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Judge, County Criminal Court at Law No. 11

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    Lori Botello (Rep) Attorney

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    Aaron Burdette (Rep) Assistant District 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 2003: Bachelor's of Business Administration in Marketing from The University of Texas - Austin 2006: Doctorate of Jurisprudence from South Texas College of Law - Houston
Professional Experience I've been a licensed attorney since November 3, 2006. I have practiced criminal defense most of my career and currently represent accused citizens in Harris County misdemeanor & felony courts and in the Southern District of Texas in federal offenses.
Community Involvement I am on the Board of Directors of my neighborhood Homeowner's Association and on the Board of Directors for the Harris County Criminal Lawyer's Association (HCCLA). I am also the Editor-In-Chief of HCCLA's magazine, The Defender.
Campaign Website http://www.loribotello.com
Campaign Phone (713) 202-9403
Currently, the most critical issue is the bail reform lawsuit underway. Judge Rosenthal entered an injunction that changed the way misdemeanants had their bail set. Previously, a bail amount had to be paid for a defendant to be released. Some would be able to post bond, but others would not. Now, most misdemeanants receive a pretrial release bond, which costs them little to nothing but requires verification of information, or an unsecured bond from the sheriff to be released from jail, which requires nothing. This is a precarious practice because the safety of the community is at risk. While I agree with Judge Rosenthal that some defendants should be released from jail without paying a bond (like those charged with driving while license invalid or theft) others should not (like those charged with assault, unlawful carrying of a weapon, or DWI). I want to help change the system to allow defendants to be released who pose little threat to the community.
The Public Defender's Office only has lawyers to represent mentally ill defendants charged with misdemeanors, so I would have to rely upon the list of approved, private attorneys to represent indigent defendants. I am on this list now and from my experience working in the various courts, I have seen many lawyers do a fantastic job but have also seen some not do much for their clients. I would not want those lackluster attorneys, who I have seen first hand give court-appointed lawyers a bad reputation, working in my court. The current standards to be on the list are rigorous with those wanting to be appointed having to pass a test in addition to having requisite trial experience. I would further require prosecutors recently turned defense lawyers to have trial experience representing defendants since the perspective of a defense lawyer is very different from that of a prosecutor.
I support use of pretrial bonds because the Pretrial Services department confirms information provided by the defendant about where they will live and work. I do not support the use of unsecured bonds currently utilized by the sheriff because those bonds do not require verification, nor do they take into account the risk a defendant may pose to the community based on the charge filed. Those charged with assault, DWI, drug possession cases, or unlawful carrying of a weapon should not receive unsecured bonds but should be eligible for pretrial release bonds since verification is needed before presentment to a judge for approval. It's important to be able to verify where a defendant will live and how he/she can be reached in order to confirm future court appearances.
Education/Degrees J.D. - Tulane Law School; Visiting student - Southern Methodist Law School
Professional Experience Assistant District Attorney: 2007 - present; Felony Chief Prosecutor; Tried 50+ jury trials; Former Chief and Deputy Chief of the Misdemeanor Division
Community Involvement Harris County Republican Party Member; Guest speaker - St. Thomas High School; Guest speaker - Rice University Football; Guest speaker - Rice University Citizens Police Academy
The most critical administration of justice issues are public safety, reducing recidivism rates, and protecting the rights of the victims and defendants.
The Public Defender's Office does not normally represent indigent defendants charged with misdemeanor offenses. The criteria I will use to assign attorneys to represent indigent defendants will be distributed among the list of attorneys eligible for appointment based upon the needs of the court, the individual attorney’s qualifications, and willingness and availability to work during an assignment period.
I support the use of personal bonds and the Harris County Pretrial Services Department for defendants who are charged with a non-violent misdemeanor offense, pose no risk of committing a new crime while awaiting trial, and are certain to appear in court.