Do we need more judges who believe in rehabilitation, or judges who set a fast track to prison, when mass incarceration must end?
In the 427th Judicial District Court primary race, which of the following should get your vote:
On the one hand: The Incumbent Judge, who sacrificed due process to start his vacation. The Incumbent Judge, whose campaign the Austin Police Association PAC is funding.
On the other hand: The Challenger, Tamara Needles, who decided to run for judge when she finally had enough of the unfairness in the criminal justice system.
I first saw Tamara Needles in action in a Caldwell County felony jury trial when I was still in law school. I was interning at the Caldwell County District Attorney’s Office, and this was one of the first felony trials I had ever seen.
Tamara Needles simultaneously had a great case, and a hard case. She represented someone with a criminal history. In our profession, it is always easier if this is your client’s first arrest. The facts of the case, however, were in her client’s favor.
I knew, and I think the jury knew, that Tamara was sincere and a warrior. When she picked the jury, she asked each member of the venire if – when they retired to deliberate, if they had a reasonable doubt about guilt, would they go along with the majority, or would they stick to their guns and vote their conscience?
The jurors ultimately stuck to their guns, voted their conscience, and acquitted Tamara’s client. I have used a version of Tamara Needles’s voir dire question in all of my trials.
Tamara Needles decided to run for judge after she tried a case in the 427th Judicial District Court of Travis County, Judge Jim Coronado, presiding. You can read about Tamara’s experience trying the case here.
The problem with this trial was Judge Coronado was set to start his vacation. Instead of setting aside his personal issues, he fast-tracked the trial, sacrificing Due Process. Tamara knew of many complaints about Judge Coronado, and those complaints were at the forefront of her mind as she witnessed his lack of professionalism.
Judge Coronado consistently has the absolute worst ratings out of the seven district court judges in Travis County. He is running on an “experience” based platform. He may be an experienced judge, but the question really should be quality, not quantity.
Tamara decided that she “just couldn’t sit by any longer.”
A look at Judge Coronado’s campaign contributions shows that the Austin Police Association PAC is one of his donors. You can see his report for yourself, here.
Tamara Needles has 20-years experience practicing law in the trenches. She has not spent the last decade on a pedestal, removed from the reality of humanity. Each time she has a client in her office, she is reminded of the humanity of those the State has decided to criminalize.
And, so, her campaign statement on her website makes real sense:
“I have experienced the inefficiency, inequities, and unfairness that sometimes take place in our courthouses.
I believe now is the time to set a higher standard in the District Court circuit. We need a District Court judge who understands not only the law, but also appreciates the human aspect to our criminal justice system.”
This is just one reason why I think you should vote for Tamara Needles for the 427th Judicial District Court of Travis County.