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331st District Judge - Criminal (Travis County)

Primary Election: March 6, 2018Early Voting: February 20 - March 2, 2018
CHOOSE TWO CANDIDATES FROM BELOW TO COMPARE
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    David Crain (Dem) Judge for the 331st Criminal District Court

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    Chantal Melissa Eldridge (Dem) Criminal Defense Attorney

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Biographical Information

Explain why you would make a fair and impartial judge.

What are the most pressing problems facing this office and how would you handle them?

What steps would you take to reduce the rates of incarceration and recidivism?

How would you handle a situation where an attorney appearing before your court is inadequately representing his/her client?

Background I am a native Texan and moved to Austin in 1970. I was first elected to office in 1985 and have been proud to serve Travis County since.
Education Bachelor of Art in History, The University of Texas Austin; Juris Doctorate, The University of Texas Law School
The U.S. Declaration of Independence asserted that all persons are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Ours is a nation of laws and these laws should be applied fairly and equally. Living up to these words requires a constant self-examination and recommitment to the principles of justice. In my last thirty two years as a judge and the last 7 in the district court, I have a well-earned reputation for fairness and moderation envisioned by the Founders of our justice system.
The most pressing issue facing this office is the need for meaningful criminal justice reform. We continue to disproportionately incarcerate the poor, people of color and those that suffer from mental health conditions at alarming rates. We should ensure that all offenders have adequate legal representation and that sentencing is fairly administered. These issues can be addressed through pretrial diversion programs. Additionally, the judge should guide the justice system away from longer prison sentences for nonviolent repeat offenders, as well as, mentally ill offenders.
Incarceration should not be the first resort for first time, low-level, nonviolent offenders. Programs that include treatment for various problems including drug and alcohol addiction reduce incarceration and recidivism. I initiated a mental health docket to stabilize and treat those who are arrested because of a mental health crisis. Also, the therapeutic DWI docket I helped initiate keeps people out of jail and from re-offending. I am committed to developing programs that successfully reintegrate repeat nonviolent offenders back into the community.
Our adversarial criminal justice system is based on the idea that both the prosecution and defense are represented well by their attorneys. Without proper representation, the integrity of our judicial institutions and democratic government is at risk. Therefore, if an attorney is not adequately representing their client, I would stop the trial and inquire as to whether illness or some other thing was the problem. If it seemed like the inadequacy could not be corrected, I would appoint co-counsel to assist.
Background I have been a successful trial attorney for more than 28 years and done indigent defense for 20 years. I am the progressive democrat in this race.
Education I graduated summa cum laude from the University of Santa Clara, School of Law.
My mother was a naturalized citizen from Tunisia; my father was in the Air Force military police. We lived in a rural town in Tennessee, and we were one of the few Jewish families. After my father died in 1970, my mother experienced discrimination which I witnessed first-hand. I developed a strong sense of fairness and a hatred of discrimination. I became an attorney to help people obtain justice and fair play, and I have done just that for twenty-eight years.
Many people who enter the criminal justice system suffer from issues of mental illness, substance abuse, and homelessness. These issues can be addressed though progressive diversion programs and rehabilitation services. Travis County should be the leader in criminal justice reform because it makes our community safer, it helps those who need the most help, and it saves taxpayers money by lessening recidivism. The 331st Court has the most pretrial detainees among the courts, meaning more people are sitting in jail longer prior to trial. This is costly and contributes to jail over-crowding.
I would set a bond and mental health status hearing immediately to determine a defendant’s eligibility for a personal bond and their competency to stand trial. My goal would be to lessen the likelihood a person would lose their housing and employment while their case is pending. I would also expand existing diversion programs to make them more accessible to my defendants. I would strengthen our rehabilitation programs, geared specifically towards education, job training and employment. The only way to reduce recidivism is to address the reasons why people enter the criminal justice system.
If it became apparent that a defendant was not being adequately represented, I would contact Capital Area Public Defender’s office to have them review the case for attorney assistance or reappointment. It may be beneficial to appoint a second attorney to review the case and the plea to provide the defendant with a second opinion, so that the defendant may make a more informed choice, and this may ultimately be less costly and result in greater judicial economy.