Editorial note: This is the twentieth 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>.
Natalia Oakes, Democratic candidate for the 314th District Court
Texpatriate: What is your name?
NO: Natalia Oakes
T: What office are you seeking?
NO: Judge, 314th Family (Juvenile) District Court
T: Please list all the elected or appointed POLITICAL (including all Judicial) offices you have previously held, and for what years you held them.
T: What is your political party?
T: What is a contentious issue that you belief the Court will face in the near future? Why is it important? How would you solve it?
NO: The court continuously faces the problems of effective rehabilitation for young offenders so as to not recycle into the adult system. It’s important to break the cycle of crime. One solution is to update probation programs, track the success of the programs and get more community involvement in the crime centered neighborhoods.
T: What is a specific case in which you disagree with actions undertaken by the incumbent?
NO: The Judicial Code of conduct prevents me from answering this question.
T: Do you believe that the incumbent has specifically failed at her or his job? If so, why?
NO: The incumbent has been reversed 31 times for the same issue of terminating parental rights (permanently taking children away from their parents), one case as recently as August. He either does not follow the law or procedure.
T: What role do you think a Juvenile District Judge should have individually? What role do you think the Juvenile District Courts should have as a whole?
NO: A judge should be patient and respectful to the public, lawyers and witnesses. The Courts should give due process to all who come before it.
T: Why you, as opposed to your opponents?
NO: I have the proper judicial temperament.
T: Do you believe that the way Courts address minor drug and alcohol offenses should be changed? If so, how?
NO: Judges must follow the law and cannot legislate from the bench.
T: What are your thoughts on the partisan election of Judges?
NO: In a large county such as Harris County, the voters cannot know all 80 judicial candidates. The party label of D or R gives the voters some guidance of what the candidate stands for.
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?
NO: Important issues are:
1) effective rehabilitation of young offenders. As a defense lawyer, I try to craft a recommendation for services specialized to the child’s needs.
2) to limit change of placement (movement) of children who come into CPS custody. As a children’s attorney I consistently urge this to the court.
3) to run an efficient courtroom so as not to waste the public’s and the lawyers’ time. Many parents miss work to come to court for the juvenile offenders and for CPS cases. It is a burden to make them wait all day to get their case heard.