Candidate Q&A – Sarah Brandon – Judge 483rd District Court

What’s your favorite place in Hays County?

A place called “Camp Lucy.” This venue has donated space for a handful of fundraisers for progressive causes, many of which mean a great deal to me.

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

I have been involved with progressive causes  Access to Justice, Planned Parenthood, ActBlue, Young Dems, Helping Hands, Breast Cancer (Be Brave fight Like a Girl), PAWS, Texas Family Law Foundation, Hays County Caldwell Women's Center, Pound House, SAGE (Special and Gifted education.

I also have supported progressive candidates - Erin Zwiener, Beto O’Rourke, Judge Gisela Triana, Anna Boling, Hillary Clinton, Karen Ford, Linda Rodriguez, Judge Andy Hathcock, Chari Kelly, Woodie Jones, Catherine Mauzey, Karen Crump, Maggie Ellis, Laura Livingston and other democratic Judges and officials.

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

Yes, I have donated to Republicans in the past. Who and why? You’ll notice there is a pattern -  Judge Chris Johnson, Judge Bill Henry, Judge Dan O’Brien. In the legal community in what always has been a Republican county, it wasn’t uncommon to donate money on both sides of the aisle. For better or worse, it’s in a lawyer's best interest to donate to both sides.

There are two donations that require some context: County Commissioner Walt Smith helped three women in Dripping Springs file a complaint against a sitting Republican judge. His actions on this matter really surprised me so, as a thank you, I donated $150 to his campaign. The other donation to address is Gary Cutler - his wife and I became friendly when we battled cancer at the same time.

While I understand the concerns that stem from these contributions, I ask you to look at how I spend what’s most valuable to me - My Time. My time was spent volunteering for progressive causes, doing what I can, using my platform to draw awareness to progressive issues.

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

My biggest liability is a public complaint I made a few years ago against a Republican judge, Karl Hays. Judge Hays is widely liked by Republicans because, well, he is a Republican.

Not only is Judge Hays a Republican, he is someone who, in the opinions of many, has a track record of not making decisions that are in the best interest of children and a mistreatment of women, families and some female attorneys in the courtroom.

Here’s an example, and I’ll try to be brief. A military mother had a baby with a man in her troop. The man wanted nothing to do with the baby, choosing to completely ignore his existence. This changed when the superior’s spouse found out when the child was around the age of three. The spouse took the mother to court for split custody. Yes, a woman whose husband cheated on her and had a baby with another woman, three years later, encouraged her husband to  go to court for split custody - against a wonderful mother who had spent the last three years raising a child on her own because the man who impregnated her pretended as if she or her child did not exist.

Despite the three-year-old child never meeting his father or his father’s spouse, Judge Hays granted them split custody, effective immediately.

This is one of the many decisions by Judge Hays that led me to file the complaint. This complaint angered a lot of people in the Republican Party, and that’s why they see my campaign as a threat to their stronghold on a few seats on the bench.

If elected, one of my responsibilities would be to oversee Judge Hays and his courtroom. Those in the other party -- and even one of my opponents -- are concerned that I will fire Judge Hays when I take the bench.

Now more than ever, we need judges on the bench who will rule fairly, without the influence of bias or ideology, or fail to hold other judges accountable when required.

What area of law do you bring experience in?

I have varying experience in all types of the law. The last 30 years of courtroom experience has prepared me for this moment in time - to be the type of judge who can sit on the bench and rule fairly, based on the merits of the law. In October of 2023, I closed my law practice to devote my full attention to preparing to be your next judge in the 483rd District Court.

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

If elected, I will have a back-up docket system for civil cases. There are many times that Jury Trials fall through or finish early. I will have a docket call for standby cases the week before the jury trials and if the Jury Trial finishes early or falls through, we will all standby civil cases to be heard.

Let’s start off with an example: If a jury trial ends earlier than expected, the court sits empty, which is not a good use of time or fair to those who are waiting for justice.

To remedy this massive problem, I immediately would install a backup docket calendar, which would have other cases tentatively scheduled in the event a trial concluded early. Way too many families are stuck in line waiting for justice, oftentimes during some of the darkest periods of their lives. We need to do better than we’re currently doing and, if elected, I will work tirelessly to clear our backlog of cases.

How do you feel about abortion access?

Judges cannot rule based on ideology; a judge only can rule on the merits of the law. With that said, I believe that Roe v. Wade should not have been overturned, and that old white men in our government should not be telling a woman what she can or cannot do with her body.

How will you support women on this issue?

How Travis County Judge Gamble handled the Kate Cox case is a good example. The court must follow the law, but the current language around the law is ambiguous with regard to health-related issues. As a result, there is room for interpretation of the law when it comes to how a woman’s right can be supported.

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

Whether or not I agree with the law, I have to apply the law. Making hard-and-sometimes unpopular decisions is part of the job. With that said, as a judge, there is some level of discretion that can be applied. A judge should not treat the law like a simple math problem - A + B= C. The litigants and the lawyers are human beings with real issues and all have different backgrounds. Compassion, humanity and creativity should always be interwoven in making those hard decisions when possible.

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

The same human values I have lived my entire life - treating people with kindness, fairness and humility. I will honor, respect and recognize and affirm any person as they identify themselves and/or by race, in public and in my courtroom. I will make decisions with compassion, knowing that one misdeed by anyone is not the defining moment in one's life. I will not criminalize poverty or mental health struggles. I will put a child’s best interest above all else in cases involving children, whether it be as a victim in an assault or in a custody situation.

Sarah Brandon Headshot

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