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Justice of the Peace, Precinct 5, Place 2

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    J.R. Harris (Rep) Attorney

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    Jeff Williams (Rep) Justice of the Peace, pct 5/2

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    Mike Wolfe (Rep) Assistant Director of Government Affairs for Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel

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Biographical Information

The JP courts are frequently described as “The Peoples’ Courts.” As Justice of the Peace how would you ensure that this role is fulfilled in your court?

What changes, if any, are needed in JP court processes and procedures in your precinct to make the court more efficient and effective in fulfilling its duties?

The Justice of the Peace is charged with many responsibilities, what steps do you believe need to be taken to ensure that the JP Courts are adequately funded and staffed to do their job appropriately?

Education/Degrees I graduated from Strake Jesuit College Preparatory and obtained my B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin in Government and History. I earned my Juris Doctorate from South Texas College of Law and am a member of the State Bar of Texas.
Professional Experience I have been working for you in Harris County government since 2005. Eight years as an Assistant County Attorney and four years as the Director of Compliance and Chief Deputy for the Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar.
Community Involvement I am actively involved in my community and the Republican Party. While at the Tax Office, I led outreach programs with the Hispanic, Vietnamese, Chinese, and African-American communities. I'm also the Den Leader for my son's BSA Cub Scouts Bear Den.
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Our Court is one of the busiest Justice Courts in the State, handling over 8,000 cases each month. Behind each of these cases there are real people whose time, money, and interests are at stake. Ironically, despite the large dockets, our Court is not being utilized to its full potential by the public it should be serving. There are countless numbers of people in our community who are dealing with small claims and landlord/tenant issues related to Hurricane Harvey. However, they are choosing to either assume the financial loss or move on down the road rather than suffer through the antiquated bureaucracy of the Justice Courts. As a lawyer, this is a failure of justice and dangerous to our community; wrongs should be promptly righted to provide restitution to the victim and to prevent future wrongs from occurring. Isn’t this why we pay taxes? I will make our Court more user friendly by streamlining the filing process and utilizing modern means of communication.
I will work relentlessly to ensure that Justice Court Precinct 5 Place 2 (our Court) is a modern, fair, and efficient enterprise. The vast majority of Precinct 5 residents have had personal, first-hand exposure to our Court either as jurors or litigants to resolve a dispute or defend a misdemeanor charge. Therefore, it is no surprise that the public has a poor perception of our Court as being woefully inefficient, archaic, and byzantine. Our Court should serve the people of west Harris County by providing uncomplicated access to justice in a straightforward and prompt manner. Let’s raise our expectations. Good customer service and access to justice are not mutually exclusive concepts. I will invest in modern technology so that your time is not wasted. I will objectively and uniformly apply the law, so that cases that should be tried, get tried, cases that should be dismissed, get dismissed, and cases that should be settled, get settled.
An effective Justice of the Peace will understand that the cases before them do not exist in a vacuum. The Justice Courts have substantial interaction with County law enforcement and other County departments. In order to make any progress toward effectively funding and staffing our Court, the Justice of the Peace must work with the respective elected officials with an understanding that improved efficiencies at the Justice Court level will positively impact resources throughout the County. The policies and procedures of the Court can directly affect the efficiencies of other County departments; and vice versa. I have a deep respect for the taxpayers of Harris County; we need to work smarter, not harder, within the budget we have. Let’s use defined metrics to chart our progress as we make organizational improvements. As with any court, the staff is the most important resource available. I have experience leading teams to success.
Education/Degrees JD, South Texas College of law, 1981. BA, Univ Central FL, 1977
Professional Experience Justice of the Peace, Pct 5/2 elected 2010 to present. Attorney in General Private Practice , Houston Tx since 1982
Community Involvement Commissioned by Gov. Rick Perry as a Captain, JAG officer, Texas State Guard 2005. Volunteer at Wings Over Houston; Fort Bend County Fair; Galveston Dickens on the Strand; San Jacinto Day Re-enactment. Assistant Scoutmaster.VP. of my Congregation.
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While the Judge and the Staff are not allowed to help one side or the other in litigation, (we must remain neutral and unbiased) we do provide forms and general instructions concerning filing and defending lawsuits and have available all rules of Procedure and Texas Codes. Our website also has a great deal of information for those who wish to represent themselves. Remember that while it may be referred to as a Peoples Court, the rules and statutes still apply; it is not a free-for-all. It's a People's Court in that this is the court that most people deal with as it involves small claims, class C misdemeanors, evictions and traffic violations. As a judge, when dealing with non-attorneys in Court, while I can not make a persons case for them, I am allowed to question each party to uncover the facts needed and even reset to bring in necessary witnesses so that in the end, I can make a fair, just and legal decision on the facts even though they may not know how to do it themselves.
My staff supervisors and I continually meet to discuss ways to improve the processes and procedures. This is particularly so when a problem occurs. In such a busy court with a staff of 40 and over 8000 new cases being filed monthly, errors do occur from time to time. When they do; we discuss what went wrong that lead to that error and what changes we can implement to avoid it happening again. The Texas Legislature and the County are frequently changing laws, policies, procedures and our jurisdictional authorities, and each time new difficulties can present themselves as we put these new laws and procedures into practice. It's a constant part of how I run the court; to continually reinvent ourselves so that we are current, competent and efficient.
The sixteen JP courts have different needs due to their different caseloads. My staff and I will handle over 8,000 cases a month while other courts may only handle 8.000 or less cases a year. Annually, we discuss with the county the staff and equipment and facilities we need to get the job done. Sometimes we are able to receive what we request and others times not. The county of course does not have limitless funds and it's frequently a balancing act between what is needed and what is available. Taxes, fees and fines are generally what fund the courts; these all go to the county, which redistributes according to need, priorities and funds collected. Right now, what is needed most is a larger and better arranged courthouse. The flood basically destroyed it and it is being rebuilt, but due to county financial limitations, it is being rebuilt almost exactly as it was before, and that is not optimal for efficiently handling our caseload.
Education/Degrees B.A. in Political Science from the University of St. Thomas
Professional Experience Assistant Director of Government Affairs for Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel & elected twice countywide as a Trustee for the Harris County Department of Education
Community Involvement Lifetime Member, Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, Been active in Rotary, numerous Republican clubs, founding donor to the Center for Public Affairs at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Member of Houston's Second Baptist Church, Native Houstonian
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As the founders of our American nation set forth centuries ago, there are two sets of courts in our country where the justices are not required to be lawyers. One of those courts is the Supreme Court of the United States and the other are the Justice of the Peace Courts. I am proud to be the only non attorney running for this bench.

I know that being Justice of the Peace requires, first and foremost, having respect for each and every person that comes before you in the court. I will always treat each and every person that walks into the court as I would want to be treated if I were in their shoes. I will always keep in mind that each and every person is looking to be heard out with fair treatment when they walk into the court.

The Justice of the Peace Court is the court closest to the people. I will always remember that. I look forward to modeling my court after that of former Justice of the Peace Bill Yeoman. My other judicial role models are Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.
The first thing I would do differently from the current officeholder, is that after a major hurricane, I would never ask the county to build a wedding chapel for my use. Money from weddings go directly into the pockets of the Justice of the Peace performing them, Justices of the Peace are not required to perform wedding and there are numerous other venues where weddings may be performed in and around the Justice of the Peace district. The second thing I would do as Justice of the Peace, is that I will never erect a plexiglass barrier or any other type of barrier on my bench to separate me from the members of the public that are coming into the court looking for justice. There is no excuse for this type of behavior. I will be a Justice of the Peace that works a full schedule of 5 days a week. Our citizens deserve this much and this is exactly what they will receive from me as their next Justice of the Peace for Precinct 5, Place 2. I look forward to fairly serving all the people.
I believe that each Justice of the Peace must be an advocate for their court. Each Justice of the Peace needs to look over the budget for their court and make sure, as best they can, that each of their staff members are paid in accordance with their duties. It may be that the Texas Legislature needs to step in with some conservative minded remedies for the funding issues that face the Justice of the Peace courts. Justice of the Peace Courts in Harris County have some of the most worked staff in the state when it comes to courts. It may be that some of the Justice of the Peace Courts need fewer clerks in exchange for an Associate Justice of the Peace, just as the family courts in Harris County have. As JP, I will not perform any weddings. That is not a requirement of the job and the Justice of the Peace is not paid their salary to do weddings. That will allow me to focus on the duties of the court, not simply lining my pockets with extra cash. I will serve the people, not myself.