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Dallas County District Judge, 283rd Judicial District

Civil cases heard by District Courts include personal injury and property damage suits, landlord-tenant matters, contractual and other business disputes. Must be a US citizen and Texas resident between 25 and 74 years old, a practicing lawyer or judge, or both combined for at least 4 years. 4 year term.
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    Lela D Mays (Dem) Criminal District Court Magistrate

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    Vonciel Jones Hill (Dem) Attorney

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Biographical Information

PERFORMANCE & EXPERTISE: Please outline your legal experience, including any specializations and peer review status. Describe any public reprimands or suspensions you have received.

EFFICIENCY: What methods do you support, if any, to increase the efficiency of the District Court to provide swift justice?

ACCESS TO JUSTICE: What, if anything, should be done to improve access to justice for low income residents in civil cases?

OTHER ISSUES: What other issues do you believe will be most pressing in the District Courts and how would you address them?

Age 54
Education University of Houston, BA, 1985 Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Texas Southern University, JD, 1988
Campaign Phone (214) 210-2700
Twitter @VoteJudgeLela
I've had no reprimands or suspensions. I was in private practice for 10 years prior to my taking the bench. For those ten years I was in private practice and represented clients in both civil and criminal cases. In 2000, I was appointed as a Criminal District Court Magistrate in Dallas County. For six years I worked as the Magistrate in the Lew Sterrett jail where I handled arraignments, protective orders, search warrants and mental illness warrants. In addition, in 2002 I began working in the DIVERT court, a drug treatment court. In 2007, I established and began STAC court, a drug treatment court for high risk offenders, some also have a mental illness diagnosis. We have just celebrated 10 years of STAC and 1700 graduates.
I would increase efficiency in the court by closely monitoring the jail chain. I would also work to assure that not only would the district attorney have time to prepare their case, but also that defense lawyers have been given time to gather evidence, talk to witnesses and prepare for trial or other dispositions. I would also work to set up processes to have offenders accessed to determine the most efficient ways to treat that individual based on their risks and needs. I have worked with assessors in my drug courts for the last 16 years and I'm familiar with that process. I would also use the processes we've put in place to address mental health concerns of those in the criminal justice system as I worked to establish those processes.
I believe in access to just for not only low income residents, but for all residents is to require education, job training and jobs. Many low income residents in the criminal courthouse do not have ID's because they don't renew them, due to the number of warrants they have, usually for traffic tickets. I currently preside over STAC (The Successful Treatment of Addiction through Collaboration) Court. In STAC I have experienced many people in the system that don't know what to do to unravel their issues between Municipal court, JP court, child support, mental health and other issues. Literacy and education too. I would work to establish a process to assist and address these barriers to success, which translates to success in the cj system.
What we've learned is that longer sentences don't equate with less crime. I believe that if you require an offender to engage in services, substance abuse treatment, mental health resources, job training, education where they can find "hope" for their lives and respect others, we can minimize repeat offenders. Housing and jobs are just a couple of important issues to be addressed. We need more funding for community resources to assist with those coming through the criminal justice system. Multiple prisons have closed, in the state of Texas, once rehabilitation was instituted on a large scale. Rehabilitation and accountability for more low level non-violent offenders, who qualify, would be how the 283rd would address these concerns.
Age 69
Education Bachelor of Arts; Master of Library Science; Master of Arts; Master of Divinity; Law Degree
Campaign Phone (214) 333-9080
I was a Staff Attorney for the Public Utility Commission. I then moved to the Dallas City Attorney's Office, where I initially handled employment cases, and later, aviation law at DFW airport. After that, I became a City of Dallas Municipal Judge. I served for 17 years. I presided over jury and bench trials, performed juvenile and adult magistrate duties, and reviewed thousands of search and arrest warrants. I also taught Evidence to Judges throughout the State of Texas. I always received stellar reviews for my teaching. I retired from the municipal bench in 2004 and was elected to the Dallas City Council in 2007. I served the maximum 8 years. While on the Council, I continued my law practice, handling both criminal and civil cases.
I support rapid disposition of jail cases and a "risk assessment" approach to bail. I support using every technological resource that can be successfully adapted for courtroom presentation. I support diversion programs for first-time, non-violent offenders, substance and alcohol abusers, and mentally challenged persons. I am not suggesting that there not be sanctions and consequences for such offenders. However, I believe that the larger public is better served by placing these offenders in well-managed and well-supervised diversion programs, rather than using incarceration as a substitute for treatment and rehabilitation.
More pro bono programs and alternative dispute resources should be available. More funding is needed from the State for such programs. Additionally, all lawyers -regardless of the type of law they practice or the size of their firm- must be encouraged to handle at least one pro bono case per year.
I believe that the most pressing three issues are: (1) drug usage and addiction; (2) mental illness; and, (3) too many young men finding themselves incarcerated rather than in college or jobs. Oftentimes, drug addiction and mental illness are two sides of one coin. I would address drug addiction and mental health issues by requiring that those factors be assessed in each case. I would also be actively involved in community conversations and efforts aimed at addressing these two issues. Additionally, in my own court, I want to establish a mentoring program that pairs young men, who are first-time, non-violent offenders, with older men, who will be sturdy guides to a life apart from the criminal justice system.