County to vote on Crenshaw appointment

Published 5:43 pm Thursday, June 18, 2015

A new Jefferson County Court at Law No. 2 judge could be named as early as Monday when County Commissioners decide whether to appoint Corey Crenshaw to the criminal court position left vacant when Judge Lupe Flores died in April.
County Commissioners meet at 1:30 p.m. Monday in Commissioner’s Court, Fourth Floor of the Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont to consider appointing Crenshaw the unexpired term.
Crenshaw currently serves as Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney. He was previously appointed by State Governor Rick Perry to fill the unexpired Jefferson County Criminal District Attorney seat from January 2014 until December 2014.
Crenshaw has also served as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice Houston and Beaumont region from 2010 to 2014.
In a May 25 letter written to Commissioners when applying for the position, Crenshaw said he did not plan to see election to the judgeship.
“I will be completely dedicate to this task through November of 201 and will not seek elected office during that time period,” Crenshaw said in the letter obtained by The Port Arthur News.
Because Flores had just been re-elected to the bench, the term does not expire until November 2016.
Crenshaw is not the only person who has expressed interest in the judgeship. However, in the crowded field of contenders there is no Hispanic candidate — something that has caused concern in the Hispanic community.
Fernando Ramirez, owner of Otra Hispanic Media and an activist for the Hispanic community, said he was disappointed in the way the appointment process started, and feels the community was slighted.
In the past, the Hispanic Community did not have a viable candidate, but they do now, Ramirez said.
“We do have two very qualified people: Ramon Rodriguez, an assistant District Attorney, and a young attorney, Charlie Rojas,” Ramirez said.
Those two weren’t even considered early on, and were only asked if they were interested in the judgeship after members of the Hispanic Community voiced concerns that they were not being represented.
Flores was the only Hispanic judge in Jefferson County at the time of his death.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Shane Sinegal said on Thursday that both men have since been asked to consider applying for the position, but neither expressed interest at this time.
“Maybe they weren’t interested, but they should have had the courtesy to ask them,” Ramirez said. “There is no reason to not do so other than you do not care about the Hispanic community.”
Ramirez said he thinks Crenshaw will do a good job, but wishes the process had been handled differently.
Crenshaw will need a majority vote by the five-member Commissioners Court, and may get it, Sinegal said, but it likely won’t be with his vote.
“Unless something changes between now and then, I am not going to vote to it,” Sinegal said.
Since Flores’ death, Sinegal has been an advocate for naming a Hispanic to the bench, but said both Rodriguez and Rojas had not expressed interest in the appointment.
Rodriguez indicated he may run for the judgeship in the future, but is not interested in the appointment now, Sinegal said.
The Commissioner’s Court has a gentleman’s agreement to not appoint anyone to an unexpired position if they are going to run for election, Sinegal said.
The appointment has drawn considerable interest including County Judge Jeff Branick’s brother, Jesse Branick; Rick Hughes, Buddy Reynolds, Kent Johns. All are local attorneys.
Sinegal said he does not plan to criticize the Court’s decision, no matter the outcome.
Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick told The News Thursday his brother is no longer interested in the job.
Branick said the item was placed on the agenda by Precinct 1 Commissioner Eddie Arnold.
The Commissioner’s Court, Branick said, is looking for someone to fill the judgeship with a specific set of qualifications.
“We are looking for somebody who meets legal qualifications, someone who will treat people who come into court with respect and apply the law equally. They need to assure us they will not run for for the position and will assure us they will leave whoever is elected to make personnel decisions, meaning we want the current personnel in the office to stay there,” Branick said.
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