A resident of Houston’s historical Third Ward, a graduate of Prairie View A&M University and a graduate of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University are just a few things that describe Attorney Charles Collins.
But there’s so much more.
He currently serves as Managing Attorney for the Texas Title IVD Child Support Agency. He’s also running for Judge of the 246th Family District Court. Collins believes “families should come first” and “justice should be blind” and in a candid interview with d-mars, he shares his thoughts on the Harris County Courts and why he’s the right candidate for judge.
d-mars: How did you become interested in law and politics?
Collins: Going to college was always something that I wanted to do, but I never thought much further than that goal. During my senior year of college, I became concerned that my life seemed to be lacking a natural direction. At the same time, many of my Political Science colleagues were discussing their plans to take the LSAT and attend law school. Going to law school, however, was probably the last thing I wanted to do. Nevertheless, I was very curious. I began to think, ‘why not?’ I took the LSAT exam figuring an extra three years in law school would give me additional time to chart my career path. However, to my surprise I did quite well and remembered thinking that maybe being a lawyer was what I was meant to do. So, I applied to law school. The rest is history. As for politics, I’ve had an interest since I was about 10 years old. I remember debating my mom quite frequently as a kid and teenager on various political issues of the day. I was always concerned about what was going on around me, what I thought about it and what could be done to make it better. What I am doing now is the perfect marriage of the two: politics and law.
d-mars: How has your experience as Assistant Attorney General for Texas’ Title IVD Child Support Agency prepared you for the bench you are currently running for?
Collins: My employer is the state’s largest law firm and I have served as a Managing Attorney for it since 2010. In this capacity, I supervise over 50 agency employees and its busy day-to-day operations. In a nutshell, the agency helps to secure financial stability for children and assist absent parents who wish to establish their parental rights. I have handled thousands of family law cases and I truly believe families should come first. I strive to make sure Harris County-area children receive the financial and emotional support they deserve. I have extensive trial experience representing the state’s interest in virtually all subject matter within the court’s jurisdiction. As an Assistant Attorney General, I have over 12 years of full-time, exclusive, family law practice experience. I am the only candidate in this race that has this level of family law and leadership experience.
d-mars: For those who may not be aware, can you explain what the primary duties of the 246th Family District Court Judge are?
Collins: The 246th Family District Court hears a variety of family law matters including divorces, child support and child custody disputes, paternity establishment suits, adoptions, termination of parental rights suits, child protection matters and name change petitions. These Courts may even perform marriage ceremonies.
d-mars: What’s the biggest issue you think should be tackled in the Harris County Courts?
Collins: All too often in our Harris County Courts, the type of justice you will receive and the way your case is treated depends on the what kind of financial resources you have access to. It is no secret that generally speaking, wealthier litigants gain better access to our court systems than the poor. Pro se litigants often find they are chided and their cases are summarily dismissed without the opportunity to cure minor mistakes.
d-mars: If elected judge, how would you address this issue?
Collins: My first priority as judge will be to serve our community with competence, integrity and a commitment to fairness. Under my leadership, the court will maintain a resource center inside one of its conference areas where litigants who cannot afford legal representation will have access to legal resources such as forms, computers, printers and scanners to aid them. Most importantly, I and all court staff, will exercise patience and compassion toward pro se litigants and not make them feel as though their grievances are less important.
d-mars: Can you tell me about the Harris County Courts – family courts, in particular? What should people know?
Collins: There are more than 500 district courts across the State of Texas. The bench I am running for is particularly unique because it was specifically created by the legislature to give preference to family law matters. Very few counties in the state have these types of courts. In Harris County, there are 10 of these specially created judicial districts for family matters. Each of these courts also has an associate judge who is appointed by the presiding judge to assist with the disposition of the court’s very high-volume caseloads. In smaller counties, district courts are courts of general jurisdiction and hear a combination of civil, criminal and family cases in one court, or district.
d-mars: Do you believe there is enough diversity in the Harris County Family District Courts? Why is diversity important in this arena?
Collins: We currently have no presiding African American judges in Harris County Family District Courts. It is important that African Americans, who are affected in exactly the same manner as all other people who appear before family courts, have judges sitting on the bench who look like them, have had the same or similar cultural experiences, know their unique communities – and live in them – and who can dispense justice with an even hand.
d-mars: Tell me one thing people would be surprised to know about you.
Collins: I enjoy running, biking and skateboarding. I am a big fan of Houston’s remarkable hike and bike trail system. If you cannot find me at the courthouse, you might find me there.