Editorial note: This is the eighteenth 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 Bert Richardson, Republican candidate for the Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3
Texpatriate: What is your name?
BR: Bert Richardson
T: What office are you seeking?
BR: Place 3, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
T: Please list all the elected or appointed POLITICAL (including all Judicial) offices you have previously held, and for what years you held them.
BR: Judge of the 379th District Court, Bexar County, Texas. 1999-2008
T: What is your political party?
T: What is a specific case in which you disagree with the incumbent’s ruling? What is a specific case in which you agree?
T: What is a contentious issue that you believe the Court of Criminal Appeals will face in the near future? Why is it important?
BR: Although it would be inappropriate to classify any specific issue as contentious, I do believe there are important issues that the TCCA will have to consider in the coming years including ongoing issues raised in relation to DNA testing, scientific evidence in arson cases, interpreting the Michael Morton act and many others.
T: Why you, as opposed to your opponents?
BR: I am the only candidate for this position that is Board Certified in Criminal Law (less than 2% of lawyers are certified in this area). The Court of Criminal Appeals has exclusive appellate jurisdiction over all death penalty cases. I have significant experience in death penalty litigation as a prosecutor and judge both at the trial level and post conviction level. I also have significant appellate experience at the State and federal level. 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 high profile cases across the State and have worked in over 40 counties in the last 5 years. As a judge I have never had a trial verdict reversed by an appellate court. I have taught law related classes at local colleges & St. Mary’s Law School for over 15 years.
T: What role do you think a Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals should have individually? What role do you think the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals should have as a whole?
BR: A: To have an open line of communication with the other judges on the Court regarding pending cases. B: The Court should issue clear and concise opinions, so those practicing in the criminal justice arena understand how to deal with some of the more complicated and controversial issues in the trial courts.
T: What are your thoughts on the partisan election of Judges?
BR: After receiving almost every major endorsement (from newspapers, law enforcement groups and lawyers) and being ranked at the top of most bar polls, I was a “victim” of a partisan sweep as an elected judge, so I am of the opinion that there has to be a better way to select our judges. However, the party in power is rarely motivated to change the system. Since 2008 in Bexar County there have been “judicial sweeps” in each election. In San Antonio the elections for judicial positions have been referred to by members of the media as a “Judicial Lottery.” Even for this race at the State level, most average voters have no idea what the TCCA does, or the qualifications needed to do the job. I would be in favor of a different system in order to attract the most qualified candidates for the bench.
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?
BR: (A)(1). Significant changes in scientific evidence in many areas that have exonerated several wrongfully convicted defendants. The TCCA promulgates rules of evidence for criminal trials and those rules should address these changes and the admissibility of such evidence; (A)(2). Online filing of briefs and records to that court. Most appellate courts across the State have implemented this and I would work to do that at the TCCA; (A)(3). Legislative changes in discovery rules, in light of the Michael Morton Act and exoneration. One way to do that would be to educate judges on these changes and the obligation the State has to turn over specific information to the defense. The TCCA administers funds that educate judges. (B) I have presided over and submitted to the TCCA extensive Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law in many of the areas in (A)(1), such as arson, DNA and mental retardation.