TEXAS Court of Criminal Appeals - Who is on the November 2020 ballot?
Three Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judges, Bert Richardson, Kevin Yeary and David Newell are up for reelection. Their races are state-wide and all 254 counties in Texas will have their names on the ballot. If you are an eligible Texas voter, please remember to vote for these experienced and knowledgeable judges. The difference between the Republican judges and the Democrat judges is that the Republicans outweigh them in experience in appellate work and are not activists or ‘social justice’ judges.
Republican held Texas Courts suffered a devastating blow in 2018, losing a great many appellate and district judges to the Beto Blue Wave. Bexar County alone lost six experienced and capable District judges to the Democrats. Be mindful to vote for Republican judges in your district as this judiciary deficit will be difficult to overcome without your vote.
Under Texas Democrat Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, the Democrats are working hard to flip Texas. They are especially hungry for our top elected judiciary because they believe they have a realistic opportunity to turn Texas Blue. We cannot let the blood thirsty radicals take over our top courts. By turning all our judiciary Blue, they would be able to rule in favor of their agenda concerning our legislature and municipal cases. They will impact our everyday lives; just look at what is happening in Harris, Travis and Bexar Counties concerning the BLM movement and the promotion of defunding our police.
First and foremost, what does the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals do and who are these judges?
The members of the Court of Criminal Appeals are elected by Texas voters and hold their office for a term of six years. There are eight associate Judges and a presiding judge.
After a trial court has decided a criminal case, the State or the defendant may appeal to a higher court.
The appeals of all cases in which the death penalty has been assessed come directly to the Court of Criminal Appeals from the trial courts. The appeals of all other criminal cases go to one of the fourteen Courts of Appeals in Texas, and their decisions may be reviewed by the Court of Criminal Appeals. https://www.txcourts.gov/cca/about-the-court/
According to the Texas Courts website, in 2016 the Court of Criminal Appeals received four appeals in death-penalty cases, 4,632 habeas-corpus petitions and 30 death penalty habeas-corpus petitions. They also received 4,454 appeals of other criminal cases. This is a very busy court. https://www.txcourts.gov/cca/about-the-court/
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judges are on the November ballot and they must be reelected. Everyone who has registered in the state of Texas can vote for these judges on Tuesday, November 3 and in Early Voting starting October 13.
Judge Bert Richardson was elected to the court in 2014. His background includes extensive experience as a prosecutor, judge and as a visiting judge traveling Texas to assist in a wide range of cases. His prosecutorial experience was in the District Attorney’s office in Bexar County and in the U.S. Attorney’s office. He was appointed to the 379th District Court of Bexar County in 1999 by Governor George W. Bush. He attended St. Mary’s University School of Law and is board certified in Criminal Law. He has the experience, knowledge, temperament and sense of fairness to effectively do the job.
We know he is fair and unbiased because in 2015 while sitting as a trial judge, he ruled to not dismiss a criminal indictment case against Gov. Rick Perry when the easy route would have been to rule with his fellow Republican. Richardson’s reasoning was that it is not the role of a trial court to determine constitutionality before a trial. The case was ultimately dismissed.
When asked by the TEXAS LAWYER about his ability to ensure the equal administration of justice for all people Judge Richardson gave a very sound answer. “Appellate work is different, because appellate judges or justices may not be aware of a person’s race, unless the record raises race as an issue. There can be no question, throughout the history of our legal system, race has been improperly used in some cases. The U.S. Supreme Court occasionally issues opinions on whether race was improperly used in a trial. When that occurs, and the issues are properly raised, appellate courts have a duty to address and correct those errors, and in doing so establish legal precedent that prevents the same errors from reoccurring.” Richardson went further by stating, “Although a person’s race can be relevant in some instances, appellate courts have an obligation to carefully review racial bias claims to make sure race was not used simply to prejudice a defendant based solely on their race. As a judge on the state high court, my obligation is to carefully review those cases to make sure those toxins do not enter into our system.” https://www.law.com/texaslawyer/2020/09/03/judge-bert-richardson-attorney-elizabeth-davis-frizell-compete-for-judge-of-texas-court-of-criminal-appeals/?slreturn=20200905101856
Judge Richardson’s Democrat opponent is Judge Elizabeth Davis Frizell, Dallas County. She has been practicing law for 27 years and a judge for 20.
In the same article by TEXAS LAWYER Frizell plainly states, “The majority of the defendants who have appeared before me as a judge have been African American or Hispanic. Of the nine judges on the highest criminal court in Texas, none are African American or Hispanic. The court should reflect the citizens of Texas and the different viewpoints, experiences and perspectives that I bring to the court.”
While Frizell may feel it is her duty to review cases that may have been wrongfully decided because of their social or economic status, her first duty is to follow the law and not to be an activist as a judge.
Judge Kevin Patrick Yeary was elected in 2014. Prior to his election he practiced law as a criminal appellate lawyer for 23 years, first on behalf of people convicted of crimes and then on behalf of the state as an appellate attorney. He was a law clerk for Judge Bill White on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. He was an Assistant District Attorney for Dallas, Harris and Bexar Counties serving as an appellate attorney in each office. He brings a world of experience in the field of appellate work to the court. He is a graduate of St. Mary’s University School of Law.
In an interview with TEXAS LAWYER when asked about the ability to ensure the equal administration of justice for all people Yeary stated that, “I will follow the rule of law and will ensure that the written law provides the even playing field that all citizens should expect from a system that strives to be ruled by law and not by men. Judges should not be policy makers. Legislators write the law. Presidents and governors execute the law. And judges decide disputes within the framework of laws created and executed by others. All people are equal under the constitution and laws, and I will do my best to ensure that the principle of equality under the law is respected.” https://www.law.com/texaslawyer/2020/09/03/meet-the-candidates-for-judge-of-texas-court-of-criminal-appeals-kevin-patrick-yeary-and-tina-clinton/
Judge Yeary’s Democrat opponent is Judge Tina Yoo Clinton, Dallas County. Her experience is 14 years’ as a trial judge ranging from a state felony district court, a county criminal court and multiple municipal courts.
When asked by the TEXAS LAWYER why Texas voters should vote for her instead of the incumbent Clinton’s answer was, “I bring diversity of background, diversity of thought, diversity of life experience, diversity of legal experience, political diversity, racial diversity and more. To bring these considerations for discussion and consideration is a change that would create greater justice and greater understanding as judges review cases of great magnitude.”
Again the voters are looking for judges who will follow the law without any prejudice of skin color or religious beliefs. Social justice warriors are not meant to be on the bench.
Newell explains that being an appellate judge is a delicate balancing act. You need to understand how the proceedings affect people in the real world, but you also have to be able to balance that against the impact a particular ruling might have across the state. Handling criminal appeals is the only way to learn how to properly strike that balance.
Because Newell has over twenty years of experience as both a lawyer and a judge handling criminal appeals, he is the best person for the job he now holds. In a recent interview with TEXAS LAWYER he gave further information on his qualifications to sit on the Court of Criminal Appeals. He said, “I have also written significant decisions providing useful and fair guidance for law enforcement and prosecutors in cases such as Lerma v. State dealing with traffic stops, Paredes v. State, dealing with DNA batch testing, and Ford v. State, dealing with seizure of cell-site-location information.” He also commented that, “I am a fair judge who issues thoughtful, well-reasoned and well-supported opinions. That is why I believe I am better suited for this position.”
Newell was also asked about the equal administration of justice for all people. His answer, “I have never based any of my decisions upon the color of a defendant’s skin. It would violate my oath as a judge for me to do so. I am committed to the fair and equal administration of justice for all people. I have been a consistent voice for overturning wrongful convictions during my tenure on the court. I always strive to see the humanity in the process, and I always question my assumptions so that I might avoid unconscious bias. I believe my record on the court bears out this temperament.” To read more visit https://www.law.com/texaslawyer/2020/09/04/david-newell-brandon-birmingham-are-candidates-for-judge-of-the-texas-court-of-criminal-appeals-place-9/
Judge Newell’s Democrat opponent is Judge Brandon Birmingham from Dallas County. Birmingham is the current presiding judge of the 292nd District Court. He previously served as the Chief Felony Prosecutor and Cold Case Unit Chief in the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. He graduated from Baylor University with a B.S. and received his J.D. from South Texas College of Law.
Given the same question about the equal administration of justice for all people Birmingham responded that, “I pledge to ensure that outcomes in criminal cases will depend solely on the facts and the law – not race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, political connections or socioeconomic status.” This is his pledge. Judge Newell has been practicing on the court for the last five years what Birmingham pledges to do.
Little known facts I bet you didn’t know. Each judge is an individual that balances his life with activities that they have a passion for. Judge Richardson is an accomplished photographer. He enjoys photographing Texas athletes and these images appear in Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine. His images also grace many magazine covers. Judge Yeary enjoys cooking flautas, a fried corn tortilla with chicken in the middle, brisket in the oven and baking delicious chocolate cake and chocolate chip cookies. Judge Newell also enjoys cooking. In fact, he once won a poetry contest by writing a haiku about food. (The poem consists of just three lines with 17 syllables in total.)
“Table salt knows not
The shame of overlooked spice
Like crushed red pepper.”
In presenting to you the Republican Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judges that are up for reelection this November, keep in mind that these are judges that have experience, knowledge and appellant backgrounds and will follow the law. Texas does not need activist judges sitting on any bench especially on our highest courts.
All three challengers are from Dallas County and it’s interesting that the Dallas Morning News recommends the reelection of the three Republican judges based on the fact that they follow the law. The San Antonio Express and News also recommends that the incumbents are best in Texas’ high courts. The opinion which came out on Monday, October 5, ended the column by stating that, “There has been steady, positive change on this court since Richardson, Yeary and Newell joined it. We would like to see that continue.”
Remember only you can keep Texas RED. Vote by marking each Republican judge down the ballot.