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VOTE411 Voter Guide

Travis County Judge, Court At Law #5

Primary Election: March 6, 2018Early Voting: February 20 - March 2, 2018
  • Candidate picture

    Mario Flores (Dem) Lawyer

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    Nancy Hohengarten (Dem) Judge, Travis County Court at Law 5

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    McKinley Melancon (Dem) Criminal Defense Attorney

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Biographical Information

Explain why you would make a fair and impartial judge.

Explain how this office is important to your constituents and what your plans are for improvement.

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

Background First generation American; born from migrant farm workers who valued education; dedicates his legal practice to helping those who need a champion.
Education BS, Urban Studies - Cornell Univ.; MSCRP, Community and Regional Planning - the Univ. of Texas at Austin; Juris Doctorate, Texas Tech School of Law.
Experience, empathy and a commitment to the values and principles of the US Constitution is why I believe I will be a fair and impartial judge. Discerning the law is only one part of a greater role of being a judge, that is why the concept of "fair and impartiality" are always included in the syntax of being a judge. However, more important to "discerning the law" is being able to understand the implications of how a decision will impact the lives of the accused, the harmed, their respective families and society. Empathy, which comes with experience, is why I will make a great judge.
Our criminal justice system is like everything else and constantly needs to be reinvented. My constituents need to be shown that a criminal bench is part of a larger subsystem involving: court administration, pretrial, the sheriff's office, indigent services, IT services, the Defense Bar, etc. The stagnation of our justice system is because each subsystem is planning in a vacuum. As a former community and strategic planner, and community leader, I have the training and global perspective to help change and innovate these subsystems for the better.
In order for "Justice" to prevail, the accused's rights need to be advocated properly, thoroughly and protected. If a representing attorney is falling short of their commitment towards their client, I would conference with the attorney in the presence of the State and ask 'why I was witnessing such unorthodox behavior.' If unsatisfied with the response, I would request the immediate correction of such behavior. If a resolution is/was improbable or impractical, I would declare a mistrial as "Justice" needs to be protected for the "accused" and for the "State."
Background Judge, Travis Co. Court at Law 5, 2004-present; Criminal Defense Attorney, 2001-04; Asst District Attorney, 1992-2001; Asst Attorney General, 1988-92
Education University of Texas at Austin, B.A. Economics, 1983; University of Houston Law Center, J.D. 1988
Since 2004 I have been a fair and impartial judge. Before I was elected Judge I was a prosecutor and defense attorney, which has allowed me to understand and empathize with different legal perspectives. I exhibit fairness by giving all parties equal time and listening to each side in an open-minded fashion before making a decision. I do not rush to judgement and am open to persuasion as events unfold in a particular case. Impartiality is best exhibited by ruling according to the law as it stands. I examine the facts of each case in order to appropriately apply the law.
All citizens of Travis County rely upon me to protect them from people who violate the law as well as protect their rights if they are ever accused of a crime. My plan is to continue my work diverting persons with mental health or substance use disorders from jail and into treatment. I am currently collaborating with others to reduce the number of persons found incompetent to stand trial by expanding the intervention of mental health workers during police contact and utilizing Forensic Assertive Community Treatment case managers for these individuals so they can live safely in the community.
I believe any intervention should be measured based upon the extent of the inadequacy. It is difficult to determine whether there is inadequacy because judges are not always privy to the parties’ negotiations. If an attorney has a supervisor I contact the supervisor and express any concerns. I can also appoint a more seasoned co-counsel at the court’s expense for any hearings or trials. If I believe that an incarcerated defendant’s case is being delayed by counsel I am likely to address it with them in whatever fashion is quickest, particularly when the accused suffers from mental illness.
Background Native Texan and lifelong democrat. Raised by a teacher and a labor attorney. Established Melancon Law Firm in 2013.
Education J.D. South Texas College of Law - 2012 B.A. The University of Texas, Austin -2007
I have the unique perspective of having been a defense attorney my entire career. I will always uphold the constitutionally guaranteed right to the presumption of innocence. A judge's duty is to listen to the parties before making a ruling, thus the term, “hearing.” Bonds should be granted to those accused of low-level, non-violent offenses. This will prevent mass convictions for poor people who are unable to pay their bail. I will ensure that women are treated with as much respect and dignity in my courtroom as the men, and that they are not subjected to harassment from anyone.
Women do not have to go along with the status-quo any longer. In 2018, courageous women all over the country are taking a stand and making their issues known. This must happen in judicial system as well. I vow to stand beside you as we fight this battle within our court system and across society. I am inspired by the women of my time and I hope that the women in Travis County are ready to fight sexism within the judicial system with me. As judge of this court, I will lead by example and treat every person that comes before me with the respect and dignity that every human being deserves.
I would have a private conversation with the attorney and ask them about the issue. It could be a number of things from being in over one’s head to a strategic approach. If at the end of the conversation I did not believe the attorney was competent then I would appoint co-counsel to represent the client.