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Texas Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 4

6-year term. Must be age 35-74 years, a U.S. Citizen, a Texas resident, licensed to practice law in Texas, a registered voter, and have at least 10 years experience as a lawyer or judge. Reviews all death penalty cases and applications for habeas corpus in felony cases, hears final appeals on criminal cases, and administers publicly funded judicial and attorney education.

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    Tina Clinton

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    Steven Miears

Biographical Information

Background: What training, experience, and background qualify you for this position?

Mental Health: How should the Court of Criminal Appeals address mental health issues of those who come before the court?

Access to Justice: What opportunities are there, if any, to improve the state’s indigent defense system in criminal cases?

Responsibility: Which responsibility of a Court of Criminal Appeals judge is your highest priority and how do you intend to accomplish it?

What other issues do you believe will be most pressing for the Court of Criminal Appeals?

Education: Juris Doctorate from SMU School of Law; Bachelors of Art in Philosophy from University of Texas at Austin
Twitter: @JudgeTClinton
I am currently the presiding felony state district judge of the oldest Criminal District Court in the State of Texas, the Criminal District Court, located in Dallas County. I have been a misdemeanor county court judge, a municipal court judge, a criminal defense attorney and a prosecutor specializing in criminal cases in Texas. I have experience with over 400 trials.
The Court of Criminal Appeals is an appellate court so issues of mental health raised on appeal are the issues that may be addressed. The Court of Criminal Appeals also funds education programs and grants for judges, lawyers and prosecutors. I believe that expanding that funding for increased mental health education in law would make a vast difference.
I believe there are two avenues of improvement. First, to review cases of ineffective assistance closely and with a critical eye. One consideration might be outright ineffective assistance for not doing one's job. The other can possible be because attorneys are carrying too high of a caseload based on assignments. Both instances should be reviewed carefully. Second, the Court of Criminal Appeals funds education, programs and grants for judges, lawyers who work in indigent defense and prosecutors as well as court personnel. I think the administering of these grants, programs and eduction liberally and requesting more funding from the legislature so we can robustly tackle education throughout the system would improve the state's criminal justice system on indigent defense.
(1) Speak to the Legislature about their attempts at bail reform laws. (2) I believe the Court receives 5000 habeas writs plus per year. This work is tasked to staff attorneys. These cases raise issues of actual innocence, ineffective assistance, and other reviews. We should review the need to increase staff so each case may be given full consideration.
One of the tasks of the Court is to help provide (1) grants for technical assistance projects to judges and court personnel, and (2) grants for innocence training programs. I believe these areas needs to be aggressively administered and expanded to help access to justice throughout the State. Many areas do not have funds for technical assistance or education otherwise.
Education: I graduated Madison High School in Houston, Texas. I received a B.A. with honors from Austin College. I have a doctorate of jurisprudence from Texas Tech University School of Law.
I am Board Certified in Criminal Law and Criminal Appellate Law. For 7 years I have been named a "Super Lawyer" in criminal law by Texas Monthly. I have handled over 125 cases as lead counsel on appeal. I have represented persons at trial and on appeal in many death penalty cases. My website has a link to watch an oral argument I did, and opinions of my cases on appeal.
The Court must address how to define intellectual disability for purposes of the death penalty. It has failed to do this even though directed to by the Supreme Court. The Court fails to make sure that indigent inmates with mental illness are appointed lawyers at every stage of the writ of habeas corpus process. Many of these inmates have no access to attorneys.
The Texas Indigent Defense Commission has no authority to sanction counties which have failed to implement or follow a proper indigent defense plan. While each county must have a plan, there is no enforcement authority to police these plans. The good ol' boy system still encourages trial judges to not follow a wheel system for appointments of competent lawyers, especially in death penalty cases. The creation of state-wide standards for the appointment of attorneys in felony cases would assure competent representation and development of competent criminal defense lawyers. A plan's use of flat fees paid to appointed attorneys and investigators encourages and rewards ineffective assistance of counsel. The development everywhere of online portals for appointed lawyers to access the court's file and DA discovery is needed. And ability to talk to inmates on webcams would assist communication.
The highest priority of a CCA judge is to review cases where the death penalty has been given. This occurs on direct appeal from the trial and on writs of habeas corpus. I will not leave this duty to clerks. I will personally read every record. I will not "go along to get along" with other judges on the CCA who refuse to examine the death penalty under current laws.
The most pressing issue for the CCA will be processing writs of habeas corpus filed by inmates. Last year the CCA handled over 3,500 writs. Each of these writs deserves personal attention from the Judge it is assigned to. These writs continue to bring to the attention of the CCA pervasive incompetence by appointed lawyers, prosecutorial misconduct, and bad forensic experts