Sylvia Holmes Candidate Questionnaire
What actions have you taken to improve your community?
Volunteering - legal aid, People’s Law School, Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans, Junior League (Mobile Loaves and Fishes, Sustainable Food Center, Food in Tummies, Coats for Kids), Teen Court, mentor for Travis County Women Lawyer’s Association, UIL Mock Trial judging
Political Activism - helped organize Women’s March on Austin, campaigned for local, state, and national democrats, lifelong Democratic voter
How would you define the role of a Justice of the Peace in the community?
Arbiter of justice for everyday matters. Serve the people in a fair, reasonable, and empathetic manner so that everyone’s voice is heard and justice is provided, with a view towards community improvement and greater understanding of the laws affecting us all.
What is your stance on criminalization of truancy?
I am absolutely opposed. Jailing families is not a solution to a symptom of unmet needs. Students struggling to remain in school face multiple problems and criminalizing the family adds burden to an already strained set of resources.
What actions have you taken on racial justice?
Private work as a defense attorney has given me countless opportunities to defend and exonerate persons arrested, charged, and punished more harshly than their anglo counterparts.
How would you work with indigent residents who owe fines or have civil judgments against them but who do not have the financial resources to pay?
When resolving criminal matters, I find that a combination of community service and fines can often accomplish the ultimate goal of modifying behavior or taking corrective measures. It is useless to demand water from a dry well and I would not waste court resources demanding financial remuneration from an indigent resident who has approached the court with candor and acceptance of responsibility. The goal should be to resolve the problem and prevent its recurrence.
With civil fines and judgments, I would first guarantee that any judgements rendered in my courtroom are supported by evidence and documentation, not default oral testimony. I have worked throughout my career with indigent clients and my early experiences clerking in Alabama’s bankruptcy taught me well the circumstances that can lay low diligent, honest, and hardworking persons. Being poor isn’t a crime and no one should be treated as less than their wealthier counterparts.
What is your stance on criminalizing homelessness through criminalizing sleeping in public, panhandling, loitering, and other activities associated with homelessness?
I am opposed. Being poor is not a crime. Being homeless is a symptom of many needs being unmet. The need for safe streets must be recognized and dangerous individuals must be taken to appropriate facilities for mental health treatment and drug rehabilitation. My years volunteering with Mobile, Loaves, and Fishes brought me into contact with housing insecurity throughout Travis County. Compassion and creativity are needed to solve the growing crisis of housing unaffordability.
What is the your view of how the criminal justice system should handle the problems associated with drug and alcohol addiction?
I support a rehabilitative system with alternative treatment and intervention programs. Incarceration should be a last resort.
How should a Justice of the Peace deal with a person who appears before the court who is suspected of being or determined to be undocumented?
Unless it’s relevant to the matter being adjudicated, I would not be concerned with their documentation status and am unlikely to inquire.
How are you funding your campaign?
Friends and family, mostly, but I am open to accepting PAC money from local groups that I have researched and am familiar with their goals.
If there were one thing you could accomplish immediately, what would it be?
Create a night court for persons with non-traditional work hours and limited time off to utilize the court’s resources, resolve tickets, and have trials by judge (jury trials would likely need to remain during daytime hours).
What is your campaign strategy for winning ?
Emphasize my outstanding experience and dedication to helping others in central Texas, while distinguishing myself from an incumbent with a documented history of discriminatory practices and rulings.
What spending would you advocate increasing or decreasing while in office?
I would advocate for funding to create a night court setting and improved online resources. If personnel records indicated a lack of pay equity or shortages, I would immediately advocate for salary adjustments and increased staffing. These are fights I am familiar with and have a history of negotiating in my current role as Associate Director of Legal Services for Students at The University of Texas at Austin.