Editorial note: This is the eleventh in our series of electronic interviews with candidates for Statewide and Harris County offices. We have sent questionnaires to every candidate on the ballot, given we could find a working email address. We have printed their answers verbatim as we receive them. If you are or work for such a candidate, and we did not send a questionnaire, please contact us <email@example.com>.
Greg Glass, Democratic candidate for 230th District Court (Criminal)
Texpatriate: What is your name?
GG: Greg Glass
T: What office are you seeking?
GG: Judge, 230th Criminal District Court, Harris County, Texas.
T: Please list all the elected or appointed POLITICAL (including all Judicial) offices you have previously held, and for what years you held them.
GG: Democratic Precinct Chair, Precinct 34, Harris County, Texas (2000 – 2002).
T: What is your political party?
GG: Democrat. Always a Democrat.
T: What is a specific case in which you disagree with actions undertaken by the incumbent?
GG: My opponent was appointed by our esteemed governor after he ran against and lost to Judge Maria Jackson for Judge of the 339th Criminal District Court in the 2012 general election. I have had no experience with my opponent as Judge of that court.
T: What is a contentious issue that you believe the Court will face in the near future? Why is it important? How would you solve it?
GG: The dockets in Harris County continue to grow larger each year with no additional courts being created to handle the ever burgeoning population in over 28 years. I will support requests for the creation of more criminal district courts, and for the creation of Associate Judge positions to handle routine matters such as pleas. I would also prioritize cases for trial, starting with those who are jailed and seek speedy trials, and those on bond who seek an early trial because of the nature of the charges being so problematical to keeping or maintaining employment, etc. Lastly, we need to make sure that all non-violent offenders can post bail so they can keep or obtain a job, support their dependents, and hire their own attorneys. If a drug offender tests positive while on bond, I would require him or her to enroll in an out-patient drug treatment program rather than revoking and having them go to jail and post a higher bond, as is the common practice nowadays.
T: Do you believe that the incumbent has specifically failed at her or his job? If so, why?
GG: I have not handled any cases in that court since my opponent was appointed. Thus, I have no knowledge of either his job success or failure.
T: Why you, as opposed to your opponent?
GG: A great education, and forty plus years as a criminal trial lawyer, while my opponent has half the experience and no experience in criminal defense. My qualifications are as follows: U.T. Arlington honor graduate (B.A. 1970, with honors; Phi Alpha Theta Honor Society); U. T. Austin law School – J.D. 1973; First Place in Appellate Advocacy competition for freshmen (Spring, 1971); employed as an associate in a Houston civil law practice (1973 to 1975); private general practice (1975 to 1977); partner, Ritchie & Glass, Law Firm (1977 to 2008); private criminal defense practice (2008 to present); experienced in both civil (three jury trials) and criminal cases and appellate procedure; have tried well more than 100 felony cases (some federal, mostly state) to verdict; have tried several dozen criminal misdemeanor cases to verdict; have briefed and argued cases before both Texas Courts of Appeals and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals; Board Certified in Criminal Law since 1983 by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization; member: Houston Bar Association, College of the State Bar of Texas, Texas Criminal Defense Association, Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association; Licensed to practice in all Texas Courts, Southern, Western and Eastern District of Texas, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and U.S. Supreme Court; almost forty-one years experience as a practicing lawyer.
T: What role do you think a Criminal District Judge should have individually? What role do you think the Criminal District Courts should have as a whole?
GG: The role of a criminal district judge is to assure that the law is followed, all rights are respected and the court’s business, from plea-bargaining through trial, is conducted fairly, impartially and expeditiously. A judge should conduct himself with unquestioned integrity and fairness, which generates confidence both in the bar and for the public, in absolute impartiality. Respect for the judicial system lies in fairness and courtesy, as well as respect no only for the law, but for all who come before the court. The bottom line is that I have a wealth of legal
and life experience, years more than my opponent.
T: What role do you believe a Judge should have in plea bargains? Do you think a Judge should ever veto an agreement between the District Attorney and Defense Attorneys?
GG: Plea bargaining, by and large, is a process between the prosecutor’s office and the defense. Normally, a judge does not get involved unless the parties cannot agree and both sides wish to approach and explain the problems which are preventing an agreed resolution, and determine if the judge will agree to a particular outcome (or a particular range of outcomes), and thus take responsibility for the outcome. This is a common
practice. I do think it is important for a judge to inquire as to why a particular plea bargain has been reached if it seems out of the ordinary, or unfair to one side or another, and for the judge to understand the dynamics behind the agreement. The only time I feel a judge ought to reject an agreement is when it is unconscionable under the circumstances; otherwise, the plea bargain should be followed.
T: What role do you think that rehabilitation, rather than punishment, particularly for drug offenses, should have in the criminal justice process?
GG: Rehabilitation for drug offenders is should be a priority, even for repeat offenders, provided that the offender has decided to make a change in his or her life. The first step in rehabilitation is to admit that one has a problem, and the second is a decision to change. Both are required for success. My general philosophy is that prison is a last resort for the non-violent offender, and that only after the offender has been given every reasonable opportunity to do what is required on probation, leaving the Court no viable options.
T: What are your thoughts on the partisan election of Judges? I believe in the partisan election of judges. The appointment system used in many states makes it all but impossible to remove undeserving judges, even if it is justified. Second, judges serve the people, who ought to have a say as to who their judges are. Third, the bench should not be a destination for political payoffs from the governor’s office. Fourth, in counties the size of Harris, most voters do not know the individual candidates, and party affiliation can at least give the voter an idea of the attitude and dispositions of the whole slate of candidates, rather than enticing a vote for a common-sounding name. Fifth, non-partisan elections would allow smaller power groups to exert a disproportional (and dangerous) hold over judicial elections; Sixth, the political parties honestly make an effort to screen and recruit the most qualified candidates for the general election through the process of endorsements. Political “sweeps” can cause problems by removing some qualified judges, but most often they are replaced by others equally or more qualified. The parties themselves will often screen out unqualified candidates through various party group endorsements and primary contests. Ultimately, though, it is a good thing for a jurist to know he or she is answerable to the public for outrageous or substandard conduct.
T: What are the three most important issues to you, and what is at least one thing you have done to address each of them?
GG: First, it has been almost thirty (30) years since the creation of a felony court in Harris County, while the population (and dockets) have tripled and more. Paring state and county budgets by hampering the efficient administration of justice is unwise, but the norm. We need more courts but are not getting them. Second, it is important to implement a system of associate judges like that which exists in Fort Bend County, where those judges handle arraignment and other non-contested dockets and take pleas, leaving the presiding judge to conduct trial and deal with weightier issues. Third, connected to the foregoing issues is the issue of jail overcrowding in Harris County, a situation that immediately got worse after several democratic judges were defeated in 2012. This put several immediate ex-prosecutors on the bench, who have a “lock’em up” attitude. The more non-violent inmates who can be released on bond and hire their own attorneys, the more this county benefits administratively and monetarily. The jail space was saved for violent offenders who were a danger to themselves or others (the community). While I know you asked for just three important issue, there are a couple more, so here goes. Fourth, many Republican judges refuse to grant state jail credit for diligent participation which discourages good behavior in state jail and increases the expense to the state. Fifth, it is important to stop the appointment of inferior attorneys who get appointed only because they support the incumbent judges with sizable contributions. This displays a lack of integrity of many jurists, who refuse to adequately employ the resources of the Public Defenders’ Office for that very reason. Finally, having not been elected before, I have been unable to address any of these issues.