The candidates for Ellis County Justice of the Peace Pct. 1 include Republicans Chris Macon, Cynthia Billingsley, Tommy Aguilar, Randy Owen and Joyce Lindauer, and Democrat Monica Mosley Spencer. Macon, Aguilar and Spencer either did not respond or could not be reached for the Daily Light questionnaire.
1. Though a justice of the peace does not necessarily have to be a practicing lawyer, you are responsible for overseeing minor legal disputes such as civil cases under $10,000 and landlord-tenant disputes. What experiences do you have in dealing with these matters?
Cynthia Billingsley: While I’m not a lawyer, I did earn a paralegal and criminal justice degrees. I also participated in a intern at the federal building in down town Dallas, where I learned to research cases, interpret case law and it finding. No one ever just starts a new job knowing what to do however, with knowledge of where to find information and being familiar with the court system is very important.
Randy Owen: As a 30 Year Law Enforcement Officer , I have handled many civil matters in the field and in court and as a detective I have compiled and presented thousands of cases. Additionally, I lived in low income housing complex for many years as their on site Officer and assisted in disputes between landlord and tenant. I have been a witness in court hearing regarding motor vehicle accidents, criminal cases and other civil issues.
Joyce Lindauer: I am the current Justice of The Peace, appointed in 2017 by the Ellis County Commissioners Court as the most qualified for the job. In fact, I am viewed as over-qualified. I have been on the job for over 8 months and as of the 1/1/2019 beginning of the new term I will have been ruling on these cases for over a year and a half.
I have been a licensed attorney for the past 33 years, with extensive courtroom and litigation experience throughout that period. I have represented clients in multi-million dollar disputes. I have practiced in Federal, State, County, Municipal and JP courts. I have successfully represented clients in the US Fifth Circuit and other appellate courts.
From my experience as a JP in Ellis County, I can tell you that even though the basic dollar amounts within my jurisdiction are capped at $10,000, the cases can be complex and may require prompt, efficient and accurate legal research including but not limited to statutory and case law.
Citizens appearing in my court are very often not represented by attorneys, even though the other parties may have representation. Because I tell the parties up front that I am a licensed attorney, the attorneys representing one side do not try to baffle me with legalese and confusing double-talk. I help ensure that the party without representation gets a fair shake in court. Further, because the parties have more confidence in the validity of my rulings, they are less likely to appeal my decision, thus saving taxpayer dollars by avoiding the re-hearing of these cases.
I have handled numerous landlord/tenant matters of all sizes throughout my legal career. In my first big trial as a young attorney, I evicted the US Post Office from a location in the Park Cities for failing to pay their rent to my client.
I have served as a legal resource for non-attorney JPs in Ellis County, and covered cases for them.
2. In relation to the above question, say, for instance, the tenant is a family member who is suing a landlord whom you have never met. How would you handle that situation?
Cynthia Billingsley: There is very little room for error in court. People lives matter. Decision should never be done by favor but by law and only law. I am not seeking this position to be popular but to help our community. Every case should only by decided based on the LAW.
Randy Owen: I would ask one of the other JP offices to take the case. I already have relationships with each of them and have worked with them for years professionally.
Joyce Lindauer: No, I have not encountered this situation. If I did, I would recuse myself due to the potential for the appearance of a conflict of interest. In addition to teachings in law school, I have taken continuing education classes in legal ethics for each of the past 33 years.
3. Have you ever faced any disciplinary actions in your professional career?
Cynthia Billingsley: Yes. I have worked for the same company for 26 years. Most recent I believe it was 6 years ago. Had an associate that thought I was not fair because I would not give her the hours she wanted. This would mean I would have to move other associate around who had been there 10 plus year and had not done anything wrong. I voluntarily moved unit, and it took very little time before she showed her true colors to the next manager.
Randy Owen: No.
Joyce Lindauer: No.
4. Ellis County averages about 7,000 civil cases a year between the four JP districts. Many of those disputes involve minor traffic incidents or civil cases. Dealing with that number of cases in addition to daily duties such as attending fatal accidents to pronounce a victim deceased requires quite a bit of time management. What experiences do you have that will benefit you in managing the workload?
Cynthia Billingsley: I’m a multitasker and well organized. In my personal personal life I raised 7 children, worked a full time job, managed my household and took course in college. Still today I manage a resturant, I do not just cook, wait tables, and clean floors. I have book keeping to manage, Human Resources, budgeting, and I do it all with a smile. I enjoy learning and sitting around not doing nothing is not my thing. The JP office is something I can handle, all caseloads from fatal accidents, marriages, civil cases, and truancy.
Randy Owen: In my career as a Law Enforcement Officer time management was critical to the job. In that capacity I managed a 12 officer SWAT team which included training, equipment management, and leading the team during emergency situations. As a Patrol Sergeant for 20 plus years I was responsible for the patrol shift including personnel, training, dispatch, prioritizing call responses, and overseeing emergency situations. As a detective I was responsible for a case load, handled all property, and responded to emergency situations. Being organized and experience in prioritizing work is critical to the JP position.
Joyce Lindauer: Over the past 33 years as a practicing attorney, I have filed many thousands of cases. A high percentage of these were personally prepared by me, with the remainder by associate attorneys that I have employed and supervised. I have managed a law firm with up to four full-time associate attorneys.
I have always worked long hours, including evenings and weekends. In recent testimony from a local municipal police official, he stated that that I answered my phone in the middle of the night and have signed his warrants so that searches could be conducted by his officers without waiting for morning. He also attested to the fact that in death cases I have taken the time necessary to console loved ones and help them understand the necessity of an autopsy, should that be the case. My handling of death cases has also been attested to by my current pastor, who I met after responding to a death call for one of his parents.
Coming back to my legal credentials, I am experienced with challenging, fast paced legal matters. I can quickly and effectively conduct legal research without floundering around for an uncertain conclusion.
As I have indicated elsewhere, limiting the number of appeals from my court saves money for Ellis County taxpayers. Equally important, unnecessary appeals clog higher court dockets, making it more difficult for them to handle their other cases in a timely manner.
5. Use this space to inform the voters on what separates you from the other candidates.
Cynthia Billingsley: I do not see myself above no one. I’m just like every other citizen in Ellis county, I work hard and enjoy family. There is nothing fancy about me. I’m just trying to give back to my community and my home town. The JP court is a great place to start, I’m not promising anything. Except that I will work hard for you. Do right by you. And stand for you. I need your vote!
Randy Owen: I am the only candidate that has both experience that is relevant to the job and spent an entire career serving the citizens of Ellis County. I have been a mentor and trainer to both law enforcement and to the public and will continue to that through the various community related organizations that I am part of. I am a team player and will work with the current JP1 staff, other JPs in Ellis County, school leaders, and law enforcement agencies to run an office that is efficient and effective.
Joyce Lindauer: I am the only candidate for JP.1 who:
Is a current Judge; Is a licensed attorney; Has practiced law for 33 years; Has worked as a professional mediator; Has multiple advanced degrees, including not only my Juris Doctor from SMU, but also two Masters degrees, in Education from UNT and in Dispute Resolution from SMU, in addition to a Bachelor’s from Texas Tech and certificate in Dispute Resolution from SMU; Has receive numerous recognitions of my legal skill and experience, including a Best Lawyer in Dallas and Preeminent Women Lawyer in Texas, and AV rating, and many others; Serves on the Boards of Directors of Ennis Public Theater, Helping Hands of Ennis, and Runnin’ Free Ranch, and who previously served on the boards of the Greater Ennis Development Alliance and Ennis Main Street; and Has been extremely active in the revitalization of the Ennis Downtown Historic District, both personally and through the facilitation of renovation projects of others. My challengers may be competent in their prior or current careers. However, just as they should not call for a lawyer when your house is being robbed or on fire, residents of Ellis County JP Precinct 1 should not call the police or fire department when they need help from the Justice Court.