In Collin County, two locally contested Republican races are set for the July 31 runoff election in the 2012 Texas Primary.
Local candidates Ben Smith and Terri Green are squaring off in the Republican race for judge of the 380th District Court. And, in the Republican race for judge of County Court at Law No. 2, candidates Barnett Walker and Sharon Ramage are facing off.
If you voted in a party’s primary, you may vote only in that specific party’s runoff election. If you did not vote at all in the primary, you may vote in any party’s runoff election.
- Early voting is July 23-27.
- Election Day voting is July 31.
- For information on early voting locations and hours for the July 31 runoff, go to the Collin County Elections site here.
- For information on July 31 election day polling locations and sample ballots, go here.
McKinney Magazine asked each of the local candidates the following five questions. The race for 380th District Court is spotlighted below. (The County Court at Law No. 2 race was spotlighted separately, and is available to read by clicking here.)
Question: Why are you best suited for the job?
Answer from Ben Smith: I believe I am best suited for this position because I am the only candidate in this race who has substantial trial experience and the only candidate who has handled criminal felony cases. The 380th District Court is a trial court, indeed, the highest level of trial court in the State of Texas. It is a death penalty court that presides over the most heinous crimes in our county. Criminal felonies are the types of cases that we as a community can least afford mistakes to be made -- when mistakes are made by judges in these types of cases, innocent people can go to prison and guilty people can go free. When this happens, there is no remedy. The court also presides over family law cases and civil cases. Although my opponent has been licensed as an attorney for a longer period of time, my research in Collin, Denton, and Harris County records reveal only two jury trials. The records showed no evidence of any trials in Collin County – civil, criminal or family. On the other hand, I have handled over 5,000 cases in my career, hundreds of bench trials, and over 100 jury trials. In my nine years as an attorney, I have handled thousands more cases than my opponent and significantly more trials.
Answer from Terri Green: I have more experience in family law matters, experience in civil trial matters and was a former Teen Court judge. The 380th Judicial District Court has not had a full-time judge for over a year. As a result, there are currently 1,900 cases pending, which include: 800+ family law, 700+ civil trial and the remainder felony cases. I am the only candidate in my race with over 23 years of litigation experience and have handled all types of family law, adoptions, personal injury, wrongful death, and breach of contract cases, which make up more than 75 percent of the cases on the docket. I also sat for four years as a Plano Teen Court Judge hearing misdemeanor criminal cases. I am proficient in the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, the Rules of Evidence and jury selection, having tried numerous cases to many juries. My opponent has only been licensed for eight years and only handled one type of case – criminal. He has never filed a contested family law matter or a civil trial matter. So, having an experienced judge with three times more experience and who knows the law in 75 percent of the pending cases would save the court, litigants, attorneys, staff and taxpayers time and money.
Question: What professional experiences have made you the right candidate?
Answer from Terri Green: I was a litigation paralegal for a large law firm for over eight years, handling cases in their family law and insurance defense sections. I am the only candidate who has tried a case in the Federal Courts, filed and won all of my appeals in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans , and am licensed in the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D. C. Therefore, I am also proficient in the Federal Rules of Evidence and Federal Rules of Procedure. I am the only candidate certified by the State of Texas as an Attorney Ad Litem and am routinely appointed by the judges to handle complex litigated matters involving wrongful death, personal injury, probate and civil trial matters. I am proficient in drafting §867 Management Trusts as well as §142 Trusts, commonly referred to as “Court Created Trusts,” as well as working with structured settlements, which are used quite frequently in probate and civil matters. (Editor's note: The § symbol denotes a section of a law or code.)
Answer from Ben Smith: My most relevant professional experience is the eight years I served as an Assistant District Attorney. In Collin County, I served as a Misdemeanor Prosecutor, Chief Misdemeanor Prosecutor, Felony Prosecutor, Chief Felony Prosecutor, 2nd Assistant District Attorney, Chief of the Misdemeanor Division, and Chief of the Special Prosecution Division. I have tried every manner of criminal case both to judges and juries, including DWI, theft, assault, drug cases, burglary, armed robbery, aggravated assault, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault of children, murder, manslaughter, capital murder, and white collar crimes such as mortgage fraud and official misconduct. I also have experience handling family law cases, and civil cases such as bond and asset forfeitures, mental health hearings, and serving as attorney ad litem. While an Assistant District Attorney, I was in the courtroom virtually every day, handling cases directly or supervising other prosecutors. Being in the courtroom nearly every day has made me very familiar with courtroom procedures, the Texas Rules of Evidence, and judicial reasoning.
Question: What one statement do you most want to tell voters?
Answer from Ben Smith: I most want to tell voters that this is an important race. Please vote in the runoff. It is very likely that less than 10,000 people total will be deciding the races on the runoff ballot. This includes our next United States Senator. Local races are extremely important, and some of them may be decided by just a few votes. Local officials are the ones who will most likely affect some aspect of your day to day life. District Judges are entrusted with tremendous power and responsibility: by the stroke of his pen, a district judge can terminate a parent's rights to their own child; by the stroke of his pen, a district judge can give the police the authority to kick down your door, seize your property, and place you in jail. By the stroke of his pen, a district judge can sentence a man or woman to death. It is extremely important that we elect judges of integrity, sound moral character, calm temperament, and who possess the right kind of experience. I have been endorsed by numerous community leaders and organizations who agree that I am the best candidate for this position. My endorsements include Cathie Adams, Kelly Shackelford, Collin County Conservative Republicans, Texas Home School Coalition, We Are Frisco, McKinney Police Association, Plano Police Association, Frisco Police Association, and Collin County Deputies Association. Please take an interest in this race, be an informed voter, and let your voice be heard.
Answer from Terri Green: With 1,900 cases pending in this court, we need an experienced and qualified judge who can take the bench and immediately hear the evidence and rule on all three types of cases -- family, civil and criminal -- to reduce the docket.
Question: What are your plans for office if you are elected?
Answer from Terri Green: Since I have handled all three types of cases, there will be no “down time” or training necessary. I plan to immediately get to work, spending as many hours as necessary, to reduce the number of pending cases on the docket, by setting hearings, ruling on motions, setting jury trials, conducting trials, and working with the court staff to ensure a smooth transition. I also plan to review the current motion docket to implement a revised system to reduce the waiting time for litigants and their attorneys who come to court for a hearing or trial.
Answer from Ben Smith: If elected, I plan to work diligently and conscientiously for the citizens of Collin County. I will make myself accessible and accountable to the people who have entrusted me with this power and responsibility. If elected, I will also give priority to cases involving inmates in our county jail, which cost taxpayers $62 per day per inmate. On any given day, there are 1,000 inmates in our jail, which is $62,000 per day. This adds up to more than $22 million per year to house inmates. Many of the inmates are awaiting trial on serious felony charges – often, the trials do not take place for one to two years. I have the experience necessary to give these cases priority and to get them disposed of more efficiently. I also intend to continue to give back to our community by continuing to serve as a REACH mentor for McKinney ISD, and by inviting students to my court to learn about our justice system.
Question: Please tell us a little-known fact about yourself – something that most people don’t know and would find interesting.
Answer from Ben Smith: A little-known fact about me is that I met my wife, Rebecca, while we were both studying abroad at Oxford University in England. She was a visiting undergrad student from Abilene Christian, and I was in my last year of law school. My friendship and fellowship with her and other ACU students over the course of several months led me to become a Christian and I was baptized at the age of 28 in the Thames River on Easter Sunday. My life changed forever on that day and I am grateful for the wonderful woman that God led to me. On July 6, 2012, we celebrated 10 years of marriage.
Answer from Terri Green: During January of my last semester of college, I was shot in the neck by a sniper while I was traveling in a car on a busy highway and was not able to return to college classes until March. Due to a lot of prayers and rehabilitation, I recovered and was able to walk across the stage in May to receive my diploma!