Denton County District Attorney Paul Johnson, who is seeking a third four-year term, is being challenged by Lantana attorney Karen Alexander and Denton lawyer Hank Paine in the March 4 Republican Primary Election. Early voting runs from Feb. 18-28 and The Cross Timbers Gazette asked each candidate to answer a short questionnaire to help you make an informed decision at the polls. Here are their responses:
City/Town of Residence: Lantana
Current Occupation: Attorney
Education: I graduated from Baylor University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1998. In 2001 I graduated again from Baylor University with a degree of Juris Doctor (Law Degree).
To what religious and civic organizations do you belong? I am a member of Valley Creek Church in Flower Mound. Both my son and my daughter participate in Highland Village Area Baseball and Softball Association where my husband is a coach and my law firm has been a sponsor. My son participates in Highland Village Youth Basketball and my husband is a coach.
Why should you be elected? A district attorney (DA) is the “people’s lawyer”. The Denton County DA is an elected official who is responsible for prosecuting those accused of crimes. The title of District Attorney means more than just prosecuting criminals and its more than winning convictions: It’s to do justice in every case, every time. I have the highest ethics, integrity, and professional standards. Building a successful law practice coupled with my time working as a prosecutor in this County provides me with the unique qualifications to make that happen.
What are the main challenges facing the county, and how would you resolve them? In our current DA’s office, there are significant issues with leadership, professionalism, inefficiency, a string of broken promises and a loss of confidence among the community. We are just on the heels of a discrimination problem in the DA office that was bungled for over 2 years, costing Denton County taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. We have had an assistant district attorney found to have made inappropriate sexual comments to a colleague and he has continued to receive praise in performance appraisals and multiple salary increases. From law enforcement to victim assistance groups to us as the citizens that the DA serves, we are dissatisfied and disgruntled. To fix the problems I will take swift and decisive action. When new problems occur, I will take personal responsibility when deserved and hold others accountable for their actions. That’s what a leader does. I will raise the standards to the competence and performance expected of a professional prosecutor. The key to quality and efficiency is professionalism. I have developed programs to restore the public's trust in the District Attorney's Office. These are not campaign promises; these are firm commitments from me to you.
Paul Johnson (I)
City/Town of Residence: Highland Village
Current Occupation: Serving second term as the Elected Denton County Criminal District Attorney.
Education: Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Texas at Arlington and a law degree from the University of Houston School of Law.
To what religious and civic organizations do you belong? Paul Johnson is a Christian. He and his family are long time members of Trietsch Memorial United Methodist Church in Flower Mound. Paul Johnson serves on the board of the Denton County Children’s Advocacy Center, and he is a member of the University of North Texas Criminal Justice Professional Advisory Council. He enjoys his time as a volunteer youth soccer, basketball, and baseball coach.
Why should you be re-elected? Paul Johnson is the only candidate with the experience and the qualifications necessary to successfully lead the DA’s Office. Paul Johnson has been practicing law for 29 years, including 15 years as an Assistant DA and 7 years as your elected DA. During his tenure, his office has held 1000’s of criminal defendants responsible for their crimes and aggressively prosecuted violent offenders. As District Attorney, Paul Johnson spearheaded the development of a Veteran’s Court Program, developed a “paperless” E-Filing system, and partnered his office with Denton ISD to develop a criminal justice intern program for high school students.
What are the main challenges facing the county, and how would you resolve them? The District Attorney’s Office employs over 120 people, handles 1000’s of criminal and civil cases, and oversees a $12 million budget. It is critical to elect a District Attorney with the necessary experience to tackle the looming challenges and lead an office this size. One of the main issues facing the DA’s Office is the increase in technology based crimes. To combat this problem, our office trained an investigator as a Certified Computer Forensic Examiner to assist law enforcement with the recovery of data from computers, cellular phones, and other digital media for use in the criminal prosecution of sex offenders, drug dealers, and white-collar criminals. Another issue involves the significant amount of time it takes to receive scientific lab results, especially in drug cases. Our office, in conjunction with the Sherriff’s Office, has taken steps to create an accredited crime lab at the University of North Texas. A third issue concerns the delay in justice that occurs for crime victims when an offender absconds and the case cannot proceed until the defendant is located. Paul Johnson initiated the “Denton County Most Wanted Billboard Campaign” to address this issue and obtain information on the whereabouts of violent offenders.
City/Town of Residence: Denton
Current Occupation: Lawyer
Education: BA Texas A&M JD St. Mary's University School of Law
To what religious and civic organizations do you belong? St. Mark's Catholic Church; Denton Festival Foundation; Denton Arts & Jazz
Why should you be elected? I bring experience and character to the office. I have practiced law for 33 years and I am Board Certified in Criminal Law and Juvenile Law. There are only 10 lawyers in the State of Texas to hold both certifications. I have served as a prosecutor and special prosecutor as well as handling over 100 felony trials and over 100 criminal appeals. The current District Attorney has failed Denton County in management of the office and my other opponent has never been lead counsel in a felony trial. The District Attorney must be able to lead from the front and I pledge to do so. I have served as a Trustee for the Denton ISD and have taught Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure and Evidence at TWU for the last 18 years in addition to practicing law full time.
What are the main challenges facing the county, and how would you resolve them? The main challenge to the office of the District Attorney is restoring trust and respect among area law enforcement which it currently does not have.