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Judge, County Criminal Court at Law No. 08

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    Jay Karahan (Rep) Judge, Harris County Criminal Court-at-Law No. 8

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    Dan Simons (Rep) 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 Bachelor of Music, Major in Music Theory, cum laude - 1978; Doctor of Jurisprudence, South Texas College of Law, Houston - 1983
Professional Experience Harris Co. Asst Dist Attorney 1983-87; Asst US Attorney, S.D. Texas 1987-1991; Litigation / Compliance Counsel, Cooper Industries 1991-1995; Principal, Jay Karahan & Associates, criminal & civil law practice 1995-2002; Judge, Court 8, 2003-present
Community Involvement St. Martin's Episcopal Church: lay reader, chalice bearer, choir member, Christian Education, "Healing Connections" pastoral care volunteer, usher; Board of Advisers, Houston Opera in the Heights
Campaign Email
Campaign Phone (713) 254-1866
Twitter @JudgeJayK8
1. Bail reform: the criminal courts have been working with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation grant, matched by Harris County government, to reform bail and pre-trial release practices. For three years now our courts have been working to implement an evidence-based risk assessment tool to evaluate the cases of new arrestees to determine which defendants can be released on personal recognizance, rational setting of bail amounts, and setting enforceable release conditions. 2. Electronic court administration: we are fast moving towards a "paperless" court administration that will speed up processes while maintaining reliable documentation; the court I preside in now is a pilot court for making this transition. 3. Courthouse repairs: Hurricane Harvey shut down the Criminal Justice Center. We are managing our dockets and trials while borrowing and sharing space with our Family Court colleagues. Returning to our courthouse will help us become more productive and user friendly.
1. Attorneys must be experienced, knowledgeable and committed to work with our indigent defendants to protect their rights and effectively advocate for them at all phases of a criminal case. Attorneys must meet a minimum knowledge threshold by examination, and they must have trial and hearing experience before being assigned. We are currently exploring a Managed Assigned Counsel system that has as its goal the training, management and assignment of counsel to criminal cases independent from the judiciary. I serve on the judges' committee looking into MAC. 2. The Public Defender's Office does an excellent job of handling misdemeanor cases involving mental health issues and appeals because those lawyers are particularly trained by the PD for this. Selection of private attorneys is done randomly for non-mental health trial cases and is working well at this time; there is no immediate need to change this until we move to a Managed Assigned Counsel system.
I support the use of personal bonds supervised by the Harris County's Pretrial Services Department in appropriate cases that have been screened using our relatively new evidence-based risk assessment tool in use since July 2017. As stated above, this tool and new system of post-arrest risk assessment is working well so far. Because of pending federal litigation and appeals, the system may change as the law changes. As a general rule, low risk cases should not require money bail and personal bonds with reasonable conditions of release are appropriate; high risk cases are not appropriate for personal bonds and money bail as well as reasonable conditions of release are appropriate to ensure court appearance and compliance with release conditions.
Education/Degrees Sam Houston State University (rank 1/1108 – Summa Cum Laude) Thurgood Marshall School of Law (Magna Cum Laude) University of Houston – L.L.M. – Masters in Tax Law
Professional Experience As Assistant District Attorney, I handled thousands of cases and I tried 68 total trials. When I was a court chief, I reduced the docket over 200 cases (20%) within four months by being efficient and effective.
Campaign Email
Campaign Phone (409) 489-3950
The most significant issue in this race is the actions of my incumbent opponent. As a constituent of Harris County, I am anti-corruption and believe that it has no place in our political system, particularly the judicial system. My opponent has done things that are unethical;

1) A sitting judge should not testify in a different courtroom for a friend’s daughter in order to get her off of a Driving While Intoxication charge where her blood alcohol content was over .15, double the legal limit. An attorney would only subpoena a Judge to testify with the Judge’s permission and the testimony is limited to character of the defendant only, not to the facts of the case. He testified to the facts, forgoing his judicial independence. (Contribution issues as well)

2) My opponent has a side business doing both traditional and civil marriages during county hours. He has done over 500 marriages. I feel a criminal court judge should focus 100% of the time on criminal law, not a side business.
I want a defendant to have the best possible representation. Today, our court appointed attorneys are overworked and under paid. I would balance out the workload between the Public Defender's Office and private attorneys so that each attorney would have more time to dedicate to each case.
I do support personal bonds for non-violent offenders, once the review of the individual’s case and criminal history has been completed during pre-trial hearing. I’d have to determine that the individual does not pose a threat to the community, and has ties to the community so he or she won’t be a flight risk. More serious cases such as driving while intoxicated, assault, assault family member, terroristic threats are cases that need to come before the court before being considered for a personal bond. The goal of a bond is to make sure the defendant shows up to court and public safety.