Harrison County Political Forum Part I

Harrison County Texas Courthouse Inside the Dome

looking up to the dome at Harrison County Historic Courthouse

I attended last night’s local Political Forum in the Old Renovated Harrison County Courthouse! This was my first Political Forum to attend here in Harrison County and I enjoyed hearing from candidates from 3 contested races.

District Clerk
Sherry Griffis
Mellinda Craig

County Court at Law
Jim Ammerman
Rick Hurlburt

District Attorney
Joe Black
Coke Solomon

(BTW if you wondered I listed the Incumbent first and all are Democrats the Challengers are Republicans)

Overview:
My impression of the venue, the setting and the hosts. My sincere appreciation to the League of Women Voters, while I was apprehensive from seeing the information online regarding their strong support of the Universal Health Care law and the Climate Change legislation that was pending in Congress and in general about the League, I can say with a certainty that the our Marshall/Harrison County League conducted themselves in a fine fashion in hosting a fair, balanced and productive Forum for the Candidates and the public to hear the candidates first hand and meet them in person.

The venue in the Renovated Harrison County Courthouse was wonderful and had room for about 150 guests I would estimate possibly a little more counting the second floor, I didn’t gaze up there but believe the main floor was more than 90% full during the opening of the Forum, in fact several late comers started by standing at the back, although later everyone found an available seat! I have to say the Dome and Interior have been well done, not that I’m surprised the renovations completed by Sloan construction that I have seen, including ETBU’s Marshall Hall, ETBU’s Scarborough Hall and now the County Courthouse doesn’t lead me to doubt that they do fine renovation work.

Now to the Candidates and the Forum:

The procedure was set with an Opening from each candidate as determined by numbers drawn from a hat, the lowest number went first. The First Speakers were Candidate Rick Hurlburt, Candidate Coke Solomon and District Clerk Kathy Griffis. After the opening remarks were completed, the Candidates received pre-selected questions that had already been sent to the Candidates from the League of Women Voters. After this the Candidates received several questions from note cards in the Audience.

To the Races:

County Court at Law

Incumbent Judge Jim Ammerman was polished and judicial in his speech and opening remarks, although some of the remarks from Candidate Hurlburt did cause defensiveness in the Judge.

From my observations I saw Judge Ammerman clearly present his desire to continue serving Harrison County for the good he has done in the Juvenile Courts. He mentioned several achievements including re-starting a Juvenile Boot Camp, Teen Mentoring, Partnerships with the local Police and Schools to encourage Juvenile offenders to not repeat their past mistakes and get help. In addition to this he portrayed his strong support of involving all Custodians and Parents of Juvenile defenders to attend and complete mandatory Parenting classes and improvement steps as set by his Court. He pointed out that Juvenile Crime has dropped 56 percent since he took office. The points that he mentioned about his opponent seemed to center on Candidate’s Rick Hurlburt’s career as a Criminal Defense Attorney, especially in defending criminals accused of drug offenses. I didn’t find this remark particularly helpful or pertinent to his case to Re-Elect him. I particularly believe that the Defense Attorney has the obligation and requirement of providing the best possible defense in all cases no matter how heinous, the facts I believe will come out and if Attorney Hurlburt did not argue the accused criminal’s past suffered abuses then he would have been negligent in his duties. In addition to this the most defensive Judge Ammerman seemed was about the “Case Backlog” that Candidate Hurlburt mentioned of 1200 or so cases. Judge Ammerman did a fair job in assessing the cases and explaining the fact that 87 defendants had not been apprehended and therefore the cases were inactive and impossible to move. There were an additional 800 cases that were “inactive” however, Judge Ammerman didn’t explain how he came to that conclusion on those files outside of the “State has changed reporting requirements” From the reduction in Juvenile crime and the implementation or re-activation of several Youth oriented programs it would seem Judge Ammerman has not only been an Advocate for Justice but for an improved Juvenile system overall.

Candidate Rick Hurlburt

Candidate Hurlburt came across with 3 central points to his message. The first overall theme was that he had the experience and desire to serve Harrison County. He had been a Court Judge in Longview until recently when the City Charter was reviewed and it was discovered that He as a Resident of Harrison County was in-eligible to serve as Judge in that Court.

In addition to his experience on the bench Attorney Hurlburt has many years as a practicing Criminal Defense Attorney, a Prosecutor and 4 years experience in Law Enforcement as a Kilgore Police officer. Candidate Hurlburt made his main premise the Part time manner in which the County Court at Law Judge currently services Harrison County is inadequate and has lead to backlogs. Candidate Hurlburt indicated that the ability to have a continuing law practice by a sitting judge is an only exception for Harrison County that Judge Ammerman uses to continue his personnel practice here in Marshall. To accentuate this point he then brought up the backlog of cases before Judge Ammerman’s court and mentioned the Clerk had reported to him about 1200 cases currently in back log. As I mentioned above you can see Judge Ammerman’s responses to that charge. The third leg of Candidate’s premise for his Candidacy for County Court at Law was the Zero Tolerance Issue at MISD. Attorney Hurlburt believes a True Zero tolerance policy is a travesty for the young people in Marshall and places the blame upon the victim in an altercation. Judge Ammerman says that MISD doesn’t have a Zero Tolerance policy. I plan on asking Marshall High School’s Principal Sunday as long as he’s there at my Sunday School class. I’m sure I’ll be informed correctly then and I’ll let you know what I find out.

The final premises for Rick Hurlburt’s candidacy focused on the detention of Juvenile offenders without a ruling, I didn’t follow all of the legal areas that Attorney Hurlburt was making but it seemed to be summed up that Judge Ammerman had not been fully ruling according to Texas Statues in regards to Juvenile detention which allowed them to be detained for up to 2 weeks until a determination regarding the case could be made and a ruling as to a finding of fault. Candidate Hurlburt also mentioned that there several hundred cases that Judge Ammerman had issued “Abatement” orders upon which disposes of them when they are inactive without a finding or completion from the Court.

Well for the first Forum candidates I though Candidate Hurlburt came off a little ahead of Judge Ammerman, but I really think he would have carried the forum by continuing to focus on the 56% reduction in Juvenile crime and the strong Community and Young Offender mentoring and re-education support he has given Harrison County over the past 12 or so years. In all it was a great exchange and I plan on finishing the other races in the next couple of days.

Thanks for reading! Oh for more information you may goto

Judge Ammerman’s Re-Election Website at http://www.jimammerman.com/

Candidate Attorney Rick Hurlburt at http://voterick2010.com/

Marshall News Messenger’s Story of the debate: marshallnewsmessenger.com