Editorial note: This is the fourteenth in our series of electronic interviews with candidates in contested primaries at both the Statewide level and throughout Harris County. We have sent eight open-ended questions to each of the candidates. The following are verbatim copies of the questions sent out and the answers received.
Bert Richardson, candidate in the Republican primary for the Court of Criminal Appeals, place 3
Texpatriate: What is your name?
BR: Bert Richardson
T: What office are you running for?
BR: Place 3 Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
T: What is your profession/occupation?
BR: Senior Judge, Adjunct Law Professor St. Mary’s University Law
T: In just a few words, what does the office you are running for do and what are its responsibilities?
BR: It is the State’s high criminal court for all criminal cases. It has 3 important duties: 1. Review all death penalty cases; 2. At its discretion, review cases ruled upon by other intermediate appellate courts and issue opinions on those lower court rulings; 3. It has the sole power at the State level to set aside wrongful convictions after hearings are conducted at the trial court (granting writs).
T: If you are running against an incumbent (primary or general), do you think the incumbent has failed? If so, why specifically?
BR: The incumbent is retiring.
T: What would be your three biggest priorities if elected?
BR: First, The TCCA promulgates rules of evidence for criminal trials . Because of significant changes in scientific evidence (DNA) in many areas that have exonerated several wrongfully convicted defendants, those rules should address the changes and the admissibility of such evidence. Second, the State and defense should be able to file briefs and records to that court online (e-filing). Most appellate courts across the State have implemented this and I would work to do that at the TCCA. Third, the TCCA administers funds that educate judges. Judges should be educated on legislative changes in discovery rules and the obligation the State has to turn over evidence in light of the Michael Morton Act and exoneration.
T: What distinguishes you from your opponent(s)? Why should people specifically vote for you?
BR: As an elected judge and Senior Judge over the last 14 years I have worked in 40+ counties across the State and handled almost every type of case the TCCA reviews. Some of these cases have required significant writing and recommendations to the TCCA on how those cases should be resolved.
I believe I am the only candidate for this position that has a combination of significant death penalty and appellate experience as a practicing lawyer and judge and that is Board Certified in Criminal Law (less than 2% of lawyers are certified in this area).
I have taught law related classes at the local colleges and law school since the mid 90’s. I have the tried and presided over the types of cases the TCCA handles for most of my career. In addition to my extensive trial experience as a State and Federal prosecutor, I have written over 50+ briefs in the State and federal systems. As an elected judge in Bexar County I was consistently ranked at the top of local Bar Polls for knowledge of the law, work ethic and judicial demeanor. As a Senior Judge I receive a steady stream of judicial assignments for routine matters (both civil and criminal) and I have been assigned several high profile cases across the State both at the trial level and post conviction level including 5 death penalty cases. I have never had a trial verdict reversed by an appellate court. I have taught at the local colleges and law school for over 15 years and consistently receive high marks on all of my student evaluations.
T: What is the most important thing you have learned thus far in the campaign?
BR: That Texas is a big State and difficult to cover! It is difficult to raise funds for this race and most of that goes to travel expenses for campaigning. Very few people are aware this court exists and even fewer understand what duties the judges have in what is one of two high courts in this State.