Hays County Assistant District Attorney David Mendoza, left, and Hays County Court at Law No. 1 Judge Anna Martinez Boling, right, at last week’s League of Women Voters debate.
By SEAN BATURA
Hays County Court at Law No. 1 Judge Anna Martinez Boling sparred with Democratic primary challenger and Assistant District Attorney (DA) David Mendoza last week at the San Marcos League of Women Voters (LWV), where the incumbent emphasized her experience and the challenger emphasized change.
Boling was appointed to the bench, in a 4-1 vote, by the Hays County Commissioners Court last August as the interim for the late Judge Howard Warner, who died in July. Mendoza was among those who sought the appointment.
With Warner’s original term set to expire at the end of this year, Boling and Mendoza are taking their cases to the voters in the March 2 Democratic primary.
“I have approximately three times the experience as a licensed and practicing attorney as my opponent,” Boling said. “I was your Democratic choice for (state District Court) judge in 2006 and I’ve only gotten better with time. I believe that makes me a better candidate today than I was in 2006.”
Said Mendoza, arguing that he would increase the court’s work load, “If you ever go out there are a Thursday, you’ll see how crowded it is at the courthouse. We can alleviate that problem by having more court per week, more dockets per week.”
Boling said she has more than 15 years of legal experience, including training as a judge, mediator, and prosecutor. An alumnus of Texas State and St. Mary’s University, Boling has worked for more than 11 years in Hays County as an attorney. She is endorsed by the Hays County Law Enforcement Association.
Mendoza has worked as an attorney for the state Attorney General’s office and for the Bexar County District Attorney’s office. As a prosecutor for Hays County, Mendoza said he has argued before the U.S. District Courts in Austin and San Antonio, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals in Louisiana.
The two candidates clashed over the league’s question as to the role of mediation in the court system.
“I think that mediation is very important in the court system,” Boling said. “In district court, I know that we’ve mediated a lot. I’ve been involved with the organizing of the dispute resolution center here in Hays County, and I’m very proud of that work, and proud of my work as a mediator. In county court at law, we don’t send as many cases to mediation as we do in district court, but if the mechanism is there for the civil cases and the family cases, I would always encourage people to mediate.”
Said Mendoza, “I don’t think it’s any secret that (Boling) has ownership over such websites as www.haysmediation.com, www.haysalternativedisputeresolution.com. That’s her focus of her practice. This court is a trial court. Make no mistake about it, Judge Warner was a trial judge, and this position has been made available because he, unfortunately, died. As I said, I’ve represented many, many cases for Hays County. The role of mediation in this court is minimal — minimal at best. And I think what we need for this court is someone that’s diligent in trials and has been through many trials themselves. And my opponent is a family law attorney first, and a mediation attorney second. The times I’ve seen my opponent in court for a criminal case has not been many.”
Responding immediately, Boling said, “My opponent, with all due respect, has been licensed about five (years). I prosecuted in El Paso, I prosecuted criminal cases, civil cases, and I am not primarily a mediator.”
Last September, county commissioners signed a contract with Central Texas Alternative Dispute Resolution (CTADR) to provide low-cost mediation services to eligible county residents. Boling, former chair of the Hays County Democratic Party, was on the steering committee that recommended mediation.
Asked how community service can be effectively be used to reduce crime, Mendoza said it depends on the nature of the offense and the individual aspects of the case.
“For instance if someone comes in — a first-time offender — we might just give them community service,” Mendoza said. “Oftentimes, we get folks in court — and because I work for the DA’s Office, I know this — in this economy, not everybody has the money for court costs or fines. And so we will often substitute a high fine or minimal fine for community service.”
Mendoza said the common organizations to which offenders are sent to do community service include the Hays County Food Bank, the animal shelter, and sometimes an offender’s local church.
Boling said such restitution can afford offenders empathy-building, transformative experiences.
“I think that broadens people’s horizons about what goes on in our community, and makes them more aware of the hardships and the problems and the successes that people have,” Boling said.
Boling said community members also benefit from the “free labor” provided by offenders.Email | Print