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Three people are seeking the job of Justice of the Peace for Parker County Precinct 4: Lynn Marie Johnson, Ron Miller, and Melvin Simons. All are running on the Republican ticket.
Johnson is a licensed attorney and is an equity owner in Law, Snakard & Gambill, P.C. Plus, she and her husband have a cow-calf ranching operation. Johnson also volunteers in several organizations, including Aledo Children’s AdvoCats, and she was on the committee that started the East Parker County Ten Court.
Miller is the principal of the Aledo ISD Learning Center. He has worked as a teacher, coach, counselor, and assistant principal on the high school level.
Simons, the race’s incumbent, has worked as the Justice of the Peace for Precinct 4 for the past 11 years.
Here are their responses:
Why do you want to be Justice of the Peace for Precinct 4?
Johnson: I am running for Justice of the Peace because I can do an excellent job serving as Justice of the Peace, not because I need employment. In the fall, I was approached by law enforcement, school personnel, attorneys, elected officials, and members of our community to run for Justice of the Peace. They were concerned about the operation of the Court, were frustrated by sometimes inconsistent and uneven handling of court cases, and were disappointed that Judge Simon refused to consistently refer cases to Teen Court. Our East Parker County community deserves to have a judge who will fairly and consistently rule according to the law.
Miller: The position of Justice of the Peace in Precinct 45 will allow me to continue to give back to the community as a public servant. I will be able to continue to help people develop strategies to improve their life after making a mistake or in dealing with conflicts they may face in everyday life. I believe strongly in accountability for unlawful or criminal acts. I believe in listening to the facts and making judgments based on the laws of our state and county, which will provide for a better environment in our fast growing area. This position will allow me to continue helping people.
Simons: I have held this position for the past 11 years and I would like to serve another term.
What qualifications do you have that would make you a good justice of the peace?
Johnson: Over the past 25 years, I have handled many different types of cases including: commercial, collections, deed restrictions, protective orders, banking law, negligence, family, criminal, personal injury, antitrust, probate, wills and trusts, environmental, administrative law, land title, embezzlement, and other complex matters. Many of these cases deal with the same issues that will be decided in the Justice Court. In my practice, I have been able to disagree without being disagreeable while applying the law to the facts of these cases. In 2009, I was recognized by my peers as one of the Top Attorneys in the area.
The characteristics of good lawyering are the same as good judging – respect for people, respect for ideas, and respect for justice. Compared to the other candidates, I have the advantage of being able to treat a party fairly that appears without a lawyer when the other side is represented by counsel. I have sparred with hundreds of attorneys over the past 25 years and I will not be intimidated by a lawyer's bluster or technical arguments.
Given my legal experience, I am the most qualified and competent candidate to serve as Justice of the Peace.
Miller: I believe that my broad experience in working with people qualifies me for this position. I work with parents, students and staff in doing what the education code dictates, to enact an education plan that is in the best interest of the student. I have experience in conflict resolution, anger management, mediation, and problem solving. The use of my interpersonal skills will be helpful in fulfilling this position to the satisfaction of the citizens.
Simons: Eleven years experience as Justice of the Peace.
If elected, what would be the first two things you would seek to accomplish and why?
Johnson: First, I would be available to law enforcement to issue search warrants under Sections 18.01 and 18.02 of the CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE. It is important to note that only a justice of the peace who is a licensed attorney can issue evidentiary search warrants including DWI blood draws. This gives local law enforcement an easily accessible resource to combat crime. Neither of my opponents could issue these warrants.
Secondly, I would want to investigate and solve two issues: Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 has a 50%-dismissal rate for Class C misdemeanors compared with 10-20% for the other Justices of the Peace in the county and there has been very limited use of Teen Court. The problem with a high misdemeanor dismissal rate is not only the reduced revenues to the county (as much as $200,000.00 last year) but the message that the Court is sending to law enforcement – the police officer's judgment in Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 is not trustworthy or reliable. As for Teen Court, the process allows teenagers to constructively participate in the judicial system. The teenager is given community-service hours and is required to serve on the jury in a future case. The community benefits by the service hours the teenager performs, the teenager is required to take personal responsibility for his offense, and the teenager has a positive encounter with our judicial system, which is essential to a well-functioning society.
Miller: The first thing I am required to do is attend training on the routines and procedures of a Justice of the Peace. There is an 80 hour training a first year Justice of the Peace must complete. I want to be sure I understand the duties of the office before I can become a highly qualified Justice of the Peace.
The second thing I will do if elected is make all judgments according to the laws of our state and county. It is extremely important the laws of our land are interpreted correctly so all citizens are treated in a fair and consistent manner.
Simons: I would continue doing the same things that have been successful: Serving the people and meeting their needs.
4. In a few sentences, what would you like to tell the Parker County Precinct 4 voters?
Johnson: East Parker County has grown from a rural farming and ranching community into a complex, populous, urban landscape with many businesses operating within Precinct 4. It is important that East Parker County have a judge that has legal experience relating to the various matters that come before her. In each of these cases, the Justice of the Peace should be required to follow the law; understand the rules necessary to resolve and decide cases; deal consistently with each party that appears in front of her; be firm, fair, and impartial; refuse to engage in ex parte communications; and be tough on repeat offenders and truants.
I intend to use the position of Justice of the Peace to continue to serve my community and to ensure that the Court operates within the law in a competent, consistent, and fair manner.
Miller: I believe in the value of the community and feel we all deserve a safe place to live and work. I believe all citizens should be treated with dignity and respect. I am not afraid to make decisions according to the law. Please vote in all elections so the people’s voice is heard.
Simons: The people of Precinct 4 have been very good to me, and I would like to continue to serve them for another four years.