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District Judge, 263rd Judicial District

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    Charles Johnson (Rep) Criminal Defense Lawyer/Businessman

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    Justin Keiter (Rep) Defense Attorney

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Biographical Information

What criteria will you use when making the final decision about assigning attorneys to represent indigent defendants? Please discuss selecting attorneys from the Public Defender’s Office vs. the selection of private attorneys.

What will you do to ensure that the commissioners that you appoint to oversee the grand jury selection for your court will use a process that is unbiased and ensures that grand jury members reflect the diversity of our community?

A large percentage of the inmates in the Harris County jail are pre-trial detainees. Other large metropolitan areas in Texas are increasingly using no-cost personal bonds for defendants who are accused of non-violent crimes but pose little flight risk; thereby, enabling them to be released prior to trial. Do you support using personal bonds and the services of the Harris County Pretrial Services Department for non-violent defendants as they await trial? Why or why not?

Education/Degrees Brazosport High School - Freeport,Texas B.A. University of Texas at Austin J.D. University of Houston Law Center
Professional Experience I have been chosen by over 1500 Texans to be their defense lawyer in 100 of the 254 counties in Texas. Retained, never appointed. Also, I have represented clients in Texas, Nebraska, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi in Federal Criminal Court.
Community Involvement Board of Directors and Lifetime member Houston Police Foundation, Private underwriter - Houston SWAT, advisor to Sheriff Ron Hickman, advisor to Waller County Sheriff Glen Smith, Corporate Development Committee Houston Rodeo, Pro Bono Atty: my church
Campaign Phone (713) 222-7577
Twitter @biglawforjudge
Initially, I will trust the system currently in place to test and vet the attorneys. Once they are qualified, I will next trust the particular coordinator of the Court I am running for. I know her to be a long-time, extremely competent professional who is very knowledgeable as to the reputations and work ethic of the available attorneys. In addition, I will use my own knowledge, gathered over the last 18 years, as to whom I believe will be the most efficient. In sum, efficient competence will be my standard. Of course, the cases must be moved, and dockets controlled, but speed can never outweigh having appointed attorneys completely fulfill their obligation to investigate cases and thoroughly represent clients to the best of their abilities. Next, I believe that the Public Defenders Office in this county is staffed with excellent attorneys. I know them personally and feel entirely comfortable with them. I will not hesitate to use a mix of Public Defenders and private attorneys.
I feel this question assumes institutional bias in the grand jury system. I do not feel this is the case. I have represented many clients in grand jury matters over the years, and the grand jurors I continually see with my own eyes DO reflect Harris County. As a Black American and citizen of this county, of course an unbiased system is important to me, but I feel that Harris County is currently doing an excellent job with its grand jury selection system. As for what I will actually do - it will be a very stern warning, given as a minority citizen of Harris County, that any commissioner tasked with appointments should continue to exercise this power in the way that I have observed over the years. Unbiased diversity is thriving in Harris County. When limited government is doing its job, I feel it is best to congratulate it, and leave it alone.
I support the use of personal bonds in only the most limited way, going to ONLY the most extremely vetted candidates. The bond system is not a place for social engineering. The bond system is in place to ensure Defendants' appearance in Court to answer to the charges filed against them. Non-violent or not, there must be consequences -and therefore positive incentives- for a Defendant to show back up once released. My 18 years of experience defending citizens accused of crimes has shown me there MUST be "skin in the game," to motivate behavior allowing for the smooth administration of justice. By all accounts, the current experiments in the bail system in Harris County have resulted in the high 40% ranges of no-cost personal bond defendants simply not showing up to Court. This is a disgrace and an example of what happens when social engineering is mixed with law enforcement. I am a practicing criminal defense lawyer, but I am also a citizen. This is an issue of public safety.
Education/Degrees Graduated Magna Cum Laude and in the top 5% of my class from South Texas College of Law Houston and received two B.A.'s in Journalism and Political science from SMU.
Professional Experience I’ve tried over 80 jury trials and spent 11 years as an Assistant District Attorney trying some of the most serious and high-profile cases in Texas. I have spent the last year in private practice as a criminal defense attorney.
Community Involvement I have previously volunteered at the Children's Assessment Center and am active and volunteer where my two daughters go to school. I also attend Beth Israel Synagogue.
Campaign Email
Campaign Website
Campaign Phone (346) 800-7927
I am going to make sure that any attorney I appoint is a hard worker who cares about the people they represent. I will make it clear to any attorney working in my court that it is expected they will go see their clients at the jail if they are incarcerated. I would utilize both private attorneys and the Public Defender’s Office.I believe there are some incredibly talented private attorneys on the appointment list and the Public Defenders Office has seasoned veteran attorneys who have incredible resources to benefit their clients.
Since the Judge is responsible for picking the Grand Jury, I will conduct an in-depth Grand Jury Voir Dire with tough questioning so that the people I appoint understand the gravity of the decisions they make and that their decisions have serious potential life-long repercussions for all involved. I will make sure my Grand Jury is representative of our community which is the most diverse in the United States.
I do support using no-cost ("PR") bonds in some situations but the system needs to be reformed so that it takes into account the future danger of the defendant to the community. This system can be beneficial but it needs to be fixed and tweaked in order to ensure that if a person is on a PR bond and they pick up another criminal offense then they should be disqualified from getting another PR bond and their first PR bond should be revoked.