A Champion for the Issues That Matter Most
***ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS REPRESENT MY PERSONAL OPINIONS ABOUT THESE ISSUES. WHEN ELECTED AS HOUSE REPRESENTATIVE I WILL BE THE PEOPLE’S VOICE, AND I WILL ALWAYS CONSULT WITH MY CONSTITUENTS TO DETERMINE THE PEOPLE’S POSITION ON THE ISSUES
- Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law (Juris Doctorate)University of Denver (Denver, Colorado)–B.S.B.A. (Bachelor of Science in Business Administration; Double Major in Finance and International Business)
- Université du Havre (Le Havre, France)—finance, international and European business
- Español Personalizado (San Jose, Costa Rica)—legal system in Latin America and Spanish legal terminology
- Greenhill School (Addison, Texas)–High School
Graham is founder and President of the National Black Bar Coalition (NBBC). The organization was founded in response to the inequities that currently exist in legal system. NBBC advocates equal access and equal treatment of attorneys of color in the legal system. There has been a systematic exclusion and disparate treatment of attorneys of color in government legal programs such as the indigent defense court appointed attorney program in localities throughout Texas. These same groups are underrepresented as partners in major law firms. Fortune 500 law firms and campaign contributors sometimes receive certain preferences in court proceedings vis-à-vis small firms or solo firms often operated by attorneys of color. Minority attorneys are sometimes treated with disrespect in court proceedings. NBBC that all parties regardless of financial position or race should be afforded the same rights under the law and the same access. The NBBC promotes equal justice, fairness and respect of all people under the law and the organization take necessary measures to assure the protection of those rights. We have made enormous strides but the fight continues.
Outside of running a law firm dedicated to helping the poor. I have dedicated my career to combating corruption and bringing awareness to injustice taking place in the legal system. A major issue that I am presently combating is the seriously questionable administration of the Dallas county court appointed attorney system and the questionable allocation of taxpayer funds by judges of Dallas county.
I have sacrificed my Texas law license in order to stand up for what I saw as injustice and corruption with the indigent defense system in Dallas county. To provide some background, all counties in Texas have a listing of court appointed attorneys for indigent defendants. Attorneys on the list have to meet certain criteria for inclusion, namely experience in certain kinds of criminal cases. The indigent defense system in each county is funded by the state taxpayers. Indigent individuals accused of a criminal allegation apply to receive court-appointed attorney assistance. At the conclusion of the case, the county compensates the attorney for legal services rendered. Legally, attorneys are supposed to be appointed randomly to cases, but in practice there is pervasive nepotism and favoritism amongst the judges: certain attorneys who are friends of the judges or campaign contributors are receiving more cases and the lion’s share of the state money. Furthermore, judges are undermining the quality of representation indigent defendant clients receive by restricting payment for necessary research and investigation of their cases by appointed defense attorneys. Additionally, judges are coercing defense attorneys to pressure clients to accept unreasonable plea bargains instead of going to trial when there is a valid defense. More frightening is that this is happening on a massive scale. In 2015, I began to complain about these illegal practices and in retaliation the judges have tried to silence me though disbarment proceedings. I will continue the fight against corruption in Dallas county and in Austin.
I am running as the PEOPLE’S VOICE of the citizens of the 109th district. I think this district has remarkable potential to be an exemplary area in this country to live: a model for the rest of the county. I am going to create the economic opportunities that residents are woefully lacking. From day one, I am going to begin working on monumental legislation to bring high-tech jobs and economic investment to the district. More funds than ever will be designated to go to the 109th district under my administration. Initiatives for a comprehensive regulatory framework for legalized gaming and legalized recreational marijuana will be immediately implemented. Assuredly, the 109th district will receive substantial benefits under my plan.
Our community has witnessed police abuses against innocent citizens; actions which I have found reprehensible. In my role as state representative, I will make police officers accountable for violations of citizens’ civil rights. Also, the systemic problems that I have seen in the criminal justice system and the court system in general have motivated me to make criminal justice reform a top priority as state representative. I see children falling behind in scholastics. I have a plan where our students can be competitive with any student in the world.
The incumbent has not passed any legislation to benefit this district.
The basis of a position as state representative has to do with drafting and proposing legislation. I have more than a decade of legal training and experience in interpreting legislation and of constructing legal arguments for or against the implementation of legislation. I understand the constitutionality of legislation and how laws will be effectuated and interpreted in courtrooms across Texas. Moreover, I understand how proposed legislation will interact with the entire scheme of statutes in the state of Texas and the unforeseen consequences of that legislation.
I understand what drives business. I have finance and international business degrees. I have lived and studied business all over the world: in France, Asia, the Caribbean, and Costa Rica. I was stockbroker and investment adviser at one point as well. I understand how to create an environment in which business can thrive. My business experience will be instrumental in crafting legislation to benefit businesses and workers in our district.
Through my exposure to various educational systems from Europe, Asia and Latin America, I have seen how education works and succeeds in other countries. The problem is not the amount of money spent, the issue is the teaching methodology in Texas. The standardized testing regimen is a one-size-fits-all program and it does not take into consideration the special needs of individual students. Other countries excel in mathematics and science on a shoestring budget primarily because their education methods are more customized. Some students are inclined in trades such as welding or automotive work so the schools should develop programs and direct students to these programs. The same is true for students who show a predilection for math and science, they should be steered towards programs that highlight these abilities. We also need to look at the best practices in countries that have demonstrated academic achievement and implement those processes here to increase scholastic achievement of our students.
There are numerous problems with our criminal justice system. DNA exonerations exemplify just one of the serious structural problems that exist. And there are others such as prosecutors concealing evidence, judges not approving funding so that court appointed attorneys can have the tools necessary to represent defendant’s adequately. Just one case of an innocent person held in jail on false charges necessitates an overhaul of the criminal justice system. During my administration I will urge the Legislature to focus on these reforms:
- Amending trial procedure for both criminal and civil trials to further protect the rights of an accused who is presumed innocent until proven guilty and to preserve the rights of an injured party in civil cases.
- Bail reform needed to make bail more accessible to all accused persons.
- Reform is needed to hold judges accountable for making incorrect decisions. No longer should they be allowed to hide behind judicial immunity.
- Uniformity in sentencing reform: people with the same charges and same circumstances should receive similar sentences. There should not be an inordinate amount of variation in sentences simply due to the race or gender of the defendant or other impermissible factors.
- The focus of the criminal justice system needs to be reoriented towards rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals into society as productive citizens. I don’t think that we can throw everyone in jail and get rid of the key for nonviolent offenders.
- Immediate reform is needed in the system of court appointed attorneys for indigent criminal defendants to assure random appointment of attorneys and a fee structure incentivizing defense attorneys to perform thorough representation for an indigent accused. The system today is one of nepotism where judges reward their acolytes with more cases and approval for funds. Those outside of the judge’s inner circle have requests for funds denied, ultimately compromising representation for hundreds if not thousands of indigent defendants.
- Contempt procedures need to be reformed making them subject to immediate and mandatory review by a higher court. I have seen too many situations where judges due to personal grudges use contempt as a weapon in order to keep attorneys and parties in line and from arguing their cases.
- Nonviolent drug offenses need to be made into fines and minor infractions instead of penitentiary offenses.
Marijuana for recreational use should be legalized with a reasonable tax. There is no longer a need for distinctions in medical use versus non-medical use. The majority of people are in favor of legalized marijuana. These systems have worked very effectively in Colorado, Washington and other states and have contributed tens of millions of dollars to local communities. Texas needs to get out of the dark ages and embrace the future.
The jobs being created currently are low-paying, technically unsophisticated. They do not require much education and these jobs will likely be automated in the near future. The issue is education. Programs need to be implemented to identify those sectors where workers are critically needed. Workers are needed more than ever in the technology and science sectors and workers need to be educated as to these opportunities. They need the training and skills necessary to fill those jobs of the future. My responsibility as state representative will be to propose laws that secure the funding for training for the high-tech jobs of the future to the 109th district.