Candidate Q&A – Alicia Key – Judge 483rd District Court

What’s your favorite place in Hays County?

My favorite place is my home of 30 years in Dripping Springs, where I raised my children and now frequently care for my grandchildren.  I love to garden and spend time jogging in the area around my home.

What’s your history of supporting Democratic organizations prior to your run for office?

I have long supported entities that work to support democratic values.  For example, I provide financial support to the Access to Justice Commission, which expands access and reduces barriers to justice in civil legal matters for the poor.  I am a member and financial supporter of the Texas Bar Foundation, which promotes programs to provide legal assistance to the underserved. In addition to my personal support of charities such as Planned Parenthood, Out Youth, the Seedling Foundation, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), I served on the State Employee Charitable Campaign Policy Committee from 2016 to 2023, serving as its Chair in my final year.   This committee selects charities that state employees can support through payroll deductions.  As Chair, I advocated for many charities that benefited marginalized communities that were unpopular with the current Republican administration, such as Out Youth and Planned Parenthood.

Have you ever donated and/or voted for a Republican? If so, why and to whom?

I have made one single donation to a Republican candidate—in 2022, I donated to George P. Bush in his run-off election against Ken Paxton.  I also voted that year for him in the primary and run-off against Ken Paxton.  The reason was my strong desire to prevent Ken Paxton from being reelected.  In earlier years, because I live in an area of Hays County that is largely red, I sometimes voted in Republican primaries to try to stop particularly objectionable Republican candidates.  I have contributed to many Democratic candidates on the state and national levels, including Beto O’Rourke, M.J. Hegar, and Joe Biden.

What is your biggest liability or weakness as a candidate, and what is your response to people who may hold that against you?

Although I have prior judicial experience and I have practiced both criminal and civil law, I have not handled complex civil litigation other than in the family law area.  I will pledge to abide by Canon 3B(2) of the Code of Judicial Conduct which provides that a judge should be faithful to the law and shall maintain professional competence in it, including by meeting all judicial-education requirements set forth in governing statutes or rules.  I will work hard to educate and prepare myself to perform my job competently and efficiently.

What area of law do you bring experience in?

The majority of my experience has been in criminal law, family law, estate planning, and probate.  While I was the General Counsel of the Office of Attorney General Child Support Division, I worked in the areas of contract law, administrative law, and regulation compliance.

How will you address the backlog of cases facing the court?

During my time as Administrative Director of the Office of Court Administration, I learned a great deal about resources that are available to improve the efficiency of trial courts.  While I will work diligently to move cases expeditiously through my court, hard work is not always enough.  For example, the National Center for State Courts recommends measures for improving efficiency, such as providing information to litigants often and in an accessible way; standardizing processes across all the courts; using scheduling orders; requiring attorneys to confer and attempt to resolve disputes before filing motions; and, providing opportunities for parties to reach resolutions.  In criminal cases, I would work with other county personnel to improve and expand the specialty courts to provide specialized handling of criminal defendants with mental health, substance abuse, and veterans’ issues.

How do you feel about abortion access? How will you support women on this issue?

While I personally believe in reproductive freedom, and am a supporter of Planned Parenthood, the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct requires that a judge perform her duties impartially.  I must refrain from making any public comment about pending cases or issues that may come before the court that would suggest to a reasonable person that I would be predisposed to reach a probable result. (Canon 3(10)A).  The Code of Judicial Conduct also prohibits pledges or promises of conduct in office regarding pending or impending cases, specific classes of cases, specific classes of litigants, or specific propositions of the law.  (Cannon 5).

How do you handle making difficult decisions, especially ones you may not personally agree with?

It is sometimes challenging for a judge to set aside her personal views when interpreting the law and applying it to a particular set of facts.  However, I learned during my prior experience as an associate judge that if I am thoughtful, carefully analyze the facts, and understand and apply the law in an evenhanded way, I can make the difficult decisions.  Also as an administrator responsible for hundreds of employees, I learned to communicate hard decisions in a kind, compassionate, and respectful way.   People are generally more receptive and respectful of unpleasant decisions or court rulings if the judge is perceived to be fair, impartial, and respectful.

What Democratic values will you apply to your work once elected?  

I believe that equal access to justice is essential and attainable, and that everyone involved in the judicial process should have access to quality legal assistance.  As a judge, I will exercise my discretion to appoint attorneys for low-income litigants and ensure that low income criminal defendants are appointed qualified attorneys to represent them.   I will treat every person with courtesy, dignity, and respect.  I will guarantee that no matter a person’s financial situation, their station in life, their race, sexual orientation, gender, identity, or even their past mistakes, they will leave the courtroom feeling like they’ve been treated fairly and have been given a fair shake.

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