Texas Decides 2018 Voters Guide
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Voters Guide

Nueces County, Judge, County Court-at-Law No. 1

Judge, County Court-at-LawNueces County Courts at Law have jurisdiction over criminal misdemeanors, probate matters and civil lawsuits. Their civil jurisdiction is more than that of the Justice of the Peace courts and the same as that of the District Courts. Term: 4 years, Term: 4 years. Residency Required: No. Salary: $157,000.

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    Russell Manning
    (Rep)

  • Candidate picture

    Robert J. Vargas
    (Dem)

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Biographical Information

Describe your legal experience for the type of judicial position you seek, including previous bench experience as well as legal counsel for bench and/or jury trials.

How would you rate the effectiveness and efficiency of the Nueces County Pre-Trial Assessment Initiative?

Explain your answer.

What will you do to ensure that all parties, involved in cases before the court, will have an opportunity to have their interests adequately represented and considered?

Compared to 2017, what is your assessment of the current caseload backlog in Nueces County courts, and what changes would you seek, if any?

• Successful trial attorney in Corpus Christi since 1986, with emphasis on complex litigation and contested probate litigation. • Board Certified in Civil Trial Law since 1992 • Graduated with High Honors from the University of Texas School of Law (top 5%) • Member of the Texas Law Review, Chancellors, Order of the Coif • As founding partner of my law firm in 1995, I created and implemented policies and procedures to increase efficiency, decrease costs, and maintain quality of legal services. • Familiar with newest technology for electronic legal research and document storage.
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The success of the initiative was predictable based upon the early results of the pilot program. Thanks to this program, indigent defendants who face criminal charges are not confined to jail while awaiting trial if they do not present risks of flight or violence. This initiative has reduced the jail population, which saves county taxpayer money and reduces the negative effects on the family relationships and employment of defendants who have not been convicted.The initiative is an excellent example of how a forward-thinking and innovative judiciary can bring about needed change.
In addition to building upon the success of the Pre-Trial Assessment Initiative in criminal cases, I would explore innovations in docket management, which I have published on my website, fairandimpartial.net. Among those ideas are complete transparency in scheduling and the status of the court’s docket, which I would make available online to the public In addition, I have voluntarily decided not to accept campaign contributions from attorneys who appear in court as a further assurance of fairness and impartiality.
The backlog is more manageable, but can be further reduced by making full use of available technology, including potential upgrades to allow judges to e-sign orders and automatically schedule settings for trial, hearings and submission dates for certain matters. Other changes could include publishing FAQ guidelines and internal operating procedures beyond the local rules; on-line scheduling of some hearings and submission dates; shorter docket intervals; advance confirmation of sequence and time allotted for court settings; standard online forms for some matters to speed up the review process.
I have been licensed as an attorney since 1977. I was elected and sworn in as judge of County Court at Law #1 in 1987. For over 30 years my judicial experience has been administering the court, presiding and managing through my rulings cases involving misdemeanor criminal cases, civil cases, probate matters, mental health cases, and condemnation cases. I have handled over 100,000 cases, including hundreds of civil and criminal jury trials and innumerable bench hearing and trials.
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The initiative uses a validated risk assessment tool that allows judges to accurately use risk factors to fairly determine bail for a defendant. The anticipated outcome should be fewer high-risk defendants released, and fewer low-risk defendants being detained which should improve public safety and reduce taxpayers costs.
In a criminal case, every person is apprised of their right to representation by counsel. If they cannot afford one they are informed that they may request court-appointed counsel. If they qualify counsel is appointed. In a civil case, I give a pro se litigant an opportunity to reschedule the hearing so as to allow them to contact and possibly employ counsel. I direct them to the Corpus Christi Bar Association pro bono assistance program or the Texas Rural Legal Aid office locally for representation if they say they cannot afford an attorney.
For the most part, civil cases are usually disposed of swiftly because there are mandatory timelines based on the alleged damages sought. Most criminal cases are resolved at the first appearance by a plea agreement between the district attorney’s office and the defendant. If not resolved at first appearance, a case is set for trial 90 days from that date. Compared to 2017 any backlog in all courts is substantially smaller. One consideration that would help avoid any backlogs would be the implementation of a pre-trial release office.