Tanisa Jeffers' Vision For Travis County Court at Law #5
Treat the underlying issues
Whether I am acting as an attorney or an associate judge of the Austin Municipal Court, I believe we must begin to treat the underlying issues bringing folks within the criminal justice system in the first place. Substance abuse disorders, mental health issues and poverty are some of the main ones. As a judge, I will seek to rehabilitate offenders who suffer from drug addiction and mental health issues, seeking diversions wherever possible and appropriate. If we connect offenders with the right resources, we can greatly reduce the revolving door that is inherent in our current criminal justice system.
Mental illness is one of the main underlying issues affecting the accused in our courts. As an attorney, I specialized in representing the mentally ill for more than 20 years. I have witnessed the pain of mental health problems within my own family, and have seen clients struggle within our criminal justice system for the same reasons. I know how urgently we need criminal court judges who are sensitive to the way crime and untreated mental health problems sometimes intersect, and sentence in a way that will best help to rehabilitate those who struggle with such issues. The original purpose of Court 5 was to provide an avenue for mentally ill defendants who found themselves in the criminal justice system. I will not lose sight of that purpose and will give those individuals and their victims a voice in my court.
The collateral consequences of even a misdemeanor conviction are much larger than many people realize. You can have trouble finding a job or even an apartment to rent. In order to avoid saddling people with unreasonable hardships, we must have a court system that seeks out positive resolutions whenever possible.
At almost every docket where I preside as a Magistrate, it has been an undeniable fact that African Americans and Latinos are overrepresented, mostly stemming from pervasive, discriminatory arrests at traffic stops. And despite this disproportionate number of African Americans and other people of color charged with crimes, there are currently zero African American county judges who handle criminal misdemeanors. I believe that we can build greater trust and fairness in our criminal justice system by building a judicial bench that better reflects the accused. I am running to gain a seat at the table for African Americans in our court system.
I am running for my family
My dad always told me that if he was able to get an education, he would have become a lawyer so that he could use his position to help his community. Though it was not a goal he ever accomplished, he was proud to see me and one of my sisters (as first generation college students) become attorneys. I work hard to make him proud, and to live out his mission for him—to work towards justice and equity for our community and our neighbors.
I am the proud mother of three teenagers—two daughters and one son. It is exhilarating and also harrowing. I will protect them, and your teenagers, too. The citizens of Travis County will have a friend and protector in me.
Endorsements and supporters
Austin Central Labor Council
AFSCME Local 1624
Black Austin Democrats
Austin Black Lawyers Association
Hon. Jeff Travillion
Hon. Dr. Chris Harvey
Hon. Kimberly Holiday
Hon. Jim McDonald
Hon. Rudy Metayer
President of Austin NAACP Nelson Linder
Larry Wallace, former Mayor of Manor, TX
Candidate and Attorney Lee Merritt
Candidate Bertha Delgado
Rev. Gaylon Clark, Pastor, Greater Mt. Zion, Austin
Rev. Joseph Parker, Jr., David Chapel, Austin
Rachel Pierce-Burnside, Founding Partner, Diversified Now
Kellie Bailey, Attorney
Megan Rue, Attorney
Mark Sampson, Attorney
Shannon Hooks, Attorney
Charles Popper, Attorney
Joseph Turner, Attorney
Lacey Mullowney, Attorney
Cherie Ballard, Attorney
John De La Vina, Attorney
Suzanne Spencer, Attorney
Ricardo Maldonado, Attorney
Michael Candelas, Attorney
Stacy Denise Wooten
Fernando Martinez, Attorney
Paul Quinzi, Attorney
Jill Gately, Attorney