It's election season and there are lots of local judicial races on the ballot. We go over them all with our latest guide.
24. That’s how many local judicial races are on the Democratic primary ballot for this March 2022 election. That’s a lot of candidates! And a lot of confusing judicial positions to sift through.
With our latest guide, we make it easy for you by explaining all the judicial races, introducing you to the candidates, and sharing audio clips of interviews we recorded with the candidates.
PS – All of the local judicial candidates were invited to be interviewed by The Austin Common. If there is no audio recording under the candidate’s name, it means that they did not respond to our interview request. Also, all of the candidate names are hyperlinked, so you can click on them to check out their website & learn even more about them.
You can look through the Austin Bar Association Judicial Preference Poll results here. You can find The Austin Chronicle’s endorsements here.
District Judge, 261st Judicial District
About this race – Lora Livingston, who has served as the judge of this court since 1999, is retiring. Both of the candidates running to replace her have received a good number of endorsements. Lyttle has been endorsed by The Austin Chronicle, the Austin Central Labor Council, Austin Young Democrats, and the Austin Tejano Democrats. If elected, Lyttle would be a rare Spanish-speaking judge in the Travis County court system.
Davis has been endorsed by the Black Austin Democrats, ATX Black Lawyers Association, Chas Moore (of the Austin Justice Coalition), and Nelson Linder (of the Austin NAACP).
District Judge, 419th Judicial District
About this race – This is likely the most controversial race on the local judicial ballot. Incumbent Catherine Mauzy is being challenged by Madeleine Connor, who is currently a sitting judge in another civil district court (the 353rd), which means that they basically have the same job, making it exceptionally odd for Connor to run.
There has also been a lot of speculation that Connor is running to spite Mauzy. According to The Austin Chronicle, “in 2019, first-year Judge Mauzy ruled that then attorney Connor was a ‘vexatious litigant’ (one who has pursued frivolous or harassing lawsuits) following a series of unsuccessful court actions against her neighbors in the Lost Creek neighborhood on Austin’s far west side.” Questions have also been raised about Connor’s Democratic credentials. Again, according to The Austin Chronicle, “available records reflect that she’s previously run for office as a Republican at least three times, voted regularly in GOP primaries, and donated to Republican causes.” All of this has led to the Travis County Democratic Party officially censuring Connor.
District Judge, 455th Judicial District
About this race – Since this is a newly created court, the current judge, Republican Cleve Doty, was appointed by the governor in 2021 (until elections could be held). Doty is running for re-election on the Republican side, although his chances of winning are slim in Democrat-dominated Travis County. Laurie Eiserloh and Eugene Clayborn are running in this Democratic primary and whoever wins will face Doty in November. Eiserloh is well-known in the local community (she ran for County Attorney in 2020) and has been endorsed by The Austin Chronicle, Austin Black Lawyers Association, Austin Tejano Democrats, Austin Young Democrats, and many other local political leaders.
District Judge, 331st Judicial District
About this race – There has been some controversy with the incumbent in this race, Chantal Melissa Eldridge, over her response to sexual assault cases, which you can read more about here. Challenger Jessica Huynh has been endorsed by several local Democratic clubs, including the Capital Area Progressive Democrats, Austin Young Democrats, and the Black Austin Democrats.
District Judge, 403rd Judicial District
The judge of the 403rd Judicial District Court also presides over the Youthful Offender Support Court, which handles cases for teenage and younger defendants (who are too old to be in the juvenile court).
About this race – The current judge who presides over this court, Brenda Kennedy, is retiring. In the running to replace her are Brandy Mueller and Craig Moore. Mueller is the current Judge of County Court #6 and has gained a lot of positive press and recognition for Project Engage, a diversion program for teens and young adults she created as judge of that court. Mueller has been endorsed by The Austin Chronicle, as well as several local Democratic clubs (including the Austin Central Labor Council, Capitol Area Progressive Democrats, and the Austin Tejano Democrats). Craig Moore is also well-respected in the community and has been endorsed by Austin City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, County Commissioner Jeff Travillion, and Austin Mayor Steve Adler.
County Court At Law No. 4
County Court at Law No. 4 is special within the County Court system because it specifically handles domestic violence cases.
About this race – The incumbent in this race has taken some heat over her support for domestic violence survivors. That public support led to her being forcibly recused from a case, because as KUT reports, a defense attorney argued that “Malhotra showed ‘a bias against those accused of domestic violence.'” Despite this, Malhotra is still widely supported by pretty much every local Democratic club, including Black Austin Democrats, University Democrats, and Central Austin Democrats.
The Austin Chronicle also endorsed her, writing, “OK, y’all are starting to tick us off, defense bar, for continuing to go after Malhotra for being an advocate for survivors of intimate partner violence, the focus of this misdemeanor specialty court. We get it, justice reform means decarceration and restorative justice for everybody. But we also know what rape culture looks and smells like. Go check yourselves and let Malhotra use her actual expertise on this bench.”
County Court at Law No. 5
About this race – The current judge of this court, Nancy Hohengarten, is retiring and two Democrats (Tanisa Jeffers & Mary Ann Espiritu) are running to replace her. This was also once one of the county’s speciality courts, the Misdemeanor Mental Health Docket, which provides wrap-around case management services for people who are arrested for a criminal offense, but are also suffering from a mental illness. If elected, Jeffers wants to bring this program back to this court (different judges have taken up the mental health docket recently). Espiritu on the other hand, seems less passionate about this issue, but has a lot of experience in dealing with DWI cases, which under its current form, is a big part of what this court deals with. It’s for that reason that The Austin Chronicle chose to endorse Espiritu, but Jeffers has received quite a few endorsements as well, including from the Austin Central Labor Council, Black Austin Democrats, and the Austin Black Lawyers Association.
County Court At Law No. 6
About this race – The current judge of County Court at Law No. 6 is Brandy Mueller, who is leaving to run for the 403rd District Court. Two Democrats are running to replace her –Denise Hernández & Leslie Jane Boykin.
County Court at Law No. 6 is fairly unique because it is home to Project Engage, a special docket for teenage defendants. The program offers them additional mentorship, support, alternative community service opportunities, and the chance to have their record cleared at the end of the program.
Hernández has been endorsed by The Austin Chronicle, Black Austin Democrats, and the Capital Area Progressive Democrats. Boykin has been endorsed by the Circle C Area Democrats, the University Democrats, and the Lake Travis Democrats.
Justice of the Peace (Precinct 1)
Why this matters – Justices of the Peace deal with evictions (which because of Austin’s housing market & COVID-19) has become a real hot-button issue. While all JPs must enforce the law, there might be differences in the way they approach eviction proceedings.
About this race – Incumbent Yvonne Michelle Williams (who has been in this office for over 10 years & plans on retiring after this term) has been endorsed by a lot of the local Democratic clubs and The Austin Chronicle. Andrew Hairston is running a bit to her left and has been endorsed by the Austin Democratic Socialists of America. Precinct 1 is located in East Austin.
Justice of the Peace (Precinct 5)
Precinct 5 is located in central Travis County/downtown Austin.
About this race – Incumbent Nick Chu has been endorsed by many of the local Democratic clubs and The Austin Chronicle. His opponent has not participated in many candidate events and doesn’t appear to have a campaign website.