Monday Night Politics: The battle of the gavel
Diane Xavier | 2/17/2014, 10:16 a.m.
The Dallas Examiner
On Feb. 3, Monday Night Politics – Meet the Candidates featured the battle of the gavel as several candidates were competing for the offices of judges in Dallas County. Offices for the Judicial District Court for Judge 265, Judge 282, Judge 283, Judge 291, Judge 292 and Judge 363 were featured as audience members at the African American Museum in Fair Park and heard from candidates seeking these positions.
The first round included the seat for Judicial Court number 265, a court that handles felony criminal cases. Candidates Jennifer Bennett, William Barr and Anthony Eiland started the forum for this seat.
Bennett said what sets her apart from her opponents is her experience and humble beginnings. Bennett started her legal career as the assistant district attorney in Harris County. Currently, she serves as the homicide liaison for the Dallas County District Attorney’s office, where she is also the assistant district attorney.
“What people don’t know about me is that I almost did not graduate from high school and that I am the first person from my family to graduate from college,” Bennett said. “I worked two jobs, one of which included cleaning hotel rooms and then I became a waitress until I decided it was better to pursue a college education. I moved back home and went to Richland Community College and then went on to get a degree at a four-year university. I worked for an attorney who practiced criminal law and that’s how I got interested in the field of law. I worked my way through SMU law school. I’m the person that in this race has run a felony court. I’m the only person who has managed a felony court. I have worked at all 17 felony district courts.”
William Barr, a criminal defense attorney who has practiced in Dallas County for the past 24 years, spoke next about his experience.
“As far as Jennifer and I, I believe that I have the greater experience since I have been doing this for 24 years,” Barr said. “I believe that I can be fair. One of the main things that I will be looking at in the terms of this particular court is to address the problem of mental illness. Since President Reagan emptied out all the mental institutions, we’ve been putting everybody in jail or prison. My son-in-law is bipolar and my ex-wife is bipolar and I’ve been educating myself constantly for the last 16 years on this issue and I hope that you will consider me for this office.”
Anthony Eiland, former assistant district attorney for Dallas County, who currently runs his own law practice, The Eiland Law Firm, where he practices criminal defense and personal injury, spoke about his qualifications.
“I’m the only person at this table right now that has both prosecutorial as well as criminal defense experience,” Eiland said. “I have tried cases on both ends. While I was a prosecutor at the DA’s office, I started under Mr. Watkins and worked my way up from misdemeanor to felony. While in felony, I tried the gamut of cases from murders, down to robberies, to child abuse cases. As a felony prosecutor, I never lost a case. I am running for judge because there is a need for judges to give back to the community and what I mean by that is there are a lot of people, individuals, especially young adults who are entering the system for the first time and they are charged with non-criminal offenses and once you are in the system, you are essentially in the system for life even though you are on probation and even if you are on probation there are certain things that are going to remain on your record for the rest of your life so I want to try to create a program called Program ReWINd where these individuals enter these programs and undergo certain community service activities that can help them.”