“When a person goes into a courtroom for the first time, it’s a frightening experience, and people need to know that the person on the bench, wearing the robe, knows something about the law, in order to assure that their rights are protected,” said Harris Hughey, candidate for Denton County Justice of the Peace in Precinct 4.
Mr. Hughey has more than 20 years in practice as both a prosecutor and as a defense attorney. The Northlake resident, with an office in Bedford, is a newcomer to politics, but, came in second out of 4 candidates in the March 4 primary. The runoff race will be decided on May 27. Harris, and Cheryl, his lovely and charming wife of 25 years, visited with Annette and me for an interview last Friday. With one son in his first year of law school, as well as being an all American track star, and another son who’s also a track athlete and is graduating next month from Texas Tech, it’s very evident that the Hughey’s are blessed in numerous ways.
A former regional sales manager with Jordache Enterprises, a 600 million dollar wholesale clothing corporation, Hughey says he learned how to “get extraordinary things from ordinary people.” In addition to many other athletic and community endeavors, Harris used to coach basketball at Fort Worth ISD and also taught special education, math and geography. He believes in being approachable, something he says he was known for during his coaching days. “I must have been approachable because, after basketball games the parents had no problem coming right up to me to talk about the events of the game,” he said. When he talks about helping people and finding the best in them, the passion in his voice and demeanor is palpable. “I always took over programs that were broken and I fixed them,” he added. Hughey said he not only taught the kids basketball, but he taught them some life skills as well. “They still call me after all these years, which I feel is the ultimate compliment.”
In his law practice he defends clients in the Denton, Dallas and Tarrant County courts. His prosecutorial experience comes from his work in the City Of Northlake Municipal Court, where he handles mostly class C misdemeanors. “I defend during the day and prosecute at night,” he said, smiling. Harris is a member of the Tarrant County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Municipal Justice Bar Association. He also invests his time and expertise on the Corral City Economic Development Committee and is a member of the Flower Mound Area Republican Club. Moreover, Harris and his family are also active in the Argyle United Methodist Church and the children’s ministry, where Harris and Cheryl teach Sunday school to 4-5 year-olds. Speaking of Cheryl, she has numerous accomplishments of her own. In addition to being Harris’s constant partner and confidant in the campaign, she is the Director of Culture Services at Southwestern Airlines. In that capacity, she also handles company-wide recognition of employees, and, with a staff of 30, responds to all commendations and awards that are bestowed upon them.
When asked if he believes the JP position should require an attorney, Hughey replied, “Here’s what I believe. Twenty-six other states have already changed their law. It was brought over from England initially and all states were not required to be licensed attorneys; now you’re starting to see states change that. After practicing law for 20 years, I can tell you that the statute books and code books are huge and they are hard to understand. If you don’t have a legal background, it’s hard for the layman to understand it.” He said many JP’s will do a good job of studying and grasping what’s needed to deal with legal procedures in the court, but others are likely to be overturned often, costing the taxpayers more money. “I want people to have their day in court. I want them to be able to come in and be treated with courtesy and respect. When you walk into a courtroom you’re in a place you’ve probably never been in before. It’s a hybrid of many different courts that I’ve been in and I’ve watched judges, and their behavior, and I’ve watched how they deal with people. You learn what makes people feel comfortable to have their day in court, and what makes them feel intimidated. It’s important to have the ability to communicate with people when they’re going through a difficult period. I get respect because I give respect! You don’t get respect simply because you put the robe on; it’s the way you treat people that will get you similar treatment in return.”
I asked how he feels about running in his first political campaign. “Early on, Cheryl and I decided that we were going to fund this campaign ourselves. We had no idea of where to start, but we’re not scared to do things for the first time. I’ll jump in feet first and learn to swim. I may not have all the answers right up front, but I’ll figure it out.” Harris said they hired a campaign consultant that was very helpful, but when they felt uncomfortable about any advice, they tended to use their own judgment. “I don’t care what anybody says,” he emphasized, pointing to one of his flyers. “When my name’s on this and yours is not; we’re going to stay strictly with the facts and nothing else.”
Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor. In addition, Bob has 7 published books that include “Murder in Black and White,” “City to Die For,” “Powers that Be,” “Ruthie’s Kids,” “Deadly to Love,” “Short Stories of Life and Death” and “Out of Sight,” all of which can be found on Amazon.com and other major online bookstores.