Connect with us


Eight Houston-area judges ousted in the Democratic primary `



Judge Erica Hughes ousted Engelhart and attorney Amber Boyd-Cora ousted Kelly

Local political and legal experts say judges’ qualifications, experiences and temperaments do not often impact the outcome of judicial races in the Houston area, because there are 50-plus seats on the Harris County ballot, those races typically get little coverage in the news media and many voters do not know much about incumbent judges or their opponents.

Judges Mike Engelhart and Robert Schaffer have served on their civil court benches in Harris County since 2009, and both received high marks in the most recent judicial evaluation poll conducted by the Houston Bar Association. So did Justice Peter Kelly, who has held a place on Texas’ 1st Court of Appeals since 2018.

Justice Peter Kelly (left) lost to attorney, Amber Boyd-Cora

All three lost their Democratic primary elections on Tuesday, and by wide margins. The closest of those races involved Schaffer, who received less than 45% of the vote in his loss against TaKasha Francis.

“It is disappointing that the voters did not value my experience and hard work over the past five years,” Kelly said.

South Texas College of Law professor Charles “Rocky” Rhodes said judges’ qualifications, experiences and temperaments do not often impact the outcome of judicial races in the Houston area, because there are 50-plus seats on the Harris County ballot, those races typically get little coverage in the news media and many voters do not know much about incumbent judges or their opponents. Voters often make their selections based on political party affiliation and, in the case of Democratic primaries, based on a candidate’s name, place on the ballot, gender, ethnicity or even perceived ethnicity inferred from their name, according to Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.

Along those lines, the losses Tuesday by Engelhart, Kelly, Schaffer and some other sitting judges reflect a trend that has emerged in the Houston area during the last decade. The electorate in Democrat-leaning Harris County, and particularly those who vote in Democratic primaries, clearly favors women and in many cases African-American women.

Judge Erica Hughes (left) ousted Judge Mike Engelhart

Engelhart, Kelly and Schaffer, who are white men, each lost to a Black woman after filing lawsuits challenging their opponents’ eligibility to appear on the ballot, with Judge Erica Hughes beating Engelhart and attorney Amber Boyd-Cora beating Kelly. Justice Gordon Goodman of the 1st Court of Appeals also lost his Democratic primary to a Black woman, Brendetta Scott.

Longtime civil court Judge R.K. Sandill also lost to a woman, Denise Brown, while fellow criminal court Judge Ramona Franklin and family court Judge Julia Maldonado lost to other women in their primaries. Civil court Judge Brittanye Morris, a Black woman, lost her primary against Tracy D. Good, a Black man.

Eddie Rodriguez, the campaign manager for Brown, said voters tend to have more trust in female judicial candidates, and he expects that to become even more of a factor in the future because the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature made abortion illegal in the state in 2022 after the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision from 1972 was overturned by the United States Supreme Court. And women make up the majority of Democratic primary voters in Harris County, according to Rottinghaus.

“We know that historically, when there are women on the ballot, women voters will vote for them,” Rottinghaus said.

Mary Flood, an attorney, legal media consultant and former legal journalist who works for Androvett Legal Media, said the Democratic primary results illustrate a “tragically flawed” system for electing judges, whom she said have greater control over voters’ lives than they might realize because they can make decisions that impact their finances and family dynamics. There were cases in which “ignorant voters just picked female names,” she said, which could result in less-qualified, less-capable and less-fair judges presiding over Houston-area courts.

System on trial

Flood said she favors the idea of overhauling how judges are selected in Texas. Many other states have judges who are initially appointed by commissions, based on qualifications and merit, and they can subsequently be replaced by voters based on reviews of their performance.

“What happened this week has happened before in Harris County and we’ve lost some of our best jurists and sometimes replaced them with mediocrity or worse,” Flood said. “The problem is not just the ignorant voter picking a gender or familiar name or party affiliation. It’s the way we elect judges in Texas.”

Rodriguez and Kelly said Texas’ current system of electing judges is better than the alternatives, with Rodriguez saying he puts more trust in the voting public than in state lawmakers or Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. Hughes also questioned the need and desire to change the system, saying no eyebrows were raised before women and African Americans such as herself started winning judicial elections, with bench seats having historically been controlled predominantly by white men.

As for well-respected and highly-rated judges being ousted by voters, Hughes said that comes with the territory in Texas. She also said she’s grateful the system allows for poorly performing judges to be replaced every few years.

“The majority should make the decision,” Hughes said. “That works in our executive branch and legislative branch. It should work in the judicial branch.

“The bench belongs to the people of Harris County or whatever court jurisdiction you’re in,” she added.

Hughes, who was elected to a Harris County criminal court at law in 2018 and was appointed as a federal immigration judge in 2021, said her qualifications and experience contributed to her win against Engelhart. She also acknowledged that being a Black woman who was listed above him on the ballot helped as well.

Hughes also said she thinks lawsuits filed by Engelhart, Kelly and Schaffer, who challenged their opponents’ eligibility to appear on the primary ballot, backfired against them. Engelhart questioned the authenticity of signatures on Hughes’ petitions to be on the ballot, Kelly claimed Boyd-Cora did not properly cite her experience in her application to be on the ballot, and Schaffer questioned whether Francis had enough recent experience as a practicing attorney to qualify as a judicial candidate.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of Boyd-Cora and Hughes. Francis was kept on the ballot by a temporary trial court ruling leading up to Election Day, with a trial set for later this month and the possibility she could be disqualified from appearing on the ballot for the general election in November, although such a decision would not make Schaffer a primary winner by default.

Kelly acknowledged the lawsuits could have had a negative impact on him and the other sitting judges, partly because they are all white men and there was a perception they could have been motivated by race because they were going against Black women.

Engelhart and Schaffer declined interview requests through their mutual campaign manager.

“It was possible that there was a negative backlash based on a misdescription, a misunderstanding, of what the actions were actually about,” Kelly said.

Sandill, who did not respond to an interview request made through his campaign, had a favorable pre-election rating from the Houston Bar Association along with Engelhart, Kelly and Schaffer. Franklin, Goodman, Maldonado and Morris – the latter of whom ousted highly-rated Judge Daryl Moore in a Democratic primary in 2020 – each had unfavorable ratings in the poll, which is based on a survey of member attorneys.

“Local judicial races end up not getting very much voter attention,” said Rhodes of the South Texas College of Law. “As a result, most voters come in and make their decision based on the names without really understanding the background, qualifications, experience and judicial temperaments of the individuals that they’re voting for.”

Texas Guardian News
Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply


TSU Announces 2024 Annual Communication Week



TEXAS INTERNATIONAL GUARDIAN, HOUSTON, TX – The representation of diverse racial and ethnic groups, as well as sexual and gender identities in the media, is critically important because it accurately shapes decency, fairness, and unity in the community. When media lacks or portrays insensitive representations, it can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and discrimination, further marginalizing these identities.

The School of Communication (SOC) at the Texas Southern University (TSU) has announced its 2024 Commweek, signifying the 42nd Intercultural and Communication Conference. Themed “Amplifying Diverse Voices in Media and Communication”, the conference will be held April 8 – 12, 2024, and will culminate with an Awards Gala on Friday, April 12, 2024, at the University’s Tiger Room.

Ensuring a diversity of voices in the media requires holistic monitoring systems and the wider application of target-based measures for both public and private media. Amplifying diverse perspectives can instigate a richer and more inclusive media landscape that benefits the entire populace. The Intercultural Communication Conference provides a forum for scholars, students, professionals, and civic-minded leaders to explore topics with cultural, political, economic, and social implications as well as communication dynamics. But the theme is necessary and also, it is coming at the right time.

The challenges posed by a lack of diverse voices in media and communication can be seen across social, political, economic, and cultural spheres of influence. These issues can influence the views represented in news coverage and dissemination. Indeed, the diversity of perspectives is key to creating a more inclusive and equitable society.

According to Dr. Chris Ulasi, the Interim Dean of the School of Communication, “The 2024 event will be special because we are equally raising scholarship funds for gifted and economically disadvantaged students in the School of Communication.  Traditionally, a majority of our students rely on some form of financial assistance to fund their education. This is why I am using this opportunity to appeal to individuals, corporations, and community organizations to support this cause.”

According to a release made available to our newsroom, proceeds from this event will,

  • Help SOC students break down financial barriers while pursuing their academic prospects.
  • Help SOC students cover the cost of tuition, textbooks, and other educational expenses.
  • Help SOC students supplement the cost-of-living expenses such as housing, transportation, and food.
  • Create retention possibilities for students who might drop out for financial reasons.
  • Act as incentives and encouragement to students in general.
  • This financial sponsorship will be a catalyst for expanding SOC’s ongoing professional relationship with corporate businesses, community organizations, and individual sponsors.

Dr. Anthony Ogbo, co-chaired by Professor Ladonia Randle, and Ms. Michele Jones, is joined by a team of very engaging and supportive members who meet regularly to finalize the machinery for a successful event.  According to Dr. Ogbo, “The 2024 Commweek is expected to draw a line-up of dignitaries from the business, academic, and government sectors. For instance, the City of Houston’s Vice Mayor Pro-Tem, Council Member Martha Castex-Tatum will lead the conference opening ceremony on Monday, April 8. Also, Dr. Kathleen McElroy, renowned Journalist and Professor at the School of Journalism and Media at The University of Texas at Austin will lead the opening session of the intercultural conference on Thursday, April 10.”

The School of Communication (SOC) at Texas Southern University is a transformational, interdisciplinary academic school with four departments and two graduate programs: Communication Studies; Entertainment Recording Industry Management (ERIM); Journalism; Radio, Television, and Film (RTF); and Master of Arts (MA) in Communication and Master of Arts (M.A.) in Professional Communication and Digital Media (PCDM). For 48 years, the school has been at the forefront of training culturally responsive professionals and scholars who can navigate urban and international settings with a deep sense of inclusivity and an understanding of historical legacy.

Texas Southern University possesses an impressive array of more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs and concentrations, a diverse faculty, 80-plus student organizations, and an extensive alumni network comprised of educators, entrepreneurs, public servants, lawyers, pilots, artists, and more, many of whom are change agents on the local, national and international stage. Nestled upon a sprawling 150-acre campus, Texas Southern University is one of the nation’s largest historically black universities.

Texas Guardian News
Continue Reading


Breakforth Summit Houston 2024 “Worship & Healing Encounter” debuts in Houston



In two weeks, citizens from across the city of Houston will spring into the new season with the official launching of a transformational faith-based praise, worship, and healing experience that guarantees to bring full restoration, excitement, and joy into the lives of many!

Pastors Dr. Andy Osakwe and Ndidi Osakwe (who recently arrived in the city to meet with fellow faith-based leaders) will host the inaugural Breakforth Summit Houston 2024 “Worship & Healing Encounter” (Presented by AOMI and Mission USA) on Sunday, April 7th at The Power Center’s ‘Community Collective for Houston’ (12401 South Post Oak). The on-site event will be located inside the Jesse H. Jones Ballroom and event doors will open promptly at 5 PM.

Join pastors Dr. Andy Osakwe and Ndidi Oaskwe as they host this transformative healing encounter infused with soul-lifting worship from gospel music’s finest, led by international gospel star recording artist Pastor Nathaniel Bassey, Lakewood Church worship leader, Pastor Fiona Mellett, popular Houston-based worship leader and Pastor Dr. Ronke Adekosan, and recording artist, social media faith influencer Minister Melissa Bethea.

The Sunday evening celebration will feature a variety of well-known and emerging faith leaders and musical performances that will usher the audiences through prayer declarations, reading of scripture, praise and worship sessions, laying of hands, deliverance, and testimonials. Over fifty faith-based practitioners worldwide will be present to help orchestrate an experience that will deeply transform the lives of many from within. The event will present an opportunity for individuals from all walks of life and faith to join together in an environment that will spread love, encouragement, and support for all of mankind. Complimentary child care is available for children between the ages of 4 and 10.

Additionally, the Breakforth Summit Houston 2024 “Worship & Healing Encounter” will serve as an official launch pad and countdown for Pastors Andy and Ndidi’s official Houston church and ministry planting in continuation of their successful global ministry work. It is the hope and desire of the pastors to support communities to overcome adversities faced in life regularly. Dr. Andy Osakwe is the founder and overseer of the Summit Bible Church and president of Andrew Osakwe Ministries International.

Ultimately, Dr. Andy’s hope and desire to establish a worship and healing experience speaks for itself. “It will be a phenomenal and highly impactful spiritual encounter that will result in restorative liberty and transformation, which will usher in a new season of fruitfulness and personal advancement for each person in attendance.”

For Press & Media Inquiries (832) 941-8952

To learn more about the Breakforth Summit 2024 registration and volunteer opportunities, please visit the official event website online at or to keep up with the latest updates from Dr. Andy and Ndidi Osakwe, please visit

Texas Guardian News
Continue Reading


Houston’s Urban South Brewery Celebrates Fourth Anniversary



Urban South Brewery Houston will host its upcoming Anniversary Party from Friday, April 5 through Sunday, April 7, in the HTX Taproom, starting at 11 AM, celebrating four years of crafting exceptional brews and fostering community culture. This milestone event will be an exciting day featuring live music, food, activities, and a vendor market.

Beer enthusiasts are also in for a treat with the release of four exclusive anniversary specialty beers. Highlights include “Press Start,” a crafted Czech Pale Lager brewed in collaboration with Parleaux Beer Lab. Additionally, beer fans can indulge in “Level Up,” an Old-Fashioned Cocktail Sour Ale infused with orange peel, Luxardo cherry syrup, and subtle bourbon barrel notes. The offerings continue with “High Score,” a robust Double IPA bursting with flavors of Mosaic, Citra, and Chinook hops, and “Game Over,” a decadent Neapolitan Ice Cream Stout layered with strawberry fruit, Tahitian vanilla bean, and milk chocolate.

To make the celebration even more memorable, fans can pre-order an Exclusive 8-Bit Beer Box featuring the four-anniversary specialty beers (Press Start, Level Up, High Score, Game Over), a 16oz can-shaped Silipint with discounted refills, and 2 tokens redeemable for draft beer.

The Anniversary Party is open to the public, welcoming families and furry friends. Urban South Brewery invites everyone to join in the festivities and toast to four years of brewing excellence.

For more information on Urban South’s Anniversary Celebration, follow the Houston taproom on Instagram and Facebook.

Texas Guardian News
Continue Reading