Austin: Our Race for County Court at Law 3

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You may not have heard about my race.  County Court at Law #3 isn't one of the sexy top ballot races, but it is one of the elected offices woven into the fabric of our community.

I am running for Judge of County Court #3 not just because of a calling to serve my city and county, but also because together we can make Travis County a better place for all of us to live.

My name is John Lipscombe, and I am running to be your next judge in County Court #3.

A lot of you may know me; many more of you don't know me yet, but I hope you will soon.  So if you don't mind, please let me take a few moments to tell you about myself and why I believe our County Court at Law System is so important.

After over 4 years working at the Texas Court Of Criminal Appeals as an appellate lawyer and almost 19 years as a trial court prosecutor representing the people of Travis County, I have seen what a blind policy of “lock 'em up” looks like and I have seen the difference a thoughtful system of rehabilitation can make in a person's life.  In 23 years I have learned a lot about the practice of criminal and constitutional law, and I have been active in sharing that experience as a teacher , speaker and lecturer with the UT Law School Defense and Prosecutor Clinics; Bar Association CLE Courses; APD, DPS and Travis County Sheriffs Office Law Enforcement Academies; LCRA and Texas Parks and Wildlife Seminars; and University, high school and junior high classes throughout Austin.

Too often we don't value our own personal roles as teachers and educators, and because of that, the lessons we have learned are lost to future generations.  I was not always the law nerd I am today.  I value and use the experiences I have encountered as an oil field hand, truck driver, bartender and bouncer, and Union shuttle bus driver at UT in my everyday dealings with the cases and evidence I must weigh each and every day as a trial court Chief Prosecutor.  Those jobs taught me the value of hard work and helped shape my character and work ethic.  Because of those jobs, I valued even more the education I received at UT and at St. Mary's University Law School.

Things don't always come easy; the most valuable things in life are the ones you have to strive to reach. In 1975 I began volunteering to work on political campaigns, mostly the grunt work of walking and calling and stuffing and making signs, and I have continued working on local, state and national campaigns to this day.  That doesn't make me an exemplary Democrat; it just makes me a proud Travis County Democrat.

I also value the friendships I have forged over the years during my practice of law and participation in Democratic politics.  If you look at the supporter list on our web site, you will agree I am a very lucky man to have such great friends.  You cannot know how grateful, and humble that makes me feel.  This campaign is about embracing old friends and the joy of meeting new friends as I make those “cold” calls.

The biggest joy I have experienced is the last 17 years that my wife Jan Breland and I have been together.  We have been law nerds and progressive Democrats together, and I hope to emulate the ethic and character which has held her in the highest professional esteem in the courthouse.  She is my rock.

As we begin to move into the height of the campaign season, I recall all the people who have helped me before and all the people who are helping me again.

When you run for a County Court at Law position, there are few things closer to the bottom of the ballot, so you need to really want the job.  The support and enthusiasm we have generated from elected officials like State Representatives Mark Strama and Eddie Rodriguez, Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Councilmember Mike Martinez, County Commissioner Karen Huber, former Mayors  Frank Cooksey and Bruce Todd, former Councilmembers Bob Binder, Jennifer Kim, Brigid Shea, ACC Trustee Tim Mahoney, former County Attorneys Margaret Moore and Ken Oden and the 700 plus people that have written or called to be put on our supporter list, has been a humbling experience.

Our team is amazing.  Emma Barrientos is our treasure. David Butts is our general consultant. Dean Rindy and Rindy/Miller productions  will make the great TV spots you will see. Matt Glazer, a writer here on Burnt Orange Report, is running my race with UT Student Jasmine Blake running the field.  Eleanor Thompson is in charge of getting me directly into the community. Allyson Holley is doing communication and logistics for the campaign. Of course, RYLO Consulting is doing all our fundraising and making sure we have the funds we need to pay staff and talk to the great people of Austin.

Their passion is amazing and it motivates me to work hard for them and you.

Now that the summer is over and the rain is bringing cool weather, we are already starting to blockwalk and phone bank.  We need your help to win on March 2nd.  

If you are unfamiliar with our race, please go to my website  You will see our full list of supporters, information about me and about the court. Plus, you will also see all the different ways you can get involved.

On the other hand, if you want to help us win, please take a moment to sign up, host a house party, register to vote, or become a volunteer.  We need your help making calls and knocking on doors immediately.  It may seem like March 2nd is waiting in the wings, but you will be surprised how quickly it arrives.  If we wait until January to start doing the hard work, we will not win.

Thank you again so much for your help, support, and just taking the time to read this long note.   It means more than any words I could write or say, so just know how appreciative I am.  


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  1. John for Judge
    I always qualify how long I have known John by saying, I've know John since he was thin – and that's been a day or two!

    There is nobody that is a harder worker, both in court and out, helps the community more than people will know because he does not talk about it.  He is extremely qualified for this criminal court.  Vote for John!

    Donna Beth

  2. The other Democrat in this race merits some space on this media outlet also
    Mr. Lipscombe is no doubt an active Democrat who has done much for the Party here in Travis County.  That said, his behavior lately has called into question whether he can represent Travis County well as a Judge. 

    Mr. Lipscombe is running against a candidate that embodies the values and aspirations of the progressive community.    Born in El Paso to an immigrant family, a mother by the age of 18, Olga worked her way as a hairdresser through the University of Texas at El Paso, completing a bachelors degree in Criminal Justice with high honors.  She went on to attend the University of Texas Law School, the most prestigious and difficult-to-enter law school in Texas.  She raised two beautiful daughters on her own while building a successful legal career, working as a prosecutor for Travis County (Mr. Lipscombe's current position) and then moving on to be a defense attorney, a private practice civil law attorney and a judge. 

    Judge Seelig's hard work and leadership led to her appointment by the Austin City Council to serve as municipal judge on a court that handles Class C misdemeanors, as well as search and arrest warrants for all crimes up to and including murder.  More importantly, her perspective is sophisticated because she has lived in the courtroom from all sides – as a prosecutor like Mr. Lipscombe, but also as a defense attorney and even as a judge.  She has also had a vibrant life outside the courtroom – raising children, connecting with real people as a hairdresser, working her way from the barrio through the most prestigious law school in Texas – a life that will give her a more comprehensive perspective on the Travis County Court at Law 3 bench.

    Judge Olga Seelig's rich experience and demonstrated commitment to serve all of the people of Travis County make her the candidate for genuine progressives in this primary race.

    In contrast, Mr. Lipscombe's behavior on the campaign trail makes me wonder whether he has the temperament to serve as a judge.  In an effort to undermine her professional record, Mr. Lipscombe has taken to belittling Ms. Seelig's accomplishments in a way that comes off as rude.  He patronizes her as being a mere “traffic judge” at campaign events.  He has claimed that she was working under him as a “baby lawyer” and that he was her superviser, a statement that is not true.  

    The belittling of Judge Seelig's professional career is difficult to digest coming from a person who has worked a government job prosecuting misdemeanors for almost his entire career.  How many attorneys in Travis County have worked in Mr. Lipscombe's job as long as he has without being promoted to court chief or moving on to prosecute higher crimes or work in the private sector?  The courthouse crowd relates that he is currently assigned to handle the jail call docket.  Does that seem like a person who is in a position to cast stones?

    As an attorney who practiced in the courtroom for eight years, the thing that troubles me the most is Mr. Lipscombe's unfortunate propensity to be aggressive.  He has established a pattern of calling Judge Seelig's supporters and trying to bully them to change their position.  I've heard several credible reports of his attempts to forcibly rip Judge Seelig stickers off her supporters' lapels.  This behavior is not acceptable for a judge.

    In next March's Democratic primary, Travis County Democratic voters will have an opportunity to choose between a candidate who is owed a lot of favors by our local Democratic Party establishment; and a candidate who has demonstrated a commitment to justice from all sides, has had a lifetime of diverse experience, and has a reasoned and compassionate temperament.

    Please consider joining me in voting for progressive change in Travis County – vote for Judge Olga Seelig for Travis County Court at Law 3 in March. 

    -Ann del Llano

    • I am speaking entirely for me
      I lead with that sentence because of my affiliation with this site. Plus, I am having a pretty bad day and have received a lot news about a loved one that is really hard to handle today.

      All that being said, I spend a lot of time with John and I have no idea what you are talking about.  John was involved in training his opponent in the Travis County Attorney's office before she left to pursue other endeavors. That is a fact.  John's current job is as a “chief” prosecutor, not just a prosecutor.  A title he has earned and should be respected.

      John also has had a “vibrant” career and life outside the courtroom.  One of his first jobs was on the oil fields of Texas and doing the hard day to day work few of us could do. He put himself through school starting out as a labor man and bus driver during the tumultuous 70's.  He then put himself through law school and served at both the appeals court and now has spent nearly 2 decades practicing in front of the court he wants to serve in. He has lived and breathed the old Kennedy statement to live the legacy better than you found out… not out of vanity but out of duty. That is why he is a lecturer and speaker for so many groups, state agencies, and regardless of the lies being said, the University of Texas.

      The lies, slander, rumors, and hate being thrown toward John is sad, pathetic and simply hateful. If any of them were true, not only would I not be working for John, there is no way he would have the support he has in our community.

      Usually I let these things slide off my back, but you offer no proof, no names, and no foundation for your claims. This is something common in these desperate attacks coming from others.  They have said similar things about John's personal and professional life and never have they provided any facts to back up their disgusting allegations. Unlike others, I am not going to even mention these absurd and pathetic attacks on me, John or his wife Jan Breland. Not to mention the mocking and hate being thrown towards John's supporters and the scary omissions when people talk about this race.  

      As for the attacks on “favors”, John has been a loyal Democrat for ages in this town.  He has volunteered on every coordinated campaign I have seen and been a sustaining donor to the county party.  He has been a member of Democratic clubs, tutored young democrats in the early parts of their career to become great minds, lawyers, and leaders within out big tent part, and most importantly, he has been committed to helping anyone who asks.

      This is in stark contrast to the bully, berating, and baffling attacks on John and his friends, supporters.  This party and race should be about all of Austin and the future of our judicial system and not unfounded attacks.

      Maybe the difference in experience and friendships is why over 700 people have endorsed John Lipscombe and his support is continuing to grow precinct by precinct, zip code by zip code, and through out this great city.

      The one part we agree on is, in March, Democrats will have an opportunity to choose between a candidate who is loyal to his party and loyal to truly helping every man, woman, and juvenile in our judicial system, and someone who has made it clear you are either with them or against them. A proposition we have already seen as totally absurd in the past.

      Our city and county deserve a positive campaign based on issues and experience.  Let's all do the right thing and give that campaign to the voters of Austin.

    • pathetic
      I was working on a long, detailed response to the attack on my friend. Then I thought better of it. All I really want to say is that it is sad if the way you need to sell your candidate is by saying ugly things about the other candidate. If you think that Olga Seelig is the best candidate & has a compelling story, tell us that. Tell us why you like your candidate. Save the attacks for the general. I don't know if Ms del Llano works for the campaign or is just a supporter, but this comment has made me think much less of Olga Seelig.

    • progressivator on

      Progressive Change
      Since when did it become ok for Progressives to snub their noses at a life devoted to serving the public? When women like Sarah Palin and Ann del Llano treat community service as unsuccessful and ambitionless, I personally take offense. There are some women, like me, who can't imagine choosing a profession driven by money alone. It's not lowly if a person's greatest desire is to improve their communities on a daily basis, and no one personifies this desire like John Lipscombe.

      When Ann del Llano suggests that John should have gone into private practice or isn't a chief prosecutor–as he very well is–she does a disservice to her candidate. My advice to  Olga: If you are looking for a glamorous public office, then County Court at Law is probably not the right place for you. The work is nitty-gritty and tough and unexciting. You have to take it home with you. You have to get out of bed in the middle of the night to get people out of jail. You have to live with your tough decisions everyday.

      Judicial office is the epitome of public service. Being a good judge, the people's judge, requires a 24-hour commitment. John understands this and does this already. He was the only candidate in the last race to suggest a night court to help chip away at the enormous docket loads, bring in more money for the state, and get people the help they need to turn their life around.

      Olga has great qualifications and a breadth of experience. I like that she's been a defense attorney. I usually vote for defense attorneys. But my loyalty is with John, and so is my vote, and so are my friends' votes.

      John was the first prosecutor I voted for in a judicial race. I am voting for him again because I know he has the drive to make Texas courts more productive; he has the compassion and the empathy required to be a good judge; he is not afraid to get his hands dirty as Bt mentioned; he has a rich life experience to which Matt alluded; he has steadfast Democratic credentials and values; and he is humble and unassuming. He takes responsibility for tough decisions, and he is not afraid to put his foot down when somebody gets out of line.

      I am supporting John Lipscombe again right now with a $100 donation to his campaign, and I will continue to do so as long as Olga's supporters continue to make this a negative race.

      Lastly, I cannot imagine John ever taking off someone's lapel sticker. The notion is truly absurd. Ann, you insinuate that BOR won't post a statement about Olga or allow Olga to post on the site. That, too, is baseless and flies in the face of BOR's record and mission. To state the obvious, it's been a day since your ugly post and no one has erased it.

  3. The Hardest Working Candidate
    This is a great post from John.  Having the privilege to be a former UDems President, I can say without a doubt that John is one of the hardest working men I have ever seen.  I would cross his path nightly on the Dem Club circle, and he almost never missed a UDems meeting.

    He was also a tireless worker during the summer and fall of '08 AFTER he had lost in the primary.  I saw him a number of times at the Coordinated Campaign stuffing envelopes and putting together yardsigns for various candidates.  He did the “lowly” work without a complaint.  He knew the whole time he was doing his small part to make our County, State, and Country a better place.  

    There is no doubt in my mind that John will bring this same enthusiasm, commitment, and hard work to the bench.  Also, I don't believe that John will fall away from Democratic politics like so many candidates do when they become elected officials.  I can almost guarantee that when he becomes “Judge John” that he will continue to work just as hard for Democrats across Travis County and our great State.

    Go get 'em John!

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