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Judge, County Criminal Court at Law No. 11

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    Gus Saper (Dem) Attorney

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    Sedrick T. Walker II (Dem) Attorney

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Biographical Information

What are the most critical administration of justice issues facing the court for which you seek election as judge?

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.

A large percentage of 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 while awaiting trial. Do you support the use of personal bonds and Harris County’s Pretrial Services Department for defendants awaiting trial? Why or why not?

Education/Degrees B.A. History Texas A & M 1971 J.D. South Texas College of Law 1974
Professional Experience 43 years as a criminal trial attorney licensed in the following jurisdictions: Texas U.S. Supreme Court 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Southern District of Texas Western Dist.of Texas Eastern Dist.of Texas Northern Dist.of Ohio District of New Mexico
Community Involvement Houston Bar Assoc. 5th Cir. Bar Assoc. Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Assoc. Harris County Criminal Lawyers Assoc. Harris County Democratic Party Harris County Democratic Lawyers Meyerland Democrats Sharpstown Democrats
Campaign Email gsaper@mgscounsel.com
Campaign Phone (713) 594-0834
The most critical issue is the loss of the Harris County Criminal Justice Center due to Hurricane Harvey. Courts are doubled up and sharing space. Cases cannot get to trial in a timely fashion. The district attorney's office is spread out around town and communication is difficult. The second critical issue is the current practice among some misdemeanor judges of refusing to appoint lawyers to defendants that have made a cash or surety bond, without a further investigation into a defendant's ability to hire counsel. Some go so far as to revoke bonds and to jail defendants before appointing counsel. Some judges keep resetting cases many times after refusing to appoint counsel. This results in defendants having to come back to court every few weeks, losing time from work or school, further punishing them prior to a trial. Justice is unduly delayed and the cost to both the defendant and the county is increased.
A judge should first determine what kind of case is filed and whether or not it requires some special skill or training. Are there mental health issues, is the defendant a veteran or does he or she have a significant prior criminal record. Finally a defendant's ability to hire private counsel must be considered along with a defendant's desire to hire private counsel and his or her ability to do so.

Currently attorneys from the Public Defender's Office are not generally available for appointment in Harris County, County Criminal Courts. That means that only private attorneys on the approved appointment list may be assigned to a misdemeanor case. I would favor an expansion of the Public Defender's Office if possible.
I absolutely support the use of pretrial personal bonds for most misdemeanor defendants. Federal Judge Rosenthal has ordered that change for Harris County, although its implementation has been somewhat resisted. For misdemeanor defendants that do not have pending felony cases there is little reason to require a cash or surety bond. The use of bonding companies to make bonds is a way for the county to transfer the responsibility and cost for making sure a defendant shows up to court to the private sector. Implementation of Judge Rosenthal's order has been further complicated by by the closure of the Harris County Criminal Justice Center.
Education/Degrees University of Texas School of Law - Doctor of Jurisprudence (2008); Texas A&M University - B.S. in Political Science, with honors (2005)
Professional Experience Criminal Defense Attorney (2013 to present); Harris County Assistant District Attorney (2009-2012)
Community Involvement Texas A&M Association of Former Students; Texas Exes; AMVETS
Campaign Phone (281) 410-8995
The most critical administration of justice issues in Harris County Criminal Court at Law No. 11 are fairness and professionalism to all parties, bail & pretrial bond conditions, the appointment of counsel, and consideration of funds for defense experts. Everyone entering the courtroom should always receive dignity and respect. Release on bail is vital to the accused’s ability to mount an effective defense. Appointment of counsel for those unable to pay for an attorney should be swift and indigency determinations shouldn't be overly inflexible. Requests for defense expert funds should not be limited to predetermined amounts, but instead evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
I would randomly and impartially select counsel from the county’s list of attorneys qualified to accept court appointments. Due to the massive criminal caseload in Harris County, I would continue to use a blend of appointing attorneys from the private defense bar and the public defender’s office. The public defender’s office is a great asset to the community, but at the moment it simply does not have enough attorneys to handle every indigent case. However, in cases where the accused has a mental health issue, I would lean toward appointing counsel from the public defender's office because they have an immense amount of training and experience in regard to mentally ill defendants.
I support the use of personal bonds for defendants accused of non-violent misdemeanor crimes who cannot afford to pay a surety or cash bond. I also support personal bonds for people accused of non-violent misdemeanors who have the financial means to post a surety or cash bond but are willing to wait for the lengthy personal bond evaluation process to finish. The pretrial department must create a reliable system for notifying defendants about their upcoming court dates due to the increased usage of personal bonds. Since it takes longer for release from jail on a personal bond, I do feel that people who can pay the surety or cash bond fees should be allowed to post bail in that manner and not be required to accept a personal bond. We should strive for expedient release from custody so the accused can return to their family, work, and school, and ultimately be better positioned to aid in their defense.