the job based on character and work experience, instead of partisan politics clouding the issues. However, it's not a perfect world and we live with partisan politics everyday. The partisan political process is beneficial for both judicial candidates and the voters because it subjects the voters to judicial candidates in both the primary election and general election. The voters are able to scrutinize the judicial candidates' legal experience a maximum of twice and are also able to gauge a judicial candidates' judicial philosophy based on the party the candidate affiliates himself or herself. Conversely, the judicial candidates benefit by becoming engaged with voters in the primary election and general election process and are able to educate the voters about the function of the court system and judicial branch of government.
Campaign Phone (210) 735-1900
Campaign Email votemelissavara@gmail.com
Experience I have practiced criminal law, family law, wills and estates, personal injury and other civil law matters throughout my career. I have been the attorney of record in 223 criminal cases and the attorney of record in 254 civil cases. I have both jury trial and bench trial experience, along with experience with the plea bargain process, with suppression hearings and with a variety of other hearings pertinent to civil law.
I am a native San Antonian and graduate as the Salutatorian of Thomas Jefferson High School. I furthered my education at the University of Texas at Austin where I received my Bachelor's Degree and attended law school at St. Mary's University. Throughout my life I have always had a calling for public service. As an attorney, the bulk of my practice has been representing indigent members of the community with both civil and criminal law matters. I believe that my experience is what makes me the most qualified candidate for Judge of County Court No. 15 and sets me apart from my democratic opponent. I have been the attorney of record in over 220 criminal misdemeanor cases, which are exactly the type of cases that are heard in this particular Court. I have both jury and bench trial experience, experience working with all the county courts directly, with probation and with the district attorney’s office. This knowledge of the court system is what will enable me to run an efficient court.
First and foremost, I will work harder than the present judge. I will be punctual by starting court promptly each morning so as to respect the time of all the attorneys, staff and defendants that appear in the court. I will convey the judicial temperament that is necessary to run an efficient court. If elected, I intend to be fair, impartial and compassionate to all members of the community that may come before me. I do not want anyone to feel intimidated or scared to approach me, as I feel that it makes a less efficient court. Lastly, I will work together with the other county courts, and assist with overcrowded dockets, should time permit. I feel that all the courts working together and pooling resources will make for a more efficient court system overall to ensure that tax payer funds are being spent most efficiently.
County Court at Law No. 15 hears class A and B misdemeanors. The maximum punishment with respect to jail time is one year in the Bexar County Jail with a class A misdemeanor conviction, and six months in jail on a class B misdemeanor conviction. Most defendants at this level will qualify for some variation of deferred adjudication, probation or pretrial diversion; however, based on my experience, the people who are likely to reoffend and be incarcerated are those with mental health issues, problems with substance abuse or alcohol, or with prostitution cases. These are often the defendants that will have repeated incarcerations. I feel that sentencing should never be uniform, but rather on a case by case basis, taking into account what personal factors may be causing the individual to reoffend. If elected, I intend to work closely with the specialty courts, i.e. Mental Health Court (CC12) and the DWI Court (CC8) to ensure that the defendants are truly getting the help that they need.
I am running as a democratic candidate for judge because I am a lifelong Democrat. However, I believe that as an elected official a judge should be fair, impartial, and should follow the law, regardless of party affiliation. At the end of the day, that is what the people of Bexar County deserve.