The Harrison County Democratic Party welcomed Marshall native and Dallas District Judge Staci Williams back home, this past weekend, in support of Williams’ election bid for Texas Supreme Court Justice, Place 7, in the Nov. 3 General Election.
“It is good to be back home,” said Williams, daughter of Dr. Claude Williams, who had a flourishing dental practice in Marshall.
Williams, the 101st District Court judge in Dallas, is challenging Republican incumbent Justice Jeff Boyd, whom she considers an extremist when it comes to his dissenting opinions.
“We’ve got an extremist on the Texas Supreme Court,” Williams said, citing some “scary” decisions she believes Boyd has made, even against the opinion of his colleagues.
One of which was a case of a South Texas physician who made the mistake of signing a death certificate instead of doing it electronically.
“The Texas Medical Board tried to sanction him for signing a death certificate instead of electronically signing it. The Texas Supreme Court … said oh, my God, we can’t sanction this doctor for something that’s clearly administrative. Jeff Boyd (said): ‘That’s the law, that’s the rule, he needs to be sanctioned,’” said Williams.
“So we’ve got an extremist,” she said of the incumbent. “Don’t let the Republicans tell you: ‘Oh, well we’re strict constructionists.”
Williams said she believes rules can be applied conservatively, but not when it runs against intelligence or common decency.
“That’s what we’re trying to put back on the Texas Supreme Court,” she said. “I say you just need a little bit of East Texas commonsense to put on the Texas Supreme Court — treat people how they should be treated. And that’s what we’re trying to do.
“He definitely needs to go,” she said of the Republican incumbent.
If elected, Williams will be the first African-American female elected in the 174-year history of the Texas Supreme Court. Growing up in segregated East Texas, Williams shared how grateful she is to be in a position to run and make an impact on the Texas Supreme Court, which is the civil side of the highest court.
“I really am the daughter of segregation,” she said. “We were living in Marshall, but the hospitals were segregated; so my father had to drive my mother to Longview to give birth to a set of twins at a Black hospital in Longview.
“And when I look at it….we had to live in the black part of town, right by the Darco,” she said, reminiscing on her rearing in Marshall where she lived until age 9. “To see kind of the progress that’s happened that I’m even in a position to run for the Texas Supreme Court (is an amazing feat).”
Williams said she believes she’s the most qualified in the race against Justice Boyd, who was initially appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, in Dec. 2012, to fill an unexpired term. Citing Boyd’s experience, she noted his past law practice, representing multinational corporations. She also noted his appointment as Deputy Attorney General for Civil Litigation for then-Attorney General John Cornyn, and his stint as Gov. Perry’s chief of staff.
“Not only am I a two-term district court judge in Dallas, who’s been elected every cycle with over 60 percent of the vote, (but) I bring 27 years of legal experience,” said Williams, noting her record.
Williams noted she’s been a municipal court judge for the city of Dallas, an administrative judge for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and an arbitrator for DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit), the US Postal Service, the Federal Mediation Conciliation Service, the Washington Metropolitan Airport Board, and Nasdaq FINRA, which adjudicates disputes between consumers and their brokerage houses.
“That’s just my judicial experience,” Williams said. “He’s going to say that his corporate experience is more diverse to sit on the Texas Supreme Court.
“Because we’ve got someone like him, that’s why we have decisions that’s coming out the Texas Supreme Court — the vote by mail, the evictions and foreclosures. They’re full of hypocrisy,” she said.
“I’m ready to get on the Texas Supreme Court because of my experience, my qualifications, my East Texas background of just treating people fair and decently,” said Williams.
She invited constituents to please join her on the journey.
Williams was happy to have Kathy Cheng, who made a surprise visit, alongside her, on Saturday, as Cheng is also running as a Democratic candidate for Texas Supreme Court, for Place 6.
Cheng is a private practitioner, of the greater Houston, area, and has practiced complex commercial litigation, family law, probate, tax, and real estate for more than 20 years.
Cheng, who ran for the same office in 2018, said the race, for her, is not about control of political parties, but about diversity and the opportunity of truly realizing justice for all.
“This year we have the opportunity to elect four Democratic women to the Texas Supreme Court,” said Cheng. “We also have the opportunity to elect three Democratic candidates to the Court of Criminal Appeals. That’s the highest court in the state of Texas for the criminal aspect of it.
“Why is that important?” she asked. “I tell people it’s not about an ‘R and D’ (Republican and Democrat) thing, because judicial is supposed to be neutral. But it is critical, because right now the nine justices on both Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeal are nine Republicans and zero Democrats, on both courts.”
She said the lack of diversity is disheartening because it only allows for one perspective.
“The Texas Supreme Court is interpreting the laws for all Texans and is composed of nine Republicans. Do you really think the laws are being viewed reflecting the diverse population that Texas has?” Cheng asked.
Cheng said while seven of the nine Supreme Court justices have either been appointed by past governors or the current governor, the seven Democratic judicial candidates have had to work their way from the bottom, and are ready to offer a new perspective.
“When I say we need diversity to both high courts, I’m not talking about the Asian American diversity. I’m not talking about the African American diversity or the Caucasian female diversity or the Latina diversity,” she said. “I’m talking about diversity of the lenses.
“We’re all born with one set of lenses. Based on our life experiences and our work experiences, we gain additional lenses to let us see different perspectives,” said Cheng.
“Why is that important?” she asked. “It helps when you have diverse lenses to see those gray areas, so that when you interpret the law, it is interpreted fairly and applied fairly across the board.”
Cheng, an Asian American, shared her story of US citizenship, starting with her family immigrating to this country for the American dream.
“At some point, I went through the naturalization process and became a US citizen,” Cheng shared.
Learning the English language, she also learned the meaning behind the pledge of allegiance — that liberty meant freedom and justice meant fairness — for all. It was like “hitting the jackpot”, for a family that had to leave their native country because of political oppression, Cheng said.
She said it wasn’t until she became a practicing attorney when she realized justice seemingly didn’t apply to all.
“I realize going into courtrooms that it’s based on sometimes your color, your socioeconomic status,” said Cheng. “We, as a society, need to understand we’re human beings. We also need to understand the implicit bias and systemic racism exists in this world. And it’s because of our diversity, of the obstacles that we had to go through and overcoming those and understanding that we need to view things, not just from our own perspective, but with the additional lenses that we gain throughout our lifetime. That’s where justice comes from.
That’s why diversity matters,” said Cheng. “We can make justice for all reality. We all have that opportunity to make that and effectuate that — not November 3, but starting October 13 (by early voting).”
Maxine Golightly, chair of the local party, thanked the candidates for sharing their platforms.
“We don’t see a lot of statewide candidates come to East Texas, but we appreciate you very much,” said Golightly.