a state district judge in Dallas who says Womack is ripe for defeat because he was fined $20,500 by the Texas Ethics Commission and sanctioned by a judicial ethics agency for failing to file seven campaign finance reports during the 2002 elections.Womack now says the ADD prognosis was incorrect, that he just didn't fill out the correct paperwork. Whatever the case, to my mind his greater sin has been to be a reliable vote for Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, under whose leadership the court has become a national disgrace.
At the time, Womack blamed the lapse on attention-deficit disorder and a problem with procrastination. That explanation — made in a 2003 closed-door session of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct but revealed when the agency issued its sanction — was not widely discussed at the time beyond a few newspaper articles and Internet forums used by lawyers.
Francis, however, said the episode raises questions about Womack's continued tenure on the state's highest criminal court.
I don't know much about Judge Francis, a Dallas district court judge, though I'm pleased to see that he was an organizer of a Dallas symposium on re-entry issues in January. His website informs us that he created and operates a "re-entry court" in Dallas, which appears to be a version of strengthened probation for low-level drug offenders:
Judge Francis has moved over 15,000 cases through the Dallas County court system. Although his daily court schedule keeps Judge Francis extremely busy, his commitment to finding new ways to deal with the ever increasing crime rate led to the formation of the first Re-Entry court in the State of Texas.In the Statesman article, though, Francis doesn't seem like he's running on a platform to shake up the court: "I think I'll bring a new personality and dynamic to it," he said. "I think there needs to be a higher degree of collegiality."
The Dallas SAFPF Re-Entry court is designed to stop crime by preventing addicts from returning to their addiction. Probationers who complete the Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facility (SAFPF) program return to Judge Francis’s court for intensive aftercare to ensure compliance with the conditions of their probation.
This program has had one of the highest success rates of any treatment program in the country. The results ensure that people who complete the SAFPF Re-Entry Court curriculum will not return to their criminal behavior and this prevents the citizens of the State of Texas from becoming victims. This court has received local, state and national recognition for its success.
Personally I think there needs to be a lot LESS collegiality. I think judges on the CCA need to stand up to Presiding Judge Sharon Keller more often to keep stuff like the Michael Richard debacle from recurring.
OTOH, Judge Francis seems pretty serious about the race, while Womack appears to be barely campaigning, reports Lindell:
Francis has been endorsed by quite a few Dallas area Republicans like Jerry Madden, Will Hartnett, Jodie Laubenberg and other prominent names, including GOP DA candidate Toby Shook who barely lost to Craig Watkins in 2006. Texas Eagle Forum even backs his candidacy.
In the last six months of 2007, Francis reported raising almost $44,800 in campaign donations. In a race that has traditionally favored the incumbent, Womack raised $103 in the same period.
These downballot races are hard to contest, and history shows it's folly to bet against an incumbent CCA judge in a primary (ask Terry Keel), but Judge Francis certainly looks like a serious candidate. Since Dems haven't won a statewide race in Texas since 1994, Francis' candidacy might be the best chance to oust an incumbent CCA judge this year. In a court that desperately needs new blood, perhaps Judge Francis will turn out to be a live one.