Are Black Women Judicial Candidates In Houston Being Targeted With Claims That They’re Not Qualified To Run For Office?


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Houston, we have a problem. A new state law that was passed last year by the Texas legislature is now “being used to question the qualifications of three Black women running for Harris County judicial positions in the March primary,” the Houston Chronicle reports.

And three white male incumbent judges are trying to use the newly enacted law to eliminate potential Democratic challengers from appearing on the ballot.

Last year the Lone Star State passed 774 new laws, including H.B. 2384, which became effective last September 1, 2023. The new law deals with “court administration, including the knowledge, efficiency, training, and transparency requirements for candidates for or holders of judicial offices.”

Ironically enough, the law was passed with bipartisan support and is neutral on its face. It “was designed to ensure those who run for office as district court or appellate court judges meet certain educational and training requirements, such as courtroom experience, a current law license and practicing law in the last five years.”

Of note, being an incumbent judge means that the current officeholders “are exempt from having to answer the new application about qualifications.”

Is this a form of blacklash after 17 Black women won their elections “by double-digits in Harris County”? The elections gave them judicial positions “for four-year terms in the civil, criminal, family and probate courts.”

Lloyd Kelley, the attorney representing all three women believes the incumbent judges are using this tactic to selectively target the candidates because of their race. “There is no indication that non-Black judicial candidates running against incumbents are facing similar lawsuits.”

“When you get a candidate that might beat you, you resort to desperate measures,” Kelley said. “I’m really offended by what they’re doing. What is it about a Black woman that you find offensive when she runs for office? Can’t the people decide? You’re using a lawsuit as a campaign tool.”

Who are the three women being targeted and named in lawsuits? “Erica Hughes, who was one of the judges elected in 2018 and is running for the 151st District Court position held by incumbent Mike Englehardt; Amber Boyd-Cora, who is seeking the 1st District Court of Appeals position held by incumbent Peter Kelly; and TaKasha Francis, who is running for the 152nd Civil District Court seat held by Robert Schaffer.”

The suits against Hughes and Boyd-Cora progressed to the Texas Supreme Court and were subsequently dismissed.

According to Kelley, “Schaffer dropped an earlier claim to have Francis removed from the March primary ballot because he ‘has no evidence to support his claim but plans to re-file his lawsuit’ and ‘use discovery’ to try and ‘find’ a witness ‘after the primary election is over.’”

“Schaffer’s weaponization of his frivolous lawsuit is nothing but a sneaky attempt to cast doubt in the public’s mind about Ms. Francis’s qualifications to be a Judge,” added Kelley.

Retired U.S. District Court judge Vanessa Gilmore stated, “This has never been an issue before we had a sweep of African-American women who became judges, and no one was concerned…I feel like this new law has been weaponized against Black women to protect the incumbents. It doesn’t have to have discriminatory intent to have a discriminatory impact.”


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