Harris County Judicial candidate being sued as her eligibility is questioned

HOUSTON - At least one election battle is being fought in the courtroom inside the Harris County Civil Courthouse where an incumbent judge is challenging a woman who's running for his spot.

TaKasha Francis is on the ballot, running for 152nd Civil District Court Judge. But her opponent says she shouldn't be and a hearing was held on Monday afternoon.

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It'll now be up to a judge to decide if TaKasha Francis is rightfully running to become the 152nd Civil District Court Judge. The man who holds that spot now, Judge Robert Schaffer, has filed a lawsuit saying Francis should not be on the ballot, because she's not a practicing attorney. But she says she is.

Francis has been an attorney for 20 years and the City of Houston Director of Department of Neighborhoods the last eight years.

"The practice of law is very widely defined. Within the legal community we know that. It's as minimal as giving legal advice and as complex as full-scale litigation," Francis explains.

"This is not a question of Ms. Francis' qualifications to be a judge, whether she's qualified. It's a question of eligibility under the Texas constitution. The Texas constitution is very clear. A candidate for district judge must have been actively practicing law or been a judge for the previous eight years," says John Raley, who is the attorney for Judge Robert Schaffer.

"I was surprised at this desperate attempt to try to pull me out of an election," Francis adds.

"Behind all of this is a feeling that Black people are under qualified for the position. That's why this suit was brought, we believe, to begin with," says Francis' attorney James Pierce.

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What does Attorney John Raley say to the people who are saying Francis is being targeted because she's Black and female?

"Absolutely false and defamatory. Judge Schaffer's prior opponents did not have this issue that they had not actively practiced law or been a judge in the previous eight years, so he did not raise that objection with them."

"It's positively ridiculous to try to beat her in some sort of legal proceeding. Beat her at the ballot box. If you think you can beat her, beat her at the ballot box," says Pierce.

The lawsuit questioning TaKasha Francis' eligibility is set for a bench trial next month before early voting begins February 20, but her attorney is objecting to that because she isn't named as a party in the suit.

There's been a lot of social media chatter regarding several Black females who are running for judge, who have had lawsuits filed against them in an attempt to remove them from their respective races.

The Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party says in every election there are challenges filed by and against candidates of all backgrounds, and he says this election cycle is no different.