Change Address

VOTE411 Voter Guide

SAMPLE Dallas County Court at Law

4-year term. Must be 25 years or older, a U.S. citizen, a practicing lawyer, a resident of Texas, and a resident of the county. Responsible for civil cases such as personal injury, business disputes and other cases involving damages to persons or property. Also handles appeals from JP court.

Click a candidate icon to find more information about the candidate. To compare two candidates, click the "compare" button. To start over, click a candidate icon.

  • Candidate picture

    Kourtnei Westover
    (Dem)

  • Candidate picture

    Joseph Thompson
    (L)

Biographical Information

PERFORMANCE & EXPERTISE: Please outline your legal experience, including any specializations and peer review status. Describe any public reprimands or suspensions you have received.

ACCESS TO JUSTICE: What, if anything, should be done to improve access to justice for low income residents in civil cases?

MENTAL HEALTH: What, if anything, should be done to change ways in which mental health cases are handled?

OTHER ISSUES: What other issues do you believe will be most pressing in the County Courts at Law and how would you address them?

Age 52
Education UT Austin (BA); USC (JD/MBA)
For the past 3 years, I have been a Judge of Dallas County Court at Law. In that time, I have delivered over 120 cases to jury verdict. Additionally, in the same time period, I have decided more than 370 non-jury cases. I have been consistently rated by the Dallas Bar Association as one of the best civil trial judges in Dallas County (See Dallas Bar polls at dallasbar.org). Prior to taking the bench, I was a civil litigator for ten years with my own firm, handling toxic tort asbestos cases all over Texas and the United States.
If someone is poor, they have the ability to file a pauper's affidavit and file their case without paying filing fees. Access is there, but many litigants who choose to represent themselves are lost in the courtroom. Although I cannot help someone prosecute a case, I often refer self-represented litigants to Northwest Texas Legal Aid and the SMU law student civil clinic to aid them in getting advice in their cases.
Dallas County has a probate court, Probate Court #3, that deals with mental competency hearings. I do not hear mental health cases, and I do not feel I am qualified to offer an opinion on this matter.
Right now, I feel my docket moves quite smoothly. I have motion dockets nearly every Monday, and litigants can call the clerk at any time to schedule a hearing. My jury and non-jury trials dockets also function well Tuesday-Friday. I maintain a judicial website so litigants can always see the status of their cases and docket position. Right now, I do not see the need to change anything, nor do I see any pressing issues that are not being dealt with.
Age 71
Education Rockaway High School, NY; US Navy; Univ of Arizona (BA); Texas Wesleyan Law
No public reprimands or suspensions. Currently, I am an attorney at a personal injury and medical malpractice law firm. Prior to that, I served as a Dallas Municipal Court Judge and Community Court Judge. During that period, I presided over hundreds of proceedings, including jury trials, bench trials, and various motions. I have also served Dallas County residents as an Assistant District Attorney fighting for justice for victims in the misdemeanor-trials and appellate divisions.
The civil system must be made more user-friendly to non-lawyers and non-English speakers. As a municipal judge, I heard many stories of individuals who didn’t know their rights during their eviction appeal and suffered defaults from creditors when they did not know how to answer suit. I plan, among other things, to a) develop a multimedia guide addressing procedural matters often overlooked by self-represented litigants (i.e. correctly filing a complaint, timely filing an answer, and properly serving a party) and b) spearhead a specialty docket I call, “Responsible Citizen Docket” to improve the process.
Mental health is the most pressing public health issue of our time. As a municipal judge, I regularly presided over cases involving individuals suffering from behavioral health conditions. In that capacity, I worked with city and county stakeholders and community advocates to safely divert defendants with unmet mental health needs from jail into appropriate mental health services. I believe the county courts could benefit from similar revised procedures or at a minimum court referrals to services when requested by self-represented parties suffering mental health challenges.
As discussed in section 2 above, local conditions in Dallas are such that self-represented litigants increase every year.

It is imperative to fight the State Legislature’s proposal to eliminate 3 of 5 county courts at law. Elimination of these benches increases the caseload for the remaining courts. For litigants, this will result in delayed justice. The legislature’s rationale for closures is that there has been a 60% decrease in filings in these courts. The cases have not gone away but are being filed in district courts. I would propose creating a joint committee with lawyers to address this issue.