Comparison of Candidates for Austin’s 200th Judicial District
Two Democratic candidates are vying for the position of judge in the 200th Civil District Court in downtown Austin. Honest Austin put together this brief overview about the two candidates, Maggie Ellis and Jessica Mangrum.
The winner of the March 3rd Democratic primary will face no opponent in the November general election because the incumbent Republican judge, Dustin Howell, is not running for another term.
The district court handles commercial disputes, divorce cases, land title cases, election contests, and other civil matters.
Jessica Mangrum is a partner with Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons, LLP. Her practice is focused on civil litigation, including personal injury, professional liability, and construction cases. She is board certified in Construction Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
Mangrum says she is better suited to the bench than her opponent because “I have nearly two decades of civil litigation experience. My opponent has been licensed to practice law less than ten years,” according to a questionnaire submitted to Texas Lawyer.
“I have handled a broad range of cases — personal injury, business litigation, consumer, construction, and professional liability. I have also handled pro bono family law cases. These are the same types of cases brought before the 200th District Court, which is a part of Travis County’s ‘central docket.’ My opponent’s experience is primarily with the juvenile and CPS docket, which are handled by other specialized courts, not a part of the central docket.”
Maggie Ellis has worked as a teacher, foster mother, private practice attorney, and civil prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office. She has served as an administrative law judge at the State Office of Administrative Hearings, presiding over cases involving federal education law.
Ellis says she has represented clients in divorce cases, custody and property disputes, protective orders, terminations of parental rights, and other kinds of civil cases. She holds a national specialist certification in child welfare law and a Texas board of legal specialization in juvenile law.
Ellis told Texas Lawyer that she said she is better suited to the bench than her opponent because, “I am the only candidate in this race with presiding experience. As a later in life attorney, I have been licensed fewer years. However, I have significantly more courtroom experience, trial experience, and lived experience that is relevant to the cases on the docket…”
Jessica Mangrum holds a BA in Government from UT Austin and a JD from the UT School of Law. She says that she went into law because she admired her father, who practiced law in Waco for over 40 years. She lives in central Austin with her husband John Ford and their daughter.
Maggie Ellis holds a BS in Education from the UT Austin and a JD from Baylor. On her website, Ellis says she survived a number of hardships in early life, including childhood poverty and raising young children and her little sister as a young mother with little financial help. Currently she is the mother of four teenagers and lives in Austin with her wife Leslie.
Political and Volunteer Activities
Jessica Mangrum has served on the Board of Directors for both the Austin Young Lawyers Association and the Austin Bar Association. She have also served as an instructor in the trial advocacy program at UT Law and she volunteers to handle pro bono cases through the Texas Bar College.
Mangrum describes herself as an active member of Central Austin Democrats, West Austin Democrats, Greater ATX National Women’s Political Caucus, and the Capital Area Democratic Women. She says she has been involved with a variety of community groups, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Meals on Wheels, and Austin Habitat for Humanity.
The Austin City Council appointed Mangrum in 2014 to serve on the Building and Standards Commission, which she now chairs.
Maggie Ellis has been a member of the State Bar Juvenile Law Section Board and has been a recipient of the Hays County Bar Association Pro Bono Hero Award. She served on the Travis County Child Welfare Board, Supreme Court of Texas Children’s Commission Advisory Committee and Dual Status Task Force member, and as a legal volunteer for RAICES immigration detention center.
She says she also has served as a PTA president and board member, Cub Scouts Den Mother, LISD Board Zoning Neighborhood Committee member, and HOA board member, among other volunteer experiences.
Handling the Docket
Each candidate was asked by Texas Lawyer how she would go about managing the court’s docket efficiently and effectively.
Maggie Ellis responded, “As a civil prosecutor and an administrative law judge, I was responsible for making sure that all of the cases on my docket for the day were heard in an efficient and thoughtful manner. It was important to always be prepared, and to be prepared for the unexpected. I used technology to create online forms and worked with IT to develop efficiencies for accessing information and creating documents and reports in our online database.”
Jessica Mangrum responded, “Managing a complex docket is what I do every day in private practice. As a judge, straightforward decisions can be made quickly — when the issue is not a close call. More complicated issues must be studied further or taken under advisement. Hard work and time management skills will be key to managing the docket efficiently and effectively.”