These courts hear civil matters in which the dispute does not exceed $20,000. They also hear certain criminal misdemeanors that can be punished by fines but not jail time. Precinct 7 represents the West Side and Upper Valley. JPs get paid $101,247 a year.
Who’s running for this seat?
Humberto “Beto” Enriquez, 57, a Democrat, is an attorney.
Candidates were asked to limit their responses to 100 words. Responses have been lightly edited for grammar.
What qualifications separate you from your opponent?
Ida Baeza Gardner: I have 24 years of experience as an administrative office manager for the court I am now a candidate and 14 years of experience as a municipal judge.
Humberto “Beto” Enriquez: Strong legal background with 30 years experience in state and federal courts in Texas and New Mexico.
Texas does not require justices of the peace to be licensed attorneys. Is that a negative or a positive; why?
Ida Baeza Gardner: Positive. A justice of the peace court is the people’s court. This court is where a person can represent themselves. I believe a JP judge should be: someone who knows how to read and interpret the law; have common sense; be a people person; be available to do the job. A practicing attorney has to put their clients first. If a practicing attorney is elected as a JP that attorney can continue to practice, therefore putting the JP court second.
Humberto “Beto” Enriquez: Negative. The jurisdiction of the court has changed drastically from its inception. As of 2021 the court handles cases valued at $21,000. The parties need to know that they are appearing before a judge with the legal training to make sound, transparent decisions.
What community outreach should a justice of the peace be required to do?
Ida Baeza Gardner: Educating the community about what type of cases the justice of the peace court hears.
Humberto “Beto” Enriquez: A JP should be available to interact with the community in different forums such as schools and community organizations.
What actions and measures would you take to reduce the number of evictions in the
Ida Baeza Gardner: The only thing a Justice of the Peace judge can do is follow the law and be available to hear the cases on time. Any other actions or measures can be construed as pre-judging a case. Judges have rules they have to comply with. Canon 2 says: Avoiding impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge’s activities. Canon 2 (A) continues to say that: A judge shall comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
Humberto “Beto” Enriquez: Education is key to ensure reduction of evictions in general. The more landlords/tenants know about the process the better equipped they will be to steer away from evictions. Mediation services can be used to curb evictions when handled properly. Engaging community organizations which may be able to help tenants when they are struggling financially is important. Whether government organization or a non-for- profit group, all these should be readily available to the parties in an effort to avoid the difficulty of an eviction.
What does your party affiliation tell voters about how you’ll handle the cases that come before you?
Ida Baeza Gardner: I will be fair and respectful while upholding the laws of this state.
Humberto “Beto” Enriquez: Voters should know that I am capable of making legally sound, transparent decisions based on fact and law. They should know that I will listen to both sides and treat everyone with respect and integrity.