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Judge, Tarrant County Probate Court No. 1

  • Chris Ponder (Rep)

  • Louis J. Stefanos (Rep)

  • Candidate picture

    Mark W. Sullivan (Rep) Court Administrator/Senior Management Attorney

  • Candidate picture

    Patricia Cole (Rep) Candidate for Probate Court

  • Candidate picture

    Catherine Goodman (Rep) Attorney

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Biographical Information

What, if anything, should be done to improve access to justice for low income residents in civil and criminal cases?

What can and should be done to run the court more effectively and efficiently to provide swift justice?

How will you maintain impartiality, given the necessity of raising funds for political campaigns?

What other issues do you believe will be most pressing in the District courts, and how would you address them?

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Phone (817) 320-8605
Occupation Court Administrator, Probate Court One
Education B.G.S., University of Michigan J.D., Baylor University, School of Law
Experience 38 years practicing law in Tarrant County. 14 years service as Pro Tem Judge in Municipal Courts. 6 years service as Probate Court Master for Probate Courts 1 & 2. 17 years service as Court Administrator for this court. See website for details.
Open access to the courts is essential in all matters, whether they are civil or criminal. As a former night court prosecutor, I have always thought that we should find a way to extend our hours beyond the standard 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for hearings on uncontested matters. The logistics and security concerns would be difficult, but it should be considered.
When elected I will utilize the services of the Associate Judge more. As the current Court Administrator for this court I know the staff members, the demands made upon them, and high level of performance they achieve.
I believe that the current campaign financing and reporting rules go a long way in providing transparency on these matters. The fact is that judges in Texas are elected and they have to have a way to finance the campaign. Information on campaign contributors, party and attorney involvement, and court rulings, including fee orders, are all available to the public.
Educating the public on all the things we do in this court and how they can take simple steps to help their loved ones avoid needless costs and delays, as well as protecting their own rights and freedoms.

Phone (817) 755-1626
Occupation Attorney
Education Texas Wesleyan University School of Law - Fort Worth, Texas (now known as Texas A&M School of Law), graduated in 2000; Guardianship Ad Litem Certification
Experience Over 17 yrs in probate, guardianship, mental health and civil litigation cases heard by the Probate Courts and 17 yrs business management experience which is important in the management of a court with a $2.3M budget and 12 employees.
Twitter @pcoleforjudge
Our probate courts already do a great job of helping low income residents get answers to their non-legal questions relating to a probate, guardianship or mental health matter. The courts are very cooperative when such individuals choose to represent themselves prose.They also appoint attorney ad litems to potential wards in probate, guardianship and mental health cases.
Probate Court No. 1 appears to run efficiently however if elected I would utilize the Associate Judge to ensure there is quicker access to non-contested matters and I would bring back uncontested hearings at our sub-courthouses to give more access to the citizens in their own neighborhoods.
All Judge's should strictly adhere to the law and never rule based on the emotions or parties in the case. One way I intend to ensure that I maintain such impartiality is to end all conferences in the Judge's chamber. This way I will be required to face the parties while discussing their case, ensuring that I remain impartial and they are directly involved in the process
The most pressing issue facing this Probate Court is the caseload which clearly impacts its timeliness in dealing with both contested and non-contested matters. I would address this issue by automatically setting matters for final prove ups to motivate the attorneys to move the case along, I would also utilize the Associate Judge in uncontested dockets which would leave me open to deal with more complex trial matters in a timely fashion, and I would review guardianship cases more closely to make determinations about the ones that need to be terminated which would reduce the court's caseload.
Phone (817) 614-3787
Occupation Attorney
Education Juris Doctor, Baylor University, 1994; Bachelor of Arts--Political Science, Southwestern University, 1991 and Bachelor of Arts--Spanish, Southwestern University, 1991
Experience 24 years' experience in probate, guardianship,mental health, estate planning; Board Certified, Estate Planning & Probate Law, Texas Board of Legal Specialization, 2001; Fellow, American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, 2012
The Texas Access to Justice Commission is doing a great job of providing and expanding access to justice for low income residents, by providing probate information, do-it-yourself forms, and waiving filing fees. This Commission is continually adding DIY forms and updating its goals. Tarrant County Probate Courts welcome these methods and pro se parties.
When elected, I will expand the role of the Associate Judge to hearing more noncontested cases. Currently, the Associate Judge is responsible for hearing the mental health docket and providing litigation support. I would also conduct hearings at the several sub-courthouses located in Tarrant County, making it easier for parties who live in the County to attend.
When elected as Judge of Tarrant County Probate Court #1, I will apply the law as written in a fair and impartial manner because I know the law. I know the law through my work with the State Bar of Texas, where I have written probate and guardianship legislation which was signed into law by Governors Abbott and Perry. Because of my expertise, I will maintain impartiality.
The Tarrant County Probate Courts have concurrent (or simultaneous) jurisdiction with district courts, but exclusive jurisdiction over guardianship matters. Guardianship issues for mentally and physically disabled older adults and special needs young adults is the most pressing issue facing our probate courts. As our population continues to age, and not always aging well, elder abuse and exploitation continues to be on the rise. Dementia and dementia-related illnesses have not gone away. The Probate Judge must be an expert in guardianship law. Families of special needs young adults need to have a judge familiar with the laws so that all options are considered in order to protect these young adults and ensure they maintain as much independence as possible.