Please describe the qualifications and experience that make you the best candidate for the office you are seeking.
Qualifications and experiences: I hold a degree in Criminal Justice, I worked 8 years as a police officer making hundreds of arrests and serving the people of this country. I was awarded officer of the month, commendation medal for reviving a man who was dead, and awarded the Medal of Valor for going into a burning house to pull a man to safety. I attended Law School while simultaneously serving as a senior staff officer on active duty with the US Army. I worked as a prosecutor and was promoted to Chief of a District Court where I managed hundreds of cases and prepared for trials, presented to the grand jury, argued motions, and fought hard to seek justice. I then went out on my owned and became a small business owner and served the people of Montgomery County since 2012. I hold a Juris Doctorate from South Texas College of Law, a Master’s Degree in Strategic Studies from The United States Army War College, and a Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice.
I have commanded over 3500 Soldiers as a Brigade Commander. These Soldiers rotated into four areas of operation, and I made the ultimate decision as to who went to these combat zones.
I have led 1200 Soldiers in combat in Iraq and was a recipient of the Bronze Star. (evaluation is available upon request).
I currently am a Division Commander of an Army Reserve unit; a top one percent position within the top one percent of Americans who have served.
My experience in the criminal justice field is unmatched by any candidate. My leadership training from the greatest training organization in the world, the United States Army, separates me from the field. If leadership and experience matter to your PAC, then I am the unquestionable choice for Judge of County Court at Law #1.
Please describe the best way for the average voter to determine which judicial candidate is best.
The best way for the “average” voter to determine which judicial candidate is the most qualified, I think the voter should look at three things; does this judge have criminal justice experience; can this judge lead a court room, and does this judge have the temperament and decision-making ability to be a judge.
First, look at the candidate’s experience. My experience is listed in in the first question and will be mentioned later in future questions. Second, I think the average voter should look at leadership positions the candidate has held. This includes volunteering within the community. Though it may seem minor compared to leading troops in combat, I have also led children as they learn team sports. I coached my kid’s soccer teams, was the manager of an ORWALL team, and I coached my son’s South County Football League team. I also volunteered hundreds of hour for National Charity Roundtable (NCR). The hours dedicated to the youth were some of my favorite times in life. Just last week, I heard across an HEB an adult say, Hey coach John. That adult was a kid I coached 10 years ago. Finally, Judicial temperament/decision making is vitally important. Making a decisive decision is an important component of being a judge. I have made life and death decision as a police officer and as a military leader, and I will continue this decision-making ability after being elected.
Please describe what you believe are the most significant issues in this race, why and what you'll do to address them?
There are new and emerging issues each year in the United States as it pertains to courts. I think the most important issue in this race is going to be the ability to manage the over-whelming docket as it continues to grow in numbers. To address this issue, I am going to do what I have always done in my life, I am going to command it by forcing trials and making the state and the defense to sign off on scheduling orders. I am going to double the amount of trials that are had in County Court at Law #1. I am going to follow the constitution as written, and this includes allowing defendants to have the right to speedy trials. Trials help both the State and the defense. Trials help the community resolve cases. Trials help all involved in the criminal justice system.
I am absolutely not going to tell anyone how I will punish certain people for certain crimes or make promises of leniency or saying I will max out every convicted person. That is impossible to do without knowing the facts and circumstances of each case. Any potential judge that says they want to adjust the punishment of certain cases is usurping the power of the legislature, and that is not something I will do.
Bottom line: I will follow the constitution of the state of Texas and of the United States, I will follow the criminal code of procedure written by the state legislature, and I will follow the penal code and the laws of the state of Texas that are constitutional and make decisions based on these documents.
How relevent today is Blackstone's maxim "All presumptive evidence of felony should be admitted cautiously; for the law holds it better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent party suffer".
It is presupposed that any ratio presented should not be taken to indicate that it is worse to convict an innocent person than to acquit a guilty one. This maxim was written in 1769 by William Blackstone. Like all lawyers, the study of Blackstone in criminal justice was an important part of the study of criminal law.
I interpret this statement to simply say we cannot allow an innocent person to be convicted of a crime they did not commit. I think all lawyers, judges, and citizens agree with this statement. However, society differs on the first part. Most citizens do not want to see guilty people to go free. So, Blackstone clearly stated that a ten to one ration is where he draws the line.
I think it goes back to Roman times that we should not punish the innocent and again, we can all agree on that. But how does this affect the way I will rule as a judge? The ultimate question is whether the evidence in a case should be admitted. The Code of Criminal Procedure and the Rules of Evidence as passed and adopted by the Texas Legislature gives judges, attorneys, and citizens guidance on what is admitted and what is not. Relevance is the first rule that the state of Texas has to overcome. Once admitted, the jury has to give that evidence that weight it deserves.
Bottom line: A solid jury instruction that follows the constitution, follows the penal code, and follows the rules of evidence gives adequate protection to a defendant. The standard to convict in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt as agreed by all jurors. If one juror does not agree the state has met this high burden, then the jury cannot convict.
Understanding that all courts in MoCo have general jurisdiction, the board of judges has moved towards specialized courts. What types of cases are currently filed in the court you are running for? What is your experiences to handle this specific case type? Are you planning on asking to change the case allocation or case type assigned to the court you are running for if you win?
County Court at Law # 1 is currently a court of general jurisdiction that handles criminal cases exclusively. The county has established a new court that will handle civil and juvenile cases. There are no indications of CCL#1 changing to anything other than a criminal court. Additionally, the board of judges have asked for a new criminal court. Answers number one, two, and infused in other answers explain why I am the most qualified candidate in any race, but especially in this court. My wide range of experience and leadership are key to running and presiding over a court. I am not planning on asking the court to change to anything other than this court remaining a criminal court. (it should be noted that I have tried civil cases to final jury decisions as well as family cases, but my lifelong experience in the criminal justice system is unmatched).
If, this court changes to an different court, I will still follow the constitution and the rules of evidence. The difference between the criminal and civil rules is not so drastic and I can adjust quickly.
What carries the greatest influence on your rulings: case law, the Constitutions, or other?
The Texas constitution, period, Hard stop.
The other documents will give me guidance, recommendations, and stare decisis, but the greatest of these is the State Constitution. The state, through the Bill of Rights, gives the state the power to make laws for its citizens via the 10th Amendment. Almost all of the cases I will handle will be state cases of violations of state law.
Please describe the major challenges for your court over this next term.
The challenges for this court will be docket control and using technology to make the court more efficient. I have litigated in over 40 courts across Texas. I have seen things that work, and I have seen things that are horribly inefficient. Efficiencies help all involved. Sitting 3 hours to simply reset a case will be a thing of the past in this court. The State, the defense counsel, and the defendant will all benefit from innovations in the courtroom. This includes use of zoom to reset cases, use of pre-trial motions to reset cases, and the use of enforced scheduling orders will all add to efficiencies; thus saving money across the community.
Do you think judges should be elected by the people, or appointed by a commission?
Per the Texas constitution and putting power to the people, judges should remain to be elected. Appointment by a commission does not seem to be the Texas way. As we have seen in the recent Supreme Court appointments and confirmations, these processes take the power away from the people.
In your view, what is the threshold for determining constitutionality of a legislative act? or a challenge to it?
There are a number of ways to determining the constitutionality of a legislative act. This includes rulings from the various courts of appeals and of the Texas Criminal Court of Appeal as well as the SCOTUS. IF the question is asking about a case of first impression, then I would give great deference to the legislature and would only deem a legislative act as unconstitutional if it is clear and convincing that it violates the Texas and US Constitution.
Obviously, I can only answer this question based on the facts and circumstances of the case.
To what extent do you believe the state or federal government should be able to obtain court orders directing parents to do things for their children that the parent does not believe should be done?
I cannot think of a scenario where this question will come up in County Court at Law #1. This question could be answered with a very long, law school response. To fairly answer, I would need an example. Clearly, parents have the ultimate decision of their children life unless that action is a clear and convincing risk to the child’s life or limb or the life of others. (Child in need of supervision and the parent has lost the capability to provide that supervision) This question is much more appropriate for CCL #3 candidates, but again, I cannot think of a scenario where, when elected, this question will come up.
Among the nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court(SCOTUS), which one do you respect the most, and why? Which one do you respect the least, and why? What judicial philosophy should a SCOTUS Justice have?
Since the Warren court of the 1960s-1970s, the need for conservative justices has become obvious to some, but not all. I hope, based on my previous answers, I feel we need conservatives who would practice "judicial restraint." Obviously, the court misses Antony Scalia, who was the bellwether of conservative ideology. Of the justices on today’s court, the newest members have not enough opinion writing to form an opinion as to how they will rule on cases. The one I respect most is Clarence Thomas. He started his career under the scrutiny of the Senate and the sensational confirmation hearing. He promised to practice judicial restraint, and since then, he has been a consistent voice for judicial restraint.
Respect means different things to different people. Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen G. Breyer were all nominated by liberal presidents and have been judicial activist. It is hard to not have respect for someone who does what they say they will do. I disagree with their philosophy, but they have stuck to what they were nominated to do.
Based on the measure of what respect means to me, John Roberts is the justice I respect the least. Consistent rulings are important, and Roberts is not that. He seems to make decision based on popular opinion and not rule of law.
CSPOA says "Civil forfeiture laws pose one of the greatest threats to property rights in the nation today. They encourage law enforcement to favor the pursuit of property over the pursuit of justice, and they typically give the innocent little recourse for recovering seized property. And without meaningful transparency, law enforcement faces little public accountability for its forfeiture activity or expenditures from forfeiture funds." How should these Civil Forfieture issues be addressed?
These actions are civil in nature and should be handled by a civil court and should not be tied to a criminal plea or a criminal conviction. They should not be handled in criminal court. Each person who has a civil forfeiture should have the ability to present their case to a civil court in front of a judge that is elected by the people and have this case resolved quickly. Additionally, a general denial should automatically be attached.
What 2 things about your opponent do the voters need to know?
Right now I have only one opponent. I am a firm believer that a judge should have a wide breadth of experience and have meaningful leadership positions. My opponent lacks that experience and leadership. As stated before, President Donald Trump had reposed special trust and confidence in my leadership abilities, and he nominated me to become a General Officer in the United States Army. Then, the Senate confirmed that nomination. My experience in all areas across the criminal justice system is unmatched. All voters need to know is that he does not have this experience or leadership positions with proven success.
He is a nice guy, he has worked hard in his profession and he has worked hard on his campaign. But I trust that voters will look at experience and leadership, two skills that are must to preside over a court.
What Texas State court decision do you think has most impacted society? How and Why?
Texas v. Johnson and Lawrence v, Texas are the two cases that were decided by the Court of Criminal appeals in Texas that went on to be over-turn by the US Supreme Court. Both of these cases were significant to the country as it Supreme Court expanded both free speech in Johnson and privacy under the Due Process Clause in Lawrence. Though these cases were originally decided in the state courts, the impacts were only felt after the expansionist SCOTUS ruled on the cases.
The importance of these cases is that even after the highest court in the state makes a decision, the power of the SCOTUS rules the land.
The more important issue are the future decision on the Texas Hearbeat bill. Once the State Courts make a decision, how will the SCOTUS review this case?
Apparently in conflict with current pratice in the courts Art. 19.27. of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure states "ANY PERSON MAY CHALLENGE. Before the grand jury has been impaneled, any person may challenge the array of jurors or any person presented as a grand juror. In no other way shall objections to the qualifications and legality of the grand jury be heard. Any person confined in jail in the county shall upon his request be brought into court to make such challenge." What is the practical application of this statute?
There will be very few grand jury cases heard in the court I will be elected to. However, since a grand jury does not decide guilt or innocence, and since there is a grand jury impaneled prior to most cases going to the grand jury, and since there is the 90 day rule that allows for those in jail to be released after 90 days without an indictment, and since most defendants in jail have attorneys appointed to them and they have the opportunity to present evidence to the grand jury, and since grand juries are empaneled by judges that are elected to District Courts, the protection of the presumed innocent have a belt and suspender system in place. The practical application is an issue for an elected District judge, not a matter for review by an elected County Court at Law Judge.
As a judge, what do you believe the goals of the criminal justice system should be?
The goals of the criminal justice system should be to seek justice in a fair and efficient manner consistent with the Texas Constitution, the US Constitution, and the applicable codes that support these documents. Justice delayed is justice lost. As a judge, I will run a fair, efficient, and predictable court room by working long hours, allowing off docket plea agreements to be the norm, and to utilizing technology to the benefit of all.
Who is endorsing you and what is their relationship to you?
Endorsements for judicial candidates prior to the closing of the application session is rare. I have not garnered any formal endorsements of any community leaders at this time. However, the dozens of people that I have met for the first time since announcing my candidacy that have contributed to the campaign, that have taken signs and placed them at their business or their home, and that have hosted fundraisers for me is more important than a verbal commitment.
However, I feel that there will be endorsements after the closing of time to announce.