Support Loren Jackson

 Posted on February 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

In the Houston Bar Association's Judicial Qualification poll, our District Clerk, Loren Jackson was rated "well qualified" by 1,056 of the responding lawyers, and "not qualified" by only 60. By contrast, his two challengers were rated "well qualified" by 58 and 40 lawyers, and "not qualified" by 244 and 256, respectively.

Nobody else Few others in the poll (covering judicial races and three administrative races) got over a thousand "well qualified" votes; outside of a couple of "who are these people?" JP races, nobody got as few "not qualified" votes as he.

That there were only 60 lawyers with enough of an ax to grind against Loren Jackson is evidence that Loren is not only very, very good at his job, but also good at his job in a way that lawyers from both political parties can get behind.

I've been studying Loren's challengers' playbook. They are hoping for a Republican straight-ticket sweep to usher them into office. Aside from that, they're going to make two arguments, both of which I will debunk here before you hear them anywhere else.

First, they're going to try to make it seem that Loren is doing something wrong by doing his job. Loren has made public records-that is, records that anyone could walk up to the third-floor Public Service counter in the criminal courthouse and copy-available on line. These records include, among many other things, indictments in rape cases.

The law allows prosecutors to file a rape case without giving the complainant's actual name. Prosecutors rarely take advantage of this law because it requires them to jump through a couple of extra hoops. It's easier just to name the complaining witness in the indictment. So when Loren does his job, making public records more accessible to the public, he's making the names of rape victims more accessible to the public. If this is a real problem, it's a problem for the DA's Office to solve-it's not the Harris County District Clerk's job to redact information from papers filed by parties to a lawsuit.

Second, Loren's detractors are going to claim that the administrative and technical innovations that he has brought about were already in the works during his Republican predecessors' administrations. I have personal knowledge that this is, to put it gently, a damn lie.

On August 28, 2008 at 3:00 p.m., leadership of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, including me as President, met with Harris County District Clerk Theresa Chang in her office. We asked her about improving our access to the District Clerk's records for the criminal defense bar. Specifically, we wanted online access to charging instruments, and a dedicated window in the public service section so that we wouldn't have to wait in line to get copies.

The first was possible, said Ms. Chang-there were plans to scan filings after cases were closed. But getting a copy of the indictment after the case is closed is of little utility. Couldn't we get charging instruments when they were filed? No, not possible, said Ms. Chang.

The second (the dedicated window), she would consider, but she thought it would be too expensive.

Too expensive? As Loren Jackson, who implemented a dedicated lawyers' window on his first day in office, points out, all it took was a piece of paper and a Sharpie. The impossible, online access to current criminal case documents (including charging instruments), took Loren a little longer.

Loren Jackson is a dedicated public servant who has used innovative technology to improve efficiency and services while reducing operating costs. He's the most fiscally-responsible-indeed, fiscally-conservative-elected official in town, widely supported by lawyers of all political bents. What do his detractors have? Nothing. No wonder they plan to campaign on lies.

I hate lies.

I don't ask you for much, readers. But if you enjoy reading Defending People, please consider: by making the District Clerk's Office easier to deal with online, Loren gives me a lot more time to blog. If that's worth anything to you, please donate to his campaign.

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