459th District Court: The New Bench
How progressive can you get?
The 459th District Court is a new court, created by the Lege last session, focusing on civil matters like administrative appeals, personal injury, employment law, and business litigation. A bulk of the cases set to come through the court, however, will be family law; things like estate planning, child custody, and prenuptial agreements. Attorney Greg Hitt believes that makes him best suited for the new bench. He's the only candidate board certified in family law, and since 2003 has focused exclusively on those matters. Opponent Maya Guerra Gamble offers a broader array of experience in civil litigation, including stints handling child pornography and exploitation cases for the state and business fraud for the Department of Justice. Aurora Martinez Jones is the only candidate with judicial experience: She's an associate county judge in the CPS and family drug courts (the latter among those defunded by Gov. Greg Abbott last winter). She touted her experience on that bench and efforts to work with the criminal court "so that my orders are not opposed or in any way seem to override what the criminal court system is trying to do."
Each of the candidates preach the gospels of fairness, justice, and accountability, and all appear relatively progressive in their own ways – Guerra Gamble grew up in Montopolis and far South Austin; Martinez Jones is a first-generation American (with parents from Mexico and Jamaica). Pressed on the challenges facing the new court, all alluded in some way to the decrepit state of the county courthouse. Both Hitt and Martinez Jones derided its outdated records system, and Guerra Gamble said the building lacks working bathrooms for women on some floors.
Whoever wins faces an open path to the bench. Republicans haven't put up a candidate in the race.