Our picks in Bexar County civil courts

San Antonio Express-News - - FROM THE COVER -

Most vot­ers don’t know the can­di­dates in the ju­di­cial races and that can be prob­lem­atic if party af­fil­i­a­tion is the only cri­te­ria used in de­ter­min­ing who gets a vote.

Judges with a strong work ethic and a deep un­der­stand­ing of the law are im­por­tant for the smooth and ef­fi­cient op­er­a­tion of a civil court sys­tem. In Bexar County, team­work is equally im­por­tant be­cause of the use of a civil pre­sid­ing sys­tem that doles out cases based on who is avail­able in­stead of per­ma­nently as­sign­ing a case to a spe­cific judge. That means no case lan­guishes unat­tended if there is a slacker judge, but it of­ten leaves the hard­work­ing judges hav­ing to fill in for col­leagues who have work ethic is­sues.

Di­vorce, child cus­tody, per­sonal in­jury and con­tract dis­putes are some of the cases that go be­fore a civil dis­trict court judge. There were more than close to 50,000 civil and fam­ily court cases pend­ing in Bexar County at the end of fis­cal year 2017. Dur­ing that same year, the courts dis­posed of just over 44,000 civil and fam­ily cases and seated 81 ju­ries. Three in­cum­bent civil dis­trict court judges are fac­ing chal­lengers in Novem­ber, a fourth con­tested civil court seat on the bal­lot was left open by the planned re­tire­ment of 288th Dis­trict Court Judge Sol Casseb at the end of the year.

In the 45th Dis­trict Court race, we rec­om­mend the re-elec­tion of Repub­li­can Stephani Walsh toa sec­ond term. A for­mer nurse, Walsh has more than 30 years of le­gal ex­pe­ri­ence and is board cer­ti­fied in fam­ily law, which com­prises a large por­tion of the cases brought to civil court. Her train­ing in me­di­a­tion is an as­set to the court. The op­po­nent in this race is Mary Lou Al­varez who has 15 years le­gal ex­pe­ri­ence and earned an in­dus­trial en­gi­neer­ing de­gree from Stan­ford Univer­sity be­fore com­ing into law. There is sim­ply no need for change in this court. In 150th Dis­trict Court race, we rec­om­mend Repub­li­can Renée Yanta to a sec­ond term. Yanta has 24 years of le­gal ex­pe­ri­ence, seven of them on the bench. She was ap­pointed to the 73rd Dis­trict Court bench in 2009 to serve an un­ex­pired term. Yanta is board cer­ti­fied in civil ap­pel­late law and teaches law cour­ses. A for­mer pub­lic school teacher who spent nine years in the class­room, Yanta cre­ated a suc­cess­ful ther­a­peu­tic court pro­gram to help pre­pare teen girls for life af­ter foster care. Her op­po­nent is Demo­crat Monique Diaz who has 10 years le­gal ex­pe­ri­ence. We find her le­gal tac­tics in an at­tempt to have two mis­de­meanor cases ex­punged be­fore she filed for of­fice more wor­ri­some than the charges against her. Ac­cord­ing to court records, Diaz en­tered a plea of no con­test, was given de­ferred ad­ju­di­ca­tion and nine months pro­ba­tion in 2012 on charges of re­sist­ing ar­rest and in­ter­fer­ing with the du­ties of a po­lice of­fi­cer.

In the 185th Dis­trict Court race, we rec­om­mend Richard Price to a third term on this bench. He pre­vi­ously served for 15 months as judge for the 408th Dis­trict Court, which he was ap­pointed to in Septem­ber 2005. Price has earned a rep­u­ta­tion as a hard­work­ing judge with good ju­di­cial tem­per­a­ment and who knows the law. Price has 29 years of le­gal ex­pe­ri­ence, ex­ten­sive jury trial ex­pe­ri­ence as a judge and brings ex­ten­sive me­di­a­tion train­ing to the court­room. His op­po­nent Aaron Haas has 10 years ex­pe­ri­ence and is board cer­ti­fied in im­mi­gra­tion. State courts do not gen­er­ally han­dle im­mi­gra­tion cases.

For the open 288th Dis­trict bench, we rec­om­mend Repub­li­can Clint Law­son who is board cer­ti­fied in fam­ily law and me­di­a­tion. Law­son has a master of busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion de­gree from the Univer­sity of Hous­ton and was em­ployed by Union Car­bide In­dus­trial Gases for 16 years be­fore go­ing into law. A for­mer pres­i­dent of the San An­to­nio Fam­ily Lawyers As­so­ci­a­tion, Law­son has a di­verse back­ground that would be a ben­e­fit to this civil court.

The Demo­crat chal­lenger in this race is Cyn­thia Marie Chapa, who has 12 years le­gal ex­pe­ri­ence. Law­son sim­ply has the bet­ter le­gal ex­pe­ri­ence.

Cour­tesy photo

Judge Stephani Walsh is among the can­di­dates the Ed­i­to­rial Board rec­om­mends for Bexar County civil court seats.

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