The 174th District Court


George Godwin, the longtime judge of the 174th District Court, is not running for reelection. Four prosecutors are running for that bench. Per AHCL, “Look for the A.D.A.’s to remain awkwardly quiet about this race until after the primary has settled the issue for them.” How is the general public to choose among four prosecutors running for the bench?

One factor that helps make a good prosecutor is life experience. Many (most?) Harris County prosecutors go from high school to college to law school to the Office with no intervening time in the real world. Those who have had to exist outside the cloistered worlds of academia and government generally have a broader worldview, more of a sense of perspective, and more empathy than those who haven’t.

In other words, they are more grown-up, more human. It may be that people who have had their butts kicked by the world a few times can more easily relate to the people caught up in the system than can those whose adult lives have been lives of extreme privilege. (Prosecutors will say, “hey, this isn’t a life of extreme privilege. Look at how little money we make”: privilege is like the water in the fishbowl; only by existing outside of it do the fish become aware of it.)

Those who can relate to the unfortunates whom they are prosecuting are more likely to prosecute with fairness, compassion, and justice. They may not be not the slavering attack animals that the public thinks it wants its prosecutors to be, but the truth is that better human beings make better lawyers on either side of the bar.

The life experience that is important in a good prosecutor is indispensable in a judge (and no, seven months halfheartedly taking court appointments between leaving the Office and becoming judge doesn’t count). The fairness, compassion, and justice that make a prosecutor a better lawyer should be minimal qualifications for a judge.

At least two of the four Republican candidates for the 174th have life experience outside of academia and government. The two that I know of are Terrance Windham and John Jocher. John Jocher will be an outstanding judge (I suspect that Terrance would as well, but I don’t know him as well as I know John); if you get a chance, meet John, and judge for yourself whether I am right.


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