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Dallas County Court-at-Law 2

4-year term. Must be 25 years or older, a U.S. citizen, a practicing lawyer, a resident of Texas, and a resident of the county. Responsible for cases including misdemeanor or criminal cases, class C appeals, civil matters, mental health cases, and probate matters.
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    Dorotha Ocker (Dem) Attorney

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    Melissa J Bellan (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.

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

MENTAL HEALTH: What, if anything, should be done to change ways in which mental health cases are handled?

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

Age 36
Education Stanford Law School, JD; Texas Woman's University, MA; Texas A&M University, BA
Campaign Phone (972) 360-8684
Twitter @OckerForTexas
On my first day as a lawyer, I served President Barack Obama in his Department of Justice. I tried cases all over the country representing the United States of America. When I left the government, I started working from my kitchen table, representing people who couldn't afford legal services. I tried cases for my clients in the Dallas County courts and all over the state of Texas, winning big awards for workers who had been wrongfully terminated, homeowners who had been wrongfully foreclosed upon, and tenants who had been wrongfully evicted.

My work gained the recognition of my peers, and I have been listed as a "Rising Star" by Texas Super Lawyers each year from 2015 to 2018.
We need to vastly improve justice for low income residents. The courtroom doors should not be shut due to the inability of someone to pay. We need to make sure that there are judges who understand what the lives of low income residents are like, such as transportation issues to the court, the hardship of time off work, and the need for quick justice. I understand those realities, and I'll make sure that the court accommodates the needs of all Dallas County residents.
Judges should be sensitive to the needs of witnesses and victims who might have mental health issues. This includes making sure that no lawyer tries to use someone's mental health issues against them in court unless it's relevant. Everyone should be treated with respect, including anyone with a mental health issue.
We need county courts at law that are efficient and well managed. Civil courts award money to people who have been injured, and no one should have to wait years to get their money. Justice delayed is justice denied. Because of my experience litigating all over the country and all over Texas, I have seen which courts are fast and why. I will bring that experience and knowledge to the county court at law in order to make sure that injured parties get their justice quickly and fairly.
Age 40
Education Sweet Briar College, B.S., magna cum laude SMU Dedman School of Law, J.D.
Campaign Phone (469) 601-8870
Twitter @BellanMelissa
I have practiced civil litigation since I was licensed in 2003. I also serve as an appointed Temporary Justice of the Peace.
The justice system is a tricky and expensive beast to navigate. Bringing programs and information into the community is one of the best ways to improve access. I have assisted with the CWA Clark Legal Clinic and GoodStreet Legal Clinics since 2007 providing free legal services to the community.

Providing forms in multiple languages and information about the process for requesting a fee waiver should be a priority.
Mental health cases are a challenge for the legal system. I would love to see a more comprehensive program that includes the medical, psychological, and legal systems working together to best serve the community and the invididuals involved in the case.
A lack of consistency is the number one complaint I have heard from attorneys who practice in these courts. Standing orders and published policies allow every litigant, from the best attorney in town to a person representing herself, to better prepare, plan for their case, and evens the playing field for everyone.

In addition, the State Legislature has proposed to eliminate 3 of the 5 County Courts. If presented again and passed, such a bill would create a huge increase in caseload for the remaining courts and delay justice.