Mark Ash, a Houston attorney running for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, was surprised to read his (political) obituary in the Galveston County Daily News. After 405th District Court Judge Michelle Slaughter won the Republican primary on March 6, the newspaper declared that “Since no Democratic Party candidate filed to run, Slaughter will become one of the nine justices on the court.” Not so fast! Thanks to the Libertarian Party of Texas, Slaughter will not be running unopposed.
LP Texas will officially select its candidate for the position during its April 13-15 convention. Mark Ash seeks the nomination, and his only opponent on the ballot is “none of the above,” so Ash expects to face Slaughter on the November ballot as the Libertarian candidate.
“Texas has a dual-track judicial system,” Ash pointed out. “The Texas Supreme Court handles civil cases. The Court of Criminal Appeal handles criminal cases. The judge who wins this race will be handling criminal cases, so the issues that matter most to me are civil liberties issues: the Fourth Amendment right to privacy, the Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate oneself, the right to due process, the abuse of searches and seizures, and other civil liberties issues.”
Ash also believes in the importance of jury nullification, the principle that juries can declare a defendant to be “not guilty” if they deem the law in question to be unjust, inhumane, or unconstitutional.
“I believe that juries should be informed of their right to find defendants not guilty of unjust laws,” Ash said. “To provide more transparency in police interaction with the public, I encourage the practice of police officers being required to wear body cameras … and that they always be turned on.”
Ash brings years of practice in criminal law to the court, which serves as the final arbiter of criminal law in Texas. Slaughter, on the other hand, lacks the criminal law experience that Ash would bring to the position. Slaughter has specialized in complex litigation for international law firms, rather than criminal law cases of the type heard by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Ash also supports a woman’s right to choose. Slaughter does not.
In 2015, Slaughter was admonished by the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct for making a Facebook post that violated her responsibility to remain impartial in the “Boy in the Box” case. Although a Special Court of Review ultimately declared her not guilty of violating judicial standards, it also added this caveat: “A judge should never reveal his or her thought processes in making any judgment. … While [Slaughter’s] comments were ultimately proven to not be suggestive of her probable decision on any particular case, the process for reaching this conclusion required the expenditure of a great deal of time, energy and expense.”
Mark Ash maintains an active Facebook page for his campaign, and has never been admonished for violating judicial impartiality.