Editorial note: This is the thirteenth 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>.
Judge Wesley Ward, 234th District Court
Texpatriate: What is your name?
WW: My name is Wesley Ward, and I serve as Judge of Texas’ 234th District Court. The Court is a trial court handling a broad docket of civil disputes, and my district covers all of Harris County.
T: How long have your held this post? What number term are you seeking?
WW: I have served as Judge of the 234th since 2012, when I was appointed to replace the previous retiring judge, and was confirmed unanimously in a bi-partisan vote of the Texas Senate. I am seeking election to a four-year term.
T: Please list all the elected or appointed POLITICAL (including all Judicial) offices you have previously held, and for what years you held them.
WW: This is the first time that I have ever held a political office. Before becoming a Judge, I was a civil litigation attorney here in Houston, and I held several significant positions in legal and charitable groups:
Chair – Houston Bar Association Litigation Section
Co-Chair – Houston Bar Association Professionalism Committee
Co-Chair – HBA Fun Run Committee benefitting The Center serving persons with developmental disabilities
Chair – HBA Mentor-Protégé program
Life Member – Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
Captain – HLSR Team Penning and Ranch Sorting Committee
Chair – Associate’s Roundtable, Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy
T: What is your political party?
WW: I am a Republican. With my qualifications and track record of running a fair and efficient courtroom I have also attracted significant support from attorneys and citizens of all types of political affiliations, backgrounds, and law practice & business types.
T: Please describe a notable case you have presided over while on the bench. What rulings did you make? What were the implications of the case?
WW: In the time that I have served as Judge, I have presided over more than 50 trials, the second-most of any Harris County Civil District Court in that period. Every one of the cases was significant in its own way. From a jury award of $550.41 in chiropractic bills to a dispute over $50 Million in oil and gas damages, every party, attorney, witness, and juror who comes into the 234th can expect a courteous, civil, prompt, and fair resolution of their dispute, in accordance with the law. For each and every one of those cases, it is probably one of the most important events in their lives at that time, and I pledge to treat each case accordingly as long as I am the Judge.
T: Have there been any high profile cases in which the Court of Appeals or the Texas Supreme Court reversed your ruling? What were the parameters of the case?
WW: There have not been any significant reversals of any of my decisions.
T: Why you, as opposed to your opponents?
WW: I am highly qualified, have a proven successful track record, and am supported by a broad bi-partisan cross-section of the legal community.
My qualifications include being an acclaimed civil litigation attorney, a Certified Public Accountant, Eagle Scout, National Merit Scholar, Graduate with Honors from UT Law School, leader in the Houston bar, and active leader in community and charitable events.
During my time on the bench, I have performed as one of the top civil district judges in our county in terms of number of jury trials, number of bench trials, total trials, total days in trial, and lowest case/docket backlog. My hard work has been rated positively in the HBA judicial polls where I received “Outstanding” marks in all categories: follows the law, rules decisively and timely, demonstrates impartiality, is courteous and attentive toward attorneys and witnesses, works hard and is prepared, and uses attorneys time efficiently.
In the HBA Judicial Qualification poll, I was rated “Well-Qualified” by a more than 2-to-1 margin over my opponent.
Supporters of my campaign include 14 past Presidents of the Houston Bar Association and hundreds of local attorneys representing every kind of practice area, background, firm type and political affiliation. More than 100 local law firms are supporting my campaign. A list of my endorsements and supporters is on my website: www.wesleyward.com.
T: What role do you think a Civil District Judge should have individually? What role do you think the Civil District Courts should have as a whole?
WW: My role as a Civil District Court Judge is to provide fair and efficient justice to every party who comes before the Court. Every day when I take the bench, there are 3 signs on the door that I pass through: The first reminds me of important values that I hold – “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” The second is a checklist of areas that judges should be mindful of in doing their jobs: “Follows the Law, Rules Decisively & Timely, Demonstrates Impartiality, Is Courteous & Attentive Toward Attorneys & Witnesses, Works Hard & Is Prepared, and Uses Attorneys Time Efficiently.” The third on is a mantra that a wise and experienced judge passed on to me when I first started: “Be quick to rule and slow to judge.”
In response to the last part of the question, Judges must work together without regard to party affiliation or other differences to ensure that our Harris County courts continue to work for the good of our justice system and our community. I have been very gratified to experience the bipartisan collegiality of our Harris County Civil District Courts, working together to provide the best justice we can.
T: What are your thoughts on the partisan election of Judges?
WW: In Texas, our legislative process, with citizen input, has decided that judges should be elected in periodic partisan elections. As the current law of the State, I support it. I also believe that judges should be accountable to citizens, and I very much enjoy discussing my service with voters. I do support an open dialogue of various proposals to modify our judicial selection process, but as long as it is the law of the State of Texas I will be a willing participant.
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?
- Efficiency – Since I became the Judge, the 234th is one of our county’s leading courts in terms of working hard to reduce our case backlog by staying busy with bench trials and jury trials. I have also created and started using a powerpoint presentation for my instructions during jury selection, to improving comprehension, streamlining the jury selection process and providing more efficient use of jurors’ time.
- Fairness – Running through a lot of cases doesn’t mean a thing if the cases aren’t handled justly and fairly. I and all of the staff of the 234th are always conscious of the importance of every case to the parties involved, and we work hard to get all parties the fair hearing they deserve. Polls of attorneys who practice in our Court indicate that we are doing a good job of handling our cases fairly and impartially.
- The Future – I think that Judges should do all they can to make sure the future of our civil justice system is in order. Before I took the bench, I was very active in programs to encourage mentorship of newer attorneys in how to act with civility and professionalism. Since becoming a Judge, I have continued my interest in mentoring law students. This summer, I located 5 outstanding students from our local law schools (University of Houston, South Texas College of Law, and Thurgood Marshall School of Law), and from UT Law School, who worked as interns. With all of those students back in school, I am once again looking for law students to help out with the Court and to show them the importance of a fair and efficient civil court system.