Friday, February 17, 2006

Mixed reactions drawn in attorney straw poll

In the mercifully short program that was produced by the Foundation (who gets high marks for compiling the program if not for pretesting the sound and lighting), several key Hidalgo County politicians seeking election tried to withstand opponent and member scrutiny. Most made decent appearances, some simply withered before your very eyes.

The results of the straw poll can be seen on Rep. Aaron Pena's website.

It would appear that the Ramonistas and the Cardenistas have fallen out of favor with their fellow attorneys, losing the straw poll among the Hidalgo County bar. At last night's Hidalgo County Bar Foundation debate, scores of attorneys and other professionals flooded the Cimarron Country Club to listen to several Hidalgo County-wide candidates offer their insights and views on several tough questions offered by the Hidalgo County Bar membership. Jerry Polinard, poli sci prof at UT-PanAm, moderated. It was a political feast.

First in the line up were the county clerk candidates. This five-way race didn’t field the most presentable of characters and nothing really distinguished them. While everyone wants to “modernize” the county clerk’s office and bring efficiency, none offered much outside their banal promises. However, Andrew Perez did state that he was one of the better educated in the bunch. Too bad he finished a very distant second.

The appellate court primary contestants quickly offered their promises of impartiality. There are three seats up for grabs in the six-member appellate court. The listed candidates pretty much fell along geographical boundaries. Gina Benavides, local litigator, quickly kicked into trial attorney mode as she immediately went for the jugular, stating that her incumbent opponent was ranked last in an approval poll taken of appellate court justices. Gina’s running for13th Court of Appeals, Place 5, against Justice Errlinda Castillo. Errlinda said she needed more staff. Local justice Hinojosa faces Rose Vela in the general election (a no show, maybe because she’s Republican). Local attorney Esther Cortez is trying to unseat Justice Nelda Rodriguez; Esther's big thrust was that Corpus Christi people shouldn’t tell Valley people how to judge cases; and in fact, “Corpus Christi might as well be Mars.” I wonder how this plays out in Nueces County or on her impartiality when looking at other region’s cases. Gina will likely pick up the win.

Fidencio Guerra, candidate for County Court at Law No. 6, had a numb reaction when asked his opinion about making the ignoble list of 5 worst judges by the Texas Observer. “I’m not familiar with that article and never heard of the publication.” (The Texas Observer is a liberal rag with an intellectual following.) But, to his credit, Fidencio shrugged off the article stating that he doesn’t care what those in Austin or Dallas say about him, only those in the community who elect him. Hmm. Yet, he is still poorly viewed by the DA’s office, and he has such a rotten judicial temperament the stench of which has permeated the State of Texas so badly that he ranks as the only Democratic district judge to make the liberal publication. Still doesn’t care I’m sure.

Well onto the district clerk’s office featuring Laura Hinojosa, Robert Mendoza, and the perennial no-show Omar Guerrero. The likable former bailiff, Mr. Mendoza, did speak to his experience in the courtroom – as a bailiff – as proof that he knows how to get things done efficiently at the Hidalgo County Courthouse. (Let's hope it's not with a badge and a gun, like those Santa Rosa cops.) Ms. Hinojosa, on the other hand didn’t flex such virility. On the contrary, she seemed meek, soft-spoken, and a bit repetitive, although she did have a message for which Mr. Mendoza couldn’t counter: a long history of proven public service.

The square off between Yao Ming-like Jesse Contreras and Lollipop Guild member Rudy Gonzalez produced a few other oddities. When accused by Jesse of campaigning from the bench and soliciting for contributions in his judge's chambers, from attorneys present on called cases, Rudy not only conspicuously refused to condemn the practice but he also didn't deny the activity. Is this when we begin to ask the difference between legal and ethical?

The DA's race will likely see the reelection of 20 year incumbent Rene Guerra. Not only did he demonstrate a keen knowledge into the black pit known as the Hidalgo County District Attorney's office, he charismatically swiped away his challengers (well-known criminal defense attorneys Mauro Reyna and Alma Garza) like a black bear batting around honey jars. They may be right: he may be too entrenched in bureaucracy to have any fresh ideas on modernization, he may be slow to prosecute voting irregularities, he may even depend on politiqueras, but so what if you cannot demonstrate your shrewd competence on call rather than plainly dtate "i'm better and smarter, vote for me."

The race of the evening, between The Ramonista versus JD, proved entertaining: Ramon accused JD of taking on too much debt through county commissioners and bankers; JD accused Ramon of investing more time in practicing law than working as a county judge; Ramon demanded JD reduce his commercials so his mother may again see her novelas; JD said he would work with the commissioners; etc. Well, I think the attorneys spoke clearly on this issue. Ramon overwhelmingly did not gather the support of his own professional peers, leaving JD (the non-attorney) with the unofficial endorsement: 70% Juan De Dios “J.D.” Salinas, III, 30% Ramon Garcia.

Oh, one more race: Eric "I really, really, really, really want to be judge" Cardenas Jarvis looked tired, resigned, and dejected in his debate with former Edinburg city council member Ricardo Rodriguez. Such disposition did bear out very much along the same lines as his biggest fan, the Ramonista: 69% Ricardo Rodriguez, Jr., 31% Eric Cardenas Jarvis.


Anonymous said...

As someone who has worked in the legal field before, i was not a bit surprised that Judge Garcia did not garner a majority of the vote. When you stop and think about it, he's been around for a good while in the practice of law. He has won many big money cases against local attorneys, so i'm sure that their egos are bruised. Most of them probably defense attorneys/firms. There were many times when i would overhear many attorneys speak ill of Judge Garcia. I chalk it all up to envy. There is a saying in the mexican culture, which in essence is that a mexican cannot stand to see another mexican doing financially well because then creeps in the green eyed monster....envy, and will try to tear him down.

Writer said...

Good story, JB. It's looking like the winners are almost chosen already.

Anonymous said...

I would agree shane, 99 out 550 members showed up to vote. not really scientific. But it looked like if you were able to escape work at 5pm, battle traffic and pay $35 for dinner by 6pm, you had the opportunity to vote.
Oddly or coincindently, whichever one you pick jd and Rodriguez received the same % vote?!!??!??!
What a coincidence???!!

Junkbox said...

Good post. Your observation on Eric is interesting. I had already noted that attitude. He has been notably abscent and out of the spotlight for a while. His meekness is not a good sign for someone seeking the office of District Judge.

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