The two candidates for Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 came to the Ector County Republican Women meeting Wednesday afternoon to state their platforms and take questions from the community.
Matthew Stringer and Missi Walden are the two remaining candidates before the May runoff, beating out five other candidates in the March 6 election for the vacant position, receiving a little more than half the vote combined.
The seat has been vacant since Judge Christopher Clark vacated the position in early January to fill the vacant seat of County Court at Law No. 2 judge.
Justices of the Peace handle class C misdemeanor cases, like traffic tickets, and small claim civil cases with a jurisdictional limit of $10,000, like land lord and tenant disputes.
Stringer began the forum by telling the crowd about how his knowledge of the law qualifies him to hold the position. He said he has worked as a volunteer during the previous Texas Congressional session and was awarded the Empower Texans Conservative Leaders Award by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.
“I have studied and debated the law, the rules governing our legal system and the precedent that applies,” Stringer said. “I’m not afraid to speak out on the largest issue facing our community and that is the criminal justice infrastructure that has dilapidated into a state of crisis.”
While not actually having any say into issues of criminal justice infrastructure, such as the Ector County Courthouse, Stringer said he would have a duty as a JP to communicate with the community about problems and talk with commissioners on possible plans and solutions related to issues like the courthouse.
Walden agreed that, while JP’s don’t get a vote on the issue, it is an important topic they should address with commissioners. She also told the crowd about her 27 years of experience in the legal system, beginning as a legal assistant at the Shafer law firm before becoming a court coordinator for Judge Stacy Trotter in 2004, and then transitioning to the court coordinator for District Judge John Smith in 2011.
“I am the only candidate with court experience and I know the protocol and procedure involved in hearings,” Walden said.
One of the changes Walden said she would like to make to the justice of the peace court would be to make the court as paperless as possible, which she said would reduce the costs and make court proceedings run more smoothly.
Judge Christopher Clark, who vacated the justice of the peace last January to become the County Court at Law No. 2 Judge, was present at the forum and asked Walden how she would implement a paperless system.
Walden said she understood not everyone would be able to e-file, and that those who were unable would still be able to come in and file their papers, which would then be scanned and put into the court system’s online database.
“Getting everything on the computer and being able to send it to the judge that way and not having to have paper files is a more efficient way to handle things,” she said. “It keeps paper from being lost.”
Both candidates agreed that there will be a backlog that needs to be taken care of quickly should they take office. Stringer said he had visited the courthouse Tuesday and said there were about six criminal cases and 50 civil cases waiting for the next judge. He also said there were a large amount of warrants in the precinct, dating back to 2004, and would like to speak with commissioners and constables about creating a warrant office to pursue those.
Stringer talked about creating an annual accountability report for the office, telling the public how many cases the office filed, what their budget was and how much was spent in a year. Walden pointed out that cases filed could already be found online at txcourts.gov/oca and the office’s budget could be found on the county’s website at www.co.ector.tx.us.
The runoff election for the position will take place on May 22, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Early voting will begin May 14 and conclude May 18. Whoever wins the runoff will be the de facto winner, as there is no Democratic challenger for the position.
- Last day to register to vote: Monday.
- First day of early voting: May 14.
- Last day of early voting: May 18.
- Election Day: May 22.
- What: Justice of the Peace Precinct 2
- How long: Four years.
- Salary: $63.712; auto allowance – $5,050; fringe benefits – $28,578.