Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Judge Al Bennett and Durrel Douglas

-- Congratulations on your confirmation as a federal judge.

After months of delay, a unanimous U.S. Senate on Monday confirmed Alfred Bennett to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, cracking open slightly a national logjam of judicial nominations and a backlog of cases.


Bennett’s is the first judicial nomination to clear the Senate since Republicans took over in January. The delays mounted under Democratic control as well, even after Senate rules were changed to ease confirmation of presidential nominations to the lower courts and executive offices.


Of the Lone Star state’s 11 federal judicial vacancies, nine are in district courts and two on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which reviews cases from Texas.

That is one-fifth of 55 total current vacancies nationwide, according to Glenn Sugameli, who tracks judicial appointments for Judging the Environment, a Defenders of Wildlife project. Meanwhile, the nation faces a record backlog of more than 330,000 civil cases.

Yeah, the Fifth Circuit.  A real nest of conservative snakes.  But I digress.

Bennett, for his part, will replace U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt, who went on senior (semi-retired) status in March, 2013, more than two years ago.

Bennett has served as the presiding judge for the 61st Civil District Court of Texas.

In this week's game of "Can You Top This?" I posted the article above to Facebook, then Stace picked it up and added a picture of him with the judge, and this morning Charles bragged about working with Bennett's cousin.  I can top that.

In 2006, when Bennett and Rep. Borris Miles both challenged then-Rep. Al Edwards to represent Texas House District 146, I went to Miles' office and offered my support early on.  But Bennett approached me before the primary (he ultimately finished third) to ask if there was anything he could do to earn my support.  I said to him: "Please run for something else in 2008, so that I can give you my support."  He did, I did, and the rest as they say is history.  After defeating the Republican incumbent in 2008 for the 61st state district court, Bennett was elected administrative judge by unanimous vote (the same as his Senate confirmation approval) over Harris County's 24 civil district courts in 2009.

“I’m the first African-American to hold this position, and I’m the first Democrat to hold it in years, and I’m the youngest tenured judge to hold it,” (Bennett said).

As I have been perplexed many times over the course of the years by Miles' personal conduct as state representative, I have often wondered what might have happened if history had taken a different course, and Bennett was serving in the Texas House instead of on the state (and now federal) bench.

All things considered, I have to say that I'm glad Al Bennett was not elected to represent me in the Texas Lege nearly ten years ago; it is HD146's loss that he wasn't.  But it certainly was not Judge Bennett's.

Bennett isn't just an exemplary jurist, though; he is an exemplary person.  He is a Scoutmaster for his sons in what spare time he has, and as an Eagle Scout I know that experience imparts a wisdom and maturity to young men that can't really be matched by anything in this day and age.

It's just another example of who the man is.  Congrats again, Judge Bennett.  Well-earned and well-deserved.

-- Durrel Douglas, one of Houston's rapidly ascending community activists, declared for Houston City Council, At Large 5 and kicked off his campaign this past Sunday.

He was a blogger (for awhile), has served Working America, TOP, and the League of Women Voters; he co-founded Houston Justice, and is destined for even bigger things.

Philippe Nassif, a fine candidate in his own right, is going to have to move on to yet another slot so that the two men don't split Democratic voters in the general election and send Jack Christie back to Council.  Christie is a conservative jackass who never should have defeated Jolanda Jones in the first place.  I blame, among others, Bill White for that.

Judge Al Bennett and Durrel Douglas will be effecting great changes for Houston and Texas in short order.  Both men's talents are much needed in their respective areas of expertise.

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