I’ve represented citizens charged with a multitude of offenses ranging from minor infractions and misdemeanors to second degree homicide on a pro-bono basis. I have also utilized personal resources in defense of my clients. I am fully cognizant of the racial and socioeconomic disparities in the criminal justice system and the resulting effects that lead to mass incarceration.
All citizens do not have adequate access to legal assistance; largely, in part to the lack the financial resources. Certain communities are frequently over policed. Impoverished and under-educated people are targeted, arrested and prosecuted. Thus, the vicious cycle revolves. State Bar Associations can mandate a minimum of 36 hours (3 hours per month) of pro-bono work to be performed by attorneys annually. This may relieve overburdened Public Defenders, which are underfunded, underpaid and have mounding caseloads. However, I don’t believe access to competent legal representation will substantially improve until the underlying problems plaguing the affected communities are addressed. Systemic and institutional reforms are imperative to truly effectuate change.
A cash bond is only one form of securing one’s release in the bail system. I am a proponent of personal, commerical and property sureties. A persons ability to pay, in conjunction with the nature of crime, underlying circumstances giving cause to the arrest, their criminal background, community ties, and whether or not the individual poses a threat of harm or danger to society are all factors I would consider prior to setting bail.
I am not aware of any programs that aid those with financial difficulties post bail. Judges play an integral role in ensuring public safety during the pendency of litigation. Ultimately, as public servants, it is incumbent upon a judge to uphold the Constitution and ensure the bail system is not inappropriately utilized and/or applied to incarcerate alleged offenders who should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The War on Drugs has been effective in over-criminalizing non-violent offenses and mass incarceration and ineffective in eliminating substance abuse and the demand of controlled dangerous substances. This policy has failed to create substantive change in combating issues such as: poverty, mental illness, and lack of access to adequate healthcare services to elevate human dignity and narrow the gap of racial and socioeconomic disparities which are major contributory factors in the demand for drugs.
I am a proponent of drug and veterans courts, as alternatives to incarceration. As judge, I would support reducing recidivism by sentencing offenders to substance use treatment, supportive services, and supervision and monitoring instead of incarceration. To accomplish this goal, current legislation would have to be changed to eliminate mandatory sentencing for non-violent drug offenses.
Judges are the sole sentencing authority. The legislation provides mandatory minimum and maximum guidelines, the District Attorney may give a recommendation and the victim can give an impact statement but ultimately the decision is vested with the judge. Absent statutes mandating in-house incarceration, judges can suspend sentences, place offenders on probation and/or utilize discretion and order home incarceration with monitoring; in an effort of reducing jail overcrowding.
Judges take an oath to uphold the Constitution and administer justice in a fair and unbiased manner. Judges who display egregious bias should be disciplined by the Judicial Commission. If such act(s) is to the detriment of a litigant, the judge should be held accountable civilly and/or criminally and not shielded by qualified immunity.
I presently seek a criminal seat at the District Court level. I have practiced criminal defense throughout the duration of my 14 years legal career. I have experience reviewing affidavits of probable cause, conferencing with assistant district attorneys and judges, conferring with the commissioners, bond hearings, evidentiary proceedings, preliminary examinations, writ applications, bench and jury trials, and appeals from City Court.
As a practitioner, I understand the importance of expeditiously moving dockets forward. Lawyers and citizens are often forced to sit in court for hours sometimes waiting for judge’s who start court hours late. Punctuality and courtroom experience prosecuting or defending misdemeanor, felony and capital offenses are major factors in effectively managing time. I am running as a candidate for judge who has actual practice experience in the 19th, 18th, 21st, 23rd Judicial District Courts, in all criminal divisions, representing defendants charged with traffic, misdemeanor and felony offenses.
Competent staffing (judicial administrator, minute and docket clerk and a knowledgeable law clerk) is also essential to effectively manage dockets.
Serving 13 years in the U.S. Army, taught me the importance of customs, courtesies, discipline and maintaining bearing. As a registered nurse, for nearly two decades, I have been prepared to have compassion and empathy for others.
People should be addressed by name, they should be given an opportunity to express themselves without fear of retribution, the judge should be patient, courteous, refrain from being disrespectful to attorneys or defendants, and most importantly remember he/she was elected by the people to serve the people. A heart of service is a must.