JUSTICE, PLACE 3, TEXAS SUPREME COURT
Oct. 28, 2016 at 2:18 p.m.
Editor's note: To help voters learn more about the candidates, the Advocate is printing profiles provided by the League of Women Voters in contested races in the Nov. 8 Democratic and Republican parties' primaries.
JUSTICE, PLACE 3, TEXAS SUPREME COURT - 6-YEAR TERM
Questions to candidates
• Background: What training and experience qualify you for this position?
• Impartiality: How do you maintain impartiality, given the need to raise funds for political campaigns?
Public Protection: The Texas Supreme Court has administrative control over the State Bar of Texas, licenses attorneys, and appoints members to the Board of Law Examiners. What rules or procedures are needed to provide protections for the public? • Other issues: What are the most important issues facing a Supreme Court Justice, and how would you address them?
Justice, Place 3
Debra Lehrmann (Rep.)• Background: With a total of 28 years judicial experience, I have served on this court for over six years and have written on a vast number of complex legal matters, including oil and gas, contract interpretation, commercial, corporate and securities law, tax, torts, family and probate law, civil procedure and evidence.
• Impartiality: The importance of judicial independence - that is, the duty to apply the law equally and neutrally to all parties - cannot be overstated. It is imperative that judges serve with humility, that they exercise restraint and that they fairly and neutrally apply the law equally to all litigants. I am bound by the Code of Judicial Conduct to apply these principles across the board, and never waver in my obligation to do so.
• Public Protection: I have the honor of serving as the court's liaison to the Board of Disciplinary Appeals and the Commission for Lawyer Discipline. In this capacity, I have devoted many hours to ensuring that complaints are handled in an efficient and just manner. The recently enacted Civility Oath is an example of the court's ongoing concern that lawyers conduct themselves with utmost professionalism at all times.
• Other issues: I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure our caseloads are handled in a proper, yet timely manner so we do not have backlogs of unresolved cases. On the administrative side, I will also remain active with the Access to Justice Commission, which performs a vital role in helping all Texans get quality legal representation regardless of their ability to pay.
• Education: A member of Phi Beta Kappa, I graduated with high honors from The University of Texas in 1979 and The University of Texas School of Law in 1982; I am a candidate for an L.L.M. in Judicial Studies from Duke University School of Law.
Mike Westergren (Dem.)• Background: More than 30 years of broad judicial experience, civil, family law, and criminal. I received the award of Outstanding District Court in 1995. My first elected office was Justice of the Peace. After one term, I was elected Nueces County Attorney for two terms. Appointed District Judge in 1984 and was subsequently elected until retirement at the end of 2000.
• Impartiality: Contributions to my campaign are capped at $50 per donor.
• Public Protection: The legal system has become so expensive that as a practical matter, it is only available to the very wealthy. Effort should be made to make legal services more available to more people. See next response.
• Other issues: A judge is not allowed to comment on how he or she will rule in a particular matter, but as a general matter the court must devote more attention to making legal services available to more citizens of Texas. The major way that this can be done is by simplifying the law. Much of the complexity of the law is unnecessary and should be made more simple and understandable.
• Education: Juris Doctorate, University of Texas School of Law, 1970; Bachelor of Arts, University of Texas at Austin, 1967; Associates of Arts, Del Mar College, 1965