179th District Criminal Court: Kristin Guiney is the only choice

Kristin Guiney

Here I go again, stepping into a race down at the Harris County Courthouse. But when you block out all the noise in the race for Judge of the 179th District Criminal Court, Kristin Guiney stands head and shoulders above her opponent.

This is a nasty race for two reasons. One is the passion that comes from the people that work at the Harris County Courthouse and can’t imagine that anyone would disagree with them on anything. The second is that Kristin’s opponent in this race, Lana Shadwick, is a long time participant in Republican Party circles. And the people in those circles are just as passionate as those that work in the courthouse in that if you haven’t been working side by side with them to get Republicans elected, you shouldn’t be running for office.

The combination of these two passionate camps leads to one of those races that you really want to steer clear of if you aren’t in either camp. But, as luck would have it, we do have a vote and we must make a choice because there are only two people in the race, one from each camp. And as I said above, if you can block out the noise coming from the two camps and just review their qualifications, it is clear that Kristin Guiney is the right choice.

So then, what are their qualifications? Here is a table of their education and work history:

But, many say, Kristin Guiney has spent most of her career with one employer, the Harris County District Attorney’s office, while Lana Shadwick has had a variety of jobs. Shouldn’t a judge have a broad range of experience?

Well, only if all things were equal. This is a criminal court and Lana Shadwick simply doesn’t have the experience necessary to judge criminal cases. She has never prosecuted a criminal case and has only has a handful of criminal cases in which she was the defense attorney. That is a far cry from Kristin Guiney’s experience in the criminal justice system. Let’s look at Kristin Guiney’s career at the HCDAO:

  • Supervise and train prosecutors assigned to court
  • Responsible for the handling of all capital cases
  • Appointed by First Assistant to Committee on Discovery Procedures
  • Prepare arrest and search warrants
  • Prepare and present cases to be taken directly to Grand Jury
  • Present probable cause to magistrate on felony and misdemeanor cases
  • Prosecuted cases involving physical and sexual abuse of children.
  • Worked closely with the law enforcement personnel and therapists from the Children’s Assessment Center
  • Tried over 80 jury trial cases including four non death capital cases
  • Spearheaded committee and prepared presentations for Proposals to Commissioners Court requesting additional personnel and salary increases

Her opponent simply cannot match that in her career. Those first two are especially important because it shows that Kristin Guiney was well respected by her peers and her supervisors.

For this voter, it is important that a criminal court judge understand capital murder and the death penalty. Although I wish that Kristen hadn’t given Terry Lowry $11,075 this cycle, the least I can do is point you to her interviews with Terry on capital punishment. I don’t like a lot of what Terry does (okay, most) but the truth is that he is a pretty decent interviewer of candidates for judicial positions. He asks the right questions and gets out of the way so that the candidate has free rein to answer them So I urge you to listen to Kristin Guiney talk about capital punishment.

Her opponent lists a capital murder appeal on her website that she claims to have handled, but I cannot find any supporting documents for that claim. Criminal District Court judges exercise daily discretion in serious cases that directly impact public safety. The discretion extends from setting bonds to approving plea bargains, supervising probationers, conducting jury trials, and assessing punishment. Because she has never handled a criminal case in a trial court, she has no experience with bail, reviewing search warrants or any knowldege of probation programs.  How can she possibly be expected to handle hundreds of cases a month? The position of judge should not be a learning on the job experience.

Look, I like Lana, I really do. She is funny, smart, and has a smile bigger than Texas. If she were running for a family court judge position, I’d support her in a heartbeat. But she isn’t running for a family court bench.

For this criminal district court bench, it is clear to me that Kristin Guiney is the clear choice. I hope you take the time to study the two candidates in this race because if you do, and can block out the noise, I think you’ll agree with me.


  1. Monica says

    I support Kristin, too.
    But, I have to take issue with your examination of the qualifications. That you’d take Shadwick to task for not having enough criminal experience, but think it’s totally okay to back Lykos for DA –a woman who’s never prosecuted a case– is completely contrary logic.

  2. Mainstream says

    If it is true that to be considered for an endorsement by Terry Lowry/The Link Letter a candidate must purchase a $10,000 “advertisement”, that does not sound very legitimate to me, Ms. Jeter.

  3. conservative values count says

    I voted for Kristin Guiney in spite of Terry Lowry’s endosement and in spite of Kristin’s political morph from D to R.

    Kristin Guiney is by far the most qualified candidate and has solid conservative core values.
    Simply being a life long Republican does not compensate for incompetency.

    Mr. Jennings’ support of Kristin Guiney and Judge Lykos reveals that he truly is objective unlike the Goose-steppers who can’t see past their anger.
    Mike Anderson is what the voters replaced and the DA’s office needs to go forward not backwards

    As for Ms. Jeter’s comment she either does not know Terry Lowry or she is very very very gullible.

  4. Tom Zakes says

    I will preface my remarks by saying that Kristin Guiney is well qualified to be a criminal district court judge. I signed her petition to get her on the ballot several months before the deadline. If she wasn’t being opposed by Lana Shadwick, I would support her, against some of the candidates running in other races, or even against some of the incumbents on the bench. When Lana mentioned that she was considering running in this race, I encouraged her to pick another contest.

    Because you are basing your support of Kristin on her “courthouse qualifications”, I will address those. First of all, Lana has 20 years of experience to Kristin’s 11. That in and of itself can be meaningless. I remember when I was in law school back in the 80s, we would take visitors from out of town to lower Westheimer on a Friday night for the shock value. There was a business there named “Tom’s Pretty Fish”, combined with a law office for Tom claiming 35 years of experience.

    But the experience Lana has is top notch. The best and brightest in law school are the ones who become law review editors. They are also the ones who go on to be briefing attorneys at the court of appeals. That is typically a one or two year stint, followed by a trip to one of the big law firms, such as Fullbright or V & E. So far, Lana is three for three.

    What I look for in a judge is not just prosecutorial or defense experience, but fairness and impartiality. I appeared in front of Lana when she was an associate judge in Family Court and also in Municipal Court. She always gave me a fair hearing, though not necessarily ruling in my client’s favor. Although she was not the elected judge in the 308th, she did everything that Judge Dempster did, with the exception of presiding over jury trials and hearing appeals from herself. Although cross-pollination in the courts is no longer the norm that it once was, former family judges Bill Hatten, Andrew Jefferson, Ruby Sondock, Jack Smith and Felix Salazar went on to success in other District Courts in Harris County.

    There is also history of municipal judges who have gone on to higher courts. Certainly there is a difference in trial length between your average speeding ticket and a major drug bust, it is not unusual that a suspect being pulled over on a traffic violation leads to the cop finding a large stash in the trunk. The judge needs to know if there is probable cause in determining whether to suppress the evidence.

    Lana has also worked in the appellate division of the DAs office. Tim Taft, Harvey Hudson and Cathy Cochran used that experience to become very successful appellate judges. Caprice Cosper and Mary Lou Keel went straight from there to the District Court bench.

    I listened to all four parts of the Lowry interview with Guiney (which I have learned now is pronounced Gunney). While trying capital cases will always be an important part of the job of a criminal district court judge, much of that job is knowing how to protect the appellate record so that a new trial will not be required. I was not familiar with the Buck case before hearing about it in the interview, so I looked it up after hearing it discussed. That took a total of about three minutes. It turns out that the case was filed in October of 1995, when the mandatory minimum time to be served on a capital murder life sentence was 40 years, not the 30 or 35 mentioned. The better answer to give in an interview in that case is “I don’t know, I can look it up” if the person is not sure.

    I saw something more disturbing when I looked at the clerk’s records, which was the total number of cases handled by Kristin since she entered private practice. In less than two years, she has been attorney of record in 1012 criminal cases. By way of comparison, I looked at my own numbers: in over 22 years of private practice, I have been attorney of record in 1030 criminal cases. This is clearly in excess of the recommended total for appointed counsel to handle in such a short time.

  5. Former-ADA says


    You do realize that Lana’s only appellate experience at the HCDAO was sufficiency of the evidence claims? If you know anything about appellate work, you know that from the State’s perspective, these are the easiest “cut and paste” answers around. The sole exception was a case that got reversed (Lana lost).

    I know you’re a party faithful, and that’s likely why you’re standing up for Lana, but you need to take a look at how she handled herself in FCLD and the Child Abuse Divisions of HCDAO where she was utterly disrespectful and incompetent. There is a reason she has been bounced around the office and ultimately kicked out of grand jury, her 4th position in less than 4 years, when she got a case indicted after it had been dismissed.

  6. Tom Zakes says

    Sorry, former, but I’m a lawyer first and a party hack second. That’s why I’m heading up the Republicans for Mike Parrott in my new neck of the woods. I like what he does with the Teen Court program, where Courtney St Julian and I volunteer almost every month.

    I’ve said for decades that if I’m put in charge, I’m taking the party label off of judicial races, because there’s not a democrat way or republican way to rule on a hearsay objection.

    I’ll put your credentials, mine, or anyone else’s against a law review editor, briefing attorney and Fullbright & Jaworski associate any day of the week. I graduated from UH Law in the half of the class that makes the top half possible.

    But actually, I do know something about appellate law. And I know that Lana wrote the State’s brief in a case that I lost to Ryan Patrick in the 185th, where the issue was suppression of evidence, as well as insufficiency, improper jury argument. And whether a Batson hearing is required if the defense is not alleging the DA is a racist individually. Yes, she beat me just like Ryan had.

    I disagree with the concept that an appellate brief is just cut and paste, because when the defense alleges insufficiency, the State needs to review enough of the record to show that sufficient evidence was presented

    I never tangled with her in FCLD, but would be very surprised to hear from any defense lawyer not named Murray Newman that she was disrespectful.

    Instead, I think that much of the Johnny Holmes/Chuck Rosenthal crowd from the DA’s office just can’t stand the idea that someone Pat Lykos brought in actually has some ability.

    As to Lana’s credentials in the party, I deliberately stayed away from them because of the nature of this article. It is much easier to let her list of endorsements speak to that. But I will say that the Downtown Houston Pachyderm Club would not exist today if it had not been for the strong foundation that she, Tim Taft, Suzanne Testa, Richard Hall, the late Don Hornbeck and many others laid for us.

  7. Norma Jeter says

    My comment

    “By the way, I did a quick count of the ads vs endorsements of the Link Letter a couple of nights ago – 40% of the ads are non-endorsed!” was to satisfy my curiosity in response to the many claims I have been reading elsewhere (not in Jennings’ article) that almost all of the ads in the Link Letter are “purchased endorsements.” 60% endorsed does not equal “almost all” – the claim that it does is not legitimate. I have no idea what the full ad rate range for the Link Letter (or any other list) is, or what you get for $10,000 to $15,000 – do you?

  8. says

    Not a fan of this brand of thinking when it comes to courthouse slots: “if you haven’t been working side by side with them to get Republicans elected, you shouldn’t be running for office.”

    That right there is precisely why the US Constitution’s framer’s had judges appointed. Not the criteria by which to select the best judges.