Justice of the Peace Precinct 4, Place 1 Sharon Fox is retiring after 24 years, and two people with connections to the legal system are seeking the Republican nomination for her seat.
Columbia-Brazoria ISD Police Chief Pete Gamboa and Sarah Linder, court clerk for Justice of the Peace Precinct 2, Place 2, are the two candidates in the GOP primary. The winner will face Democratic candidate F.J. Jones in November.
Gamboa, 54, lived in Brazoria for more than 45 years but has lived in Pearland for the past year.
He has been married to Rita Gamboa for 34 years and they have two daughters, 29-year-old St. Mary’s School of Law graduate Brittaney and 22-year-old Taylor, who is in her first year at South Texas College of Law.
He previously sought the Precinct 4 Constable office.
Gamboa is a member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, coached girls’ West Brazos softball for 16 years and coached girls’ soccer for two years, he said.
His campaign can be found on Facebook at “Elect Pete Gamboa for Justice of the Peace Pct. 4 Pl. 1.”
Linder, 30, is a lifelong Angleton resident. She is married to Justin Linder and they have two daughters, 5-year-old Lilly and 4-year-old Joleigh.
Linder is a member of First United Methodist Church of Angleton.
Her campaign website is www.sarahlinderforjp.com and her social media accounts can be found under “Sarah Linder for Justice of the Peace Pct 4 Pl 1.”
Early voting for the primary begins Tuesday and ends Feb. 28. Election Day is March 3.
The candidates were emailed identical questionnaires. Their answers appear alphabetically.
How important is a legal background to serving as a justice of the peace, and what experience do you bring to this position that sets you apart?
GAMBOA: My 32 years of experience in law enforcement make me the only candidate that has actually enforced and applied the law. I have working knowledge of the Texas Penal Codes and Texas civil and criminal procedures. I am confident in my experience taking the facts of a case to the applicable statutes and determine if all elements are met to move forward with a case. Although a legal background is not required for this position, the people of Brazoria County Precinct 4 deserve to have someone with proven experience to apply the law and has knowledge of the process and procedures of the court and will render competent, honest and fair decisions they can trust.
LINDER: I believe a person serving as a justice of the peace should have a basic knowledge and understanding of our U.S. and Texas constitutions and laws as written. They should also be a person who is of good moral character, has high integrity and is able to hold the public’s trust. After all, the justice courts are the court of the people. Being a court that is limited in its jurisdiction and scope, the office holder is not required to have a law degree or to have practiced law.
The experience I bring that no other candidate has to offer is my direct hands-on working knowledge in the justice court. Having served the last six years as a clerk in the Justice of the Peace 2-2 office has given me invaluable knowledge of the inner workings of the court and what it takes to get the job done efficiently and accurately. I am the only candidate who is prepared to hit the ground running on day one. The JP 4-1 office is among, if not the busiest in the county, and therefore will need to have a smooth transition to ensure the needs of the citizens will continue to be met.
You would replace a judge who has served two decades in the position you seek. What might you do differently to put your personal stamp on the job?
GAMBOA: As a lifelong resident of Precinct 4, I have personally witnessed the growth of the north end of the county which has led to a significant increase of civil and criminal cases at the JP’s office. Being bilingual and a certified translator by the state, I would save taxpayer dollars by not having to hire a translator when hearing civil cases, presiding over traffic and class C misdemeanors or landlord and tenant disputes. Judge Fox will leave some big shoes to fill and has done a great job serving our county, and if elected, I would keep the integrity of the JP’s office intact.
I am very passionate about the importance of education. As a chief of police for C-BISD, I have seen an increase of truancy and would like to tackle it head on. If elected, I would like to create a community service program for the students that are brought before the court and would strongly encourage them to continue their education. I would focus on determining the root cause of their truancy and work with them to develop a solution to recommit them to reaching their educational goals. My motto has always been, “Dedication and hard work will break through any barriers between you and your goals.”
LINDER: The immense population boom that is expected in Brazoria County will undoubtedly hold new and unforeseen challenges for the justice courts to maintain and improve upon the services provided by the courts. Having had the direct experience and the one on one interactions with the citizens and the many different agencies throughout my tenure in the JP 2-2 office has given me insight as to what these needs may be. It has also provided me with a solid foundation to be able to tackle these issues head on. Being able to immediately start working on these future issues on day one, rather than having to learn the basic policies and procedures of the court, will be pivotal to ensuring expectations are being met and exceeded. Thus, allowing me to serve the people and help lead Brazoria County’s justice courts into the next phase of our growth and future.
What alternatives do you believe should be available to indigent defendants who might not be able to pay fines for misdemeanor offenses?
GAMBOA: Our state legislature has provided the JP court with remedies for the indigent and those with financial burdens. The Code of Criminal and Civil procedures is in place and provides alternatives for the people. A JP must follow the rules and guidelines and apply them equally and fairly for the programs that are offered, such as community service, a payment plan or a waiver of fines and cost for certain circumstances.
LINDER: I believe it is imperative for the court to be transparent on all options available to each defendant. A person should be held accountable for their actions regardless of their payment ability but having compassion for their situation is key in the justice system. Having to pay a fine on misdemeanor offenses should not cause detrimental effects on a defendant or their family. Texas legislators have recently added several procedures and methods for the court to provide to defendants who are unable to pay fines and costs. Code of Criminal Procedure 45.041(b-2) states if the judge determines the defendant is unable to pay at the time of judgment, the judge shall allow the defendant to pay the fine and costs in specified portions at designated intervals. Alternatively, if a payment plan is not conducive with the defendant’s payment ability, they should be given the option to complete community service to satisfy the judgment. Ultimately, if it is deemed both a payment plan and community service hours would impose an undue hardship, a complete waiver of all fines and cost would be necessary. Making these options available and having open lines of communication with each defendant will ensure meaningful justice is being served, therefore maintaining law and order in our community.