by Michael Handley
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa spoke at the party's reception for 5th District Court of Appeals Democratic candidates last Monday. Democrats from the Fifth Court of Appeals District (Dallas, Collin, Grayson, Hunt, Rockwall and Kaufman counties) also heard comments from the five Democratic Fifth Court of Appeals candidates.
The Texas District Courts of Appeals are distributed in fourteen districts around the state of Texas.
The Courts of Appeal have intermediate appellate jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases appealed from district or county courts.
Like the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals, Justices of the Texas Courts of Appeals are elected to six-year terms by general election.
The Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas at Dallas includes one Chief Justice and twelve Justices. No Democrats currently sit on Fifth Court of Appeals.
Comments from the five Democratic Candidates running for the 5th Court of Appeals:
David Hanshen for 5th Court of Appeals Place 9 - "Why are the courts of appeals important? Every case out of the Collin County Court House that gets appealed - probate, family, civil and criminal, every case - ends up in the 5th Court of Appeals. Collin County is not the battle ground [for this election,] Collin County is the key. I ran for the 5th Court of Appeals four years ago. I got within two percent [of winning that election.] You can deliver an extra two percent - it's Collin County that is the key. I remember Dallas in 2001 when I ran the first time for Judge; I thought I was the only Democrat. There were three Ann Richards signs in my neighborhood, that was it. In 2006 we came back and cleaned [Republicans] out of the court house and we held it in 2008 and 2010, again. You can do that in Collin County! The Supreme Court candidate four years ago nearly won. There are the Democratic votes here in Collin County to elect Democrats to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals!"
Larry Praeger for 5th of Court Appeals Place 12 - "When you boil this race down, there are a couple of things you really need to know. In the last presidential cycle the court of appeals candidates in 2008 got nearly 48 percent of the vote. People ask me all the time, what does the court of appeals do? It does basically two things: it tells you if you've had a fair trial and it protects your individual liberties. Lets talk about our individual liberties. The importance of the power of these justices can not be over emphasized. When laws that infringe on individual liberties come out of the legislature are challenged in the court system, it's going to the Court of Appeals first, before it goes to any federal court. So, if you are wondering who is ruling on the constitutionality of those laws, its your appellate justices. I would urge you to go to the Internet and look up the current justices and look at the groups who endorse them and that will give you a clue where they see things."
Tonya Holt for 5th Court of Appeals Place 11 - "It is a pleasure and honor to be here to tell you we are going to do it, we are going to win. We need all of you to get out the vote, and when you go out to vote, take a few people with you. My opponent was appointed by Rick Perry in 2002 and in 2003 Rick Perry appointed his sister. They are so out of order and so out of balance and plain wrong. We can't allow that to continue. You know, people talk about [elections] 2014 and 2016 - now I'm talking about wining in 2012. We need to get it done now! Tomorrow will take care of itself, but we have to deal with today while we're facing it. ... I am a Democrat. I am a Democratic because it is the party of inclusion - everyone is welcome, everyone's rights matter and that is important to me. I fought for civil rights - I believe in civil rights. We can't allow the Republicans in their backward thinking to take away what we fought so hard for."
Penny Phillips for 5th Court of Appeals Place 5 - "Every vote matters! The more that you all get people out to vote in 2012, and vote [for candidates] down ballot, the better chance that we can win on November 7th. So I can't emphasize how important it is for you to help get out the vote. This court - the Court of Appeals - is so important. There was a study that came out in April of this year from the University of Houston Law Review that shows how this court ruled, and how all the Courts of Appeals have ruled. What that study found was that if you, an average citizen, are a plaintiff - if you're the individual person who got wronged by a corporation - and you go through the trial process and win at trial, but that ruling is appealed, then one out of two times - 50 percent of the time - your trial win will be overturned on appeal. On the other hand, when corporations win cases at trial, their wins are only overturned 25 percent of the time across fourteen Courts of Appeals in Texas. And for the corporation win cases that are appealed to the 5th Court of Appeals, only get overturned 14 percent of the time - and those include personal injury cases and deceptive trade practices cases. All of that is to say that we do need balance on this court and it does matter who your justices are who are elected to the appeals court because these cases affect peoples' lives and well being.
Courts of Appeals are where the rubber hits the road for protecting the individual rights that we fight so hard to protect. It's 2012, not 1912, and we are coming up on the 100th anniversary of women having the right to vote in 2020 - we haven't even had the right for a 100 years yet. I want to keep all the rights that we as individual citizens and we as women fought so hard to win and continue to fight so hard to protect."
Dan Wood for 5th of Court Appeals Place 2 - "There hasn't been a Democrat on the 5th Court of Appeals since the 1990's when Republicans took over every seat. Why does that make a difference? You need a diversity of views at the table when these appellate decisions are made on the cases that affect you directly."
- Tonya Holt for 5th District Court of Appeals Place 11
- Penny Phillips for 5th District Court of Appeals Place 5
- Larry Praeger for 5th District Court of Appeals Place 12
- David Hanshen for 5th District Court of Appeals Place 9
- Dan Wood for 5th District Court of Appeals Place 2
Other Democratic candidates who spoke at the reception include: