Texpatriate’s Questions for Phil Johnson

Editorial note: This is the seventeenth 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.

Justice Phil Johnson, Supreme Court of Texas

Phil Johnson, Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court

Texpatriate: What is your name?
PJ: Phil Johnson

T: What office are you running for?
PJ: Justice, Texas Supreme Court

T: What is your profession/occupation?
PJ: Justice, Texas Supreme Court

T: In just a few words, what does the office you are running for do and what are its responsibilities?
PJ: The Court decides appeals of civil and juvenile justice cases and supervises the judicial branch of government, including adopting rules of evidence and procedure, making appointments to various agencies and boards and approving the activities of those agencies and boards, and coordinating the activities of the judiciary with those of the legislative and executive branches of government.

T: If you are running against an incumbent (primary or general), do you think the incumbent has failed? If so, why specifically?
PJ: Not applicable; I am the incumbent.

T: What would be your three biggest priorities if elected?
PJ: a. Continuing the Court’s emphasis on timely deciding cases and issuing opinions;
b. Continuing the Court’s access to justice initiatives by which the Court has been seeking to reduce barriers to accessing the court system by all Texans. These include simplifying the procedural requirements, reducing the cost, and providing assistance to the indigent; and
c. Continuing the Court’s emphasis on modernizing the methods used by courts to handle their duties and making activities of the courts more transparent, including electronic filing of documents and electronic access to court documents by the public.

T: What distinguishes you from your opponent(s)? Why should people specifically vote for you?
PJ: I am the best candidate based on my qualifications, experience, and record. This is attested to by those who are most familiar with the Court, its requirements, and my service. My candidacy for reelection has been endorsed by retired Texas Supreme Court Chief Justices Tom Phillips and Wallace Jefferson and ten other retired/former Justices of the Court (in order of their leaving the Court: Justices Dale Wainwright, David Medina, Harriet O’Neill, Scott Brister, Steve Smith, Alberto Gonzales, Craig Enoch, Deborah Hankinson, Barbara Culver Clack and Eugene Cook). I have also been endorsed by thirteen former presidents of the State Bar of Texas.

My qualifications include having been appointed by Gov. Perry after a very thorough ‘vetting’ process in which numerous other well-qualified candidates were considered, and then having been elected twice. Before my Supreme Court service, I served on the 7th Court of Appeals for over six years-more than two of which were as Chief Justice-and practiced general and civil trial law for over 23 years. I was certified in Civil Trial Law and Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1984 and have maintained those certifications since then. I graduated from law schoolwith honors.

My experience includes varied life experiences such as serving as a pilot and officer in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam conflict, serving on different civic and church boards, volunteering in various organizations, and varied experiences in the legal field.

During law school I served on the Law Review, a select group of students who wrote, edited and published legal books and articles. Following law school I practiced law for over 23 years, mainly in the civil trial area of the law and served on the management committee of the firm where I practiced. While in private practice I prepared,mediated, arbitrated, and tried disputes and lawsuits of all kinds, as well as maintaining a varied general practice including family law, probate, and representing small and large businesses. I also worked with legislators at various times in drafting, reviewing, testifying about and shepherding legislation through the legislative process, so I have a special understanding of and respect for how the legislative branch of our government functions.

My record shows that I have properly performed the duties of my position on the Court in an impartial, conservative manner, respecting the constitutional separation of powers between the judiciary and the other branches of government. I will continue doing so if re-elected.

T: What is the most important thing you have learned thus far in the campaign?
PJ: This campaign has re-affirmed my faith in the public’s interest in electing qualified judges who recognize and respect the limitations and duties of the judiciary in our tripartite form of government.

What office are you running for?
Justice, Texas Supreme Court
3. What is your profession/occupation?
Justice, Texas Supreme Court
4. In just a few words, what does the office you are running for do and what are its responsibilities?
The Court decides appeals of civil and juvenile justice cases and supervises the judicial branch of government, including adopting rules of evidence and procedure, making appointments to various agencies and boards and approving the activities of those agencies and boards, and coordinating the activities of the judiciary with those of the legislative and executive branches of government.
5. If you are running against an incumbent (primary or general), do you think the incumbent has failed? If so, why specifically?
Not applicable; I am the incumbent.
6. What would be your three biggest priorities if elected?
a. Continuing the Court’s emphasis on timely deciding cases and issuing opinions;
b. Continuing the Court’s access to justice initiatives by which the Court has been seeking to reduce barriers to accessing the court system by all Texans. These include simplifying the procedural requirements, reducing the cost, and providing assistance to the indigent; and
c. Continuing the Court’s emphasis on modernizing the methods used by courts to handle their duties and
2
making activities of the courts more transparent,
including electronic filing of documents and electronic
access to court documents by the public.
7. What distinguishes you from your opponent(s)? Why
should people specifically vote for you?
I am the best candidate based on my
qualifications, experience, and record. This is attested
to by those who are most familiar with the Court, its
requirements, and my service. My candidacy for reelection
has been endorsed by retired Texas Supreme
Court Chief Justices Tom Phillips and Wallace Jefferson
and ten other retired/former Justices of the Court (in
order of their leaving the Court: Justices Dale
Wainwright, David Medina, Harriet O’Neill, Scott Brister,
Steve Smith, Alberto Gonzales, Craig Enoch, Deborah
Hankinson, Barbara Culver Clack and Eugene Cook). I
have also been endorsed by thirteen former presidents
of the State Bar of Texas.
My qualifications include having been appointed
by Gov. Perry after a very thorough ‘vetting’ process in
which numerous other well-qualified candidates were
considered, and then having been elected twice. Before
my Supreme Court service, I served on the 7th Court of
Appeals for over six years-more than two of which were
as Chief Justice-and practiced general and civil trial law
for over 23 years. I was certified in Civil Trial Law and
Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal
Specialization in 1984 and have maintained those
certifications since then. I graduated from law school
with honors.
My experience includes varied life experiences
such as serving as a pilot and officer in the U.S. Air
Force during the Vietnam conflict, serving on different
civic and church boards, volunteering in various
organizations, and varied experiences in the legal field.
During law school I served on the Law Review, a select
group of students who wrote, edited and published legal
books and articles. Following law school I practiced law
for over 23 years, mainly in the civil trial area of the law
and served on the management committee of the firm
where I practiced. While in private practice I prepared,
mediated, arbitrated, and tried disputes and lawsuits of
all kinds, as well as maintaining a varied general
practice including family law, probate, and representing
small and large businesses. I also worked with
3
legislators at various times in drafting, reviewing, testifying about and shepherding legislation through the legislative process, so I have a special understanding of and respect for how the legislative branch of our government functions.
My record shows that I have properly performed the duties of my position on the Court in an impartial, conservative manner, respecting the constitutional separation of powers between the judiciary and the other branches of government. I will continue doing so if re-elected.
8. What is the most important thing you have learned thus far in the campaign?
This campaign has re-affirmed my faith in the public’s interest in electing qualified judges who recognize and respect the limitations and duties of the judiciary in our tripartite form of government.

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