Editorial note: This is the sixth 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.
Kevin Yeary, candidate in the Republican Primary for the Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 4
Texpatriate: What is your name?
KY: Kevin Patrick Yeary
T: What office are you running for?
KY: Judge, Place 4, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
T: What is your profession/occupation?
KY: Appellate Prosecutor, Bexar County DA’s Office
T: In just a few words, what does the office you are running for do and what are its responsibilities?
KY: The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the criminal supreme court in Texas. It is the highest court for criminal cases in Texas. It exercises discretionary review over non-death penalty decisions from the 14 intermediate courts of appeals in Texas, and it reviews all death penalty judgments on direct appeal. It also has original exclusive jurisdiction over all final felony judgments, which it exercises on review of applications for the writ of habeas corpus and other extraordinary writs.
T: f you are running against an incumbent (primary or general), do you think the incumbent has failed? If so, why specifically?
KY: N/A (Judge Paul Womack, who currently occupies Place 4 on the Court of Criminal Appeals, is not running to retain the seat).
T: What would be your three biggest priorities if elected?
KY: Help to usher the Court through the transitions such as e-filing and other technological advances. Help the Court to address advancements in science, such as DNA evidence, in accordance with the will of the people as expressed by their representatives in the Texas Legislature. Help the Court to exercise restraint by refusing to legislate and by recognizing the limits of the role of a judge in our system.
T: What distinguishes you from your opponent(s)? Why should people specifically vote for you?
KY: I have spent the vast majority of my 22 year career as a lawyer litigating criminal appeals and other post judgment issues. I began my career as a briefing attorney at the Court of Criminal Appeals. I have practiced as a criminal defense attorney. And for the last 18 years, I have been an appellate prosecutor working for DA’s offices in Texas.
For more than ten years now, I have been a senior appellate prosecutor in the Bexar County DA’s office. I have litigated well over 400 direct appeals. I have practiced in most of the appellate courts in Texas. I have briefed and argued many more cases in front of the Court of Criminal Appeals than either of my opponents. I have argued before the Texas Supreme Court. I have litigated applications for the writ of habeas corpus both in State court and in Federal court. I have practiced before the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. I have filed briefs in the United States Supreme Court on two different occasions. I have taught legal research and writing and criminal law at the college level. I have written scholarly articles on important topics in Criminal Law. I regularly teach prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and victim advocates in courses sponsored by respected organizations, such as the University of Texas, the Texas Attorney General’s Office, the Texas District and County Attorney’s Association, and the Bexar County Criminal District Attorney’s Office. I am not currently board certified. But I do help to write and grade the exam for Board Certification in Criminal Appellate Law in Texas. I am not eligible to take the test which I help to write and grade.
I have also demonstrated a broad base of support among the citizens of our State. While one of my opponents has raised very little money at all, my other opponent has raised almost all of her money from criminal defense attorneys. I have raised nearly the same amount of money as my opponent who has raised money in our race, but mine comes from a broad cross-section of the community, not from one clearly identifiable interest group.
I understand how the Court of Criminal Appeals works from the inside – I have been a briefing attorney at the Court. I understand the perspective of a defense attorney – I have been one. And I understand the perspective of the State and prosecutors – I have been an appellate prosecutor for the last 18 years. I am a leader and an educator in criminal law in Texas. My campaign is supported by a broad cross-section of the community in Texas, rather than by one main clearly identifiable interest group. For all of these reasons I believe that I am the most and best qualified candidate in the race for Place 4 on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
T: What is the most important thing you have learned thus far in the campaign?
KY: This is my first race for public office. All candidates who run for office make a tremendous sacrifice. Running for public office is one of the hardest things I have ever done. The candidates work very hard and give up a lot, but there are thousands of people who work behind the scenes and get very little credit for all of their efforts who deserve to be recognized for their service as well. People who belong to politically interested clubs and organizations, who volunteer for candidates and put on events to help the candidates have opportunities to meet the voters, are an incredibly important part of our system. I am grateful to all of them who have helped along the way.