Judge Carmen Dusek Will Seek Re-Election
SAN ANGELO, TX — District Judge Carmen Dusek will seek re-election according to her campaign director Stephen McLaughlin. Dusek has served on the bench of the 51st District Court since November 2018 when Gov. Greg Abbott appointed her to replace Judge Barbara Walther who semi-retired to senior status.
Prior to the bench, Dusek was a lawyer with the San Angelo office of Jackson Walker, and before that she was partnered with her father, attorney Clint Symes. Much of Dusek’s litigation experience was with civil law. She had a reputation as a fierce litigator representing individuals, insurance companies, and other parties that were sued by plaintiffs represented by personal injury attorneys. She usually won.
Dusek was also a tireless advocate for children impacted by the mountain of Child Protective Services, or CPS, cases. She was often named counsel for children facing uncertain outcomes in CPS court. Dusek was among the many lawyers working front and center during last decade’s FLDS trials, all of them involving children, that poured into the Tom Green County district courts following the raid on Fundamentalist Mormon leader Warren Jeffs’ compound near Eldorado.
In 2016, Dusek upset the expectations of the San Angelo legal community by running for 391st District Judge when Judge Tom Gossett retired. Dusek’s rock-the-boat campaign, her first entry into Tom Green County politics, didn’t gain steam until halfway through early voting during the March 2016 Republican primary against opponent, another first time political candidate, Brad Goodwin. Despite winning 58 percent of the early and absentee ballots, Goodwin’s lead shrunk 7 points when he defeated Dusek by just two points on Election Day. He won by 53.49 percent overall.
The 2016 campaign was hard fought. We opined that the race for judge shouldn’t just boil down to who the good ‘ol boys want. Central to our argument was that Dusek, a busy trial lawyer, had been in a Tom Green County courtroom 233 times since January 2011. Goodwin, a capable transactional lawyer, didn’t need to attend court that often, and was recorded present in a courtroom just 20 times over the same time period. Why then did Goodwin want to run a courtroom, we asked?
There was also the campaign sign controversy where Dusek’s campaign manager made light of the size of the word “for” in the phrase “Goodwin for 391st District Judge.” “For” was alleged to be not in a large enough font to comply with Texas campaign guidelines.
Our endorsement of Dusek over Goodwin in 2016 still has financial ramifications for us to this day. We lost advertisers for taking a stand in support of Dusek and there are still many cocktail parties to where San Angelo LIVE!-affiliated people will never be invited — even now.
The 2016 election year was tough in other ways, too. The police chief race, where Frank Carter defeated incumbent Tim Vasquez, was just as divisive if not more. The election year was capped off with the election of President Donald Trump, the Republican nominee who lost to challenger Ted Cruz in Tom Green County 43.33 to 25.12 percent in the same March 2016 primary.
After the election, Goodwin proved to be a capable judge. He prepared himself by attending as many court hearings as he could leading up to his January 2017 swearing-in and since has kept his campaign promises by being tough on crime but at the same time thoughtful in his rulings from the bench.
The raucous events if 2016 have come full circle in one way. Goodwin’s former campaign manager Stephen McLaughlin will manage Dusek’s 2020 campaign.
McLaughlin said Dusek is preparing for a challenger, though not one has come forward as of now.
Dusek is “confident she is in a good position to defend her place on the court. She is the incumbent with many years of experience as a courtroom lawyer and has proven effective on the court. Many have noted her courtroom skills, including Texas Monthly that named her as a Texas Rising Star. She is praised her efficiency and compassionate manner as Judge, with lawyers and citizens alike noting that she has a strong work ethic and takes time to listen and ensure the justice system is fair for everyone,” McLaughlin wrote in a press release.
The Dusek camp also noted their large campaign war chest stands ready too meet any challenger.
Dusek expressed passion about moving the wheels of justice — tending to moving cases on the court’s docket quickly — an issue she turned to again and again during her 2016 campaign. Today, she has experience getting that done and some have lauded her tireless efforts doing just that.
“Unnecessary delays cost everyone—those involved in a case as well as taxpayers. A backlogged court delays justice in criminal cases, prolongs emotional upheaval for children and families, and increases expenses for businesses. In the end, swift justice benefits everyone,” Dusek stated in the press release.
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