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Judge, County Criminal Court at Law No. 15

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    Tonya Jones (Dem) Attorney

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    Kris Ougrah (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 Jurisdoctorate-Southern University Law Center Bachelor of Arts, Political Science-Baylor University
Professional Experience Managing Attorney, Jones Law, PLLC Jan 2017-present Specializing in criminal defense, family law, personal injury. Associate Attorney, Law Offices of Wilvin J. Carter Jan 2013-Jan 2017 Handled criminal felony, misdemeanor, juvenile cases.
Community Involvement LegalEase Seminars in criminal defense, wills, family law educating the community and providing resources for low-income families.
Campaign Email
Campaign Phone (832) 230-4210
Twitter @TonyaJforJudge
The most critical issues faced within the criminal justice system are: 1. Bail reform 2. Mental health/Substance abuse and 3. Mass incarceration. We should utilize creative alternatives to incarceration that balance the factors of public safety and welfare. We want to make sure that society is protected, but not at the expense of trampling on an offender’s constitional rights. We need comprehensive bail reform so that poor people aren’t being penalized for being poor. We don’t want a system that keeps people in jail because they can’t afford to post bail. This encourages quick plea deals which affect housing, employment, and education. The criminal justice system is not designed to address the complexities of mental health/substance abuse but jail is not a viable solution. Mass incarceration drains taxpayer dollars which could be more effectively used to fund programs to address these issues.
I believe these decisions should be evaluated on a case by case basis. For more serious and extensive cases it will be more efficient to appoint public defenders. The Harris County office is well trained and has a great deal of resources that are not available to private attorneys without incurring most costs. I believe that random appointments of attorneys, even within the private bar encourages fairness, transparency, and accountability. It gives qualified lawyers an opportunity, rather than. Allow the judge to appoint his or her personal friends. What I will NOT consider is one’s ability to post bond in deciding to appoint counsel for them. I have seen several cases where an indigent person was told that they could afford to hire their own lawyer because a bond was posted on their case...even though the bond was posted with resources from the family/friends of the offender rather than them alone.
Yes I support the use of personal bonds because our laws give judges the ability to grant those bonds. There is no empirical data which supports the idea that a cash bond will assure that an offender is more likely to appear in court. Our laws require that felony offenders be given cash bail. So a person charged with murder could post a bond and be released while a homeless man charged with criminal trespass for sleeping on a park bench is required to remain in jail; not because he is violent or a threat to public safety, but because he is poor. This is fundamentally wrong and unconstitutional.

Bail should not be used as an instrument of oppression and an offender’s ability to pay is also one of the many factors to be considered in setting bail. It is important to remember that we are talking about low-level, non-violent offenses, not more egregious offenses in which higher bonds may be more appropriate.
Education/Degrees • Thurgood Marshall School of Law, J.D., May 2003, Houston, TX • Louisiana State University, Marketing B.S., May 2000, Baton Rouge, LA • South Houston High School, May 1996, Houston, TX
Professional Experience • 13+ years Criminal Defense Attorney • Over 3,000 Clients in Harris County • Handle Felony and Misdemeanor cases for over 13 years
Community Involvement GLBT Political Caucus, Houston Black American Democrats, Tejano Democrats, ROAD Women, Association of Women Attorneys, TOP, HLA, BAND, SABA, Houston Stonewall Young Dems, Area 5 Dems, Harris County Young Dems, Houston Bar Assoc, HCCLA, TCDLA
Campaign Email
Campaign Website
Campaign Phone (832) 563-3620
Twitter @VoteKrisOugrah
In my 13 years as an attorney specializing in criminal defense, I believe that one of the main administration of justice issues facing County Criminal Court, a misdemeanor court, is under-utilizing intervention and rehabilitation programs as a form of punishment. This adds to the mass incarceration problem in our country. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg has 2nd chance programs for first time offenders of non-violent crimes. I will make sure individuals that qualify are aware of these programs and not just plea out to a conviction. Another major issue impeding justice has been the cash bail system, which has basically discriminated against those that cannot afford bail.
From my experience as a defense attorney in Harris County, assigning attorneys for an indigent defendant depends on the person’s needs. Typically, a Public Defender’s Office attorney is used for defendants that have special needs, such as mental health issues or mental disabilities, because they have specialized resources. Private attorneys have to be vetted as highly qualified in order to become court-appointed attorneys. To determine if I will assign an attorney from the Public Defender’s Office or a court-appointed attorney, I will use the financial affidavit and the risk assessment provided by the pre-trial services to determine if the defendant has any special needs. If I have any lingering questions about a defendant’s need for specialized services, I will call them up and ask them follow-up questions to make the best determination possible.
Yes, I do support the use of personal bonds. As Americans, we have the right to have our day in court. No one should have to sit in custody before they have even been tried simply because they can’t afford bail. I will follow Federal Judge Rosenthal’s ruling on Harris County Pre-Trial Bail Reform, which calls for individuals charged with misdemeanors to be released on personal bond within 24 hours after their arrest if they haven’t already been bailed out, and if they are not subject to other holds. Some disagree with Judge Rosenthal’s order, but it is now the law and it needs to be followed.