VZC Justice of the Peace Pct. 1 Candidates: Haley and McMillan
There are two contestants for Van Zandt County Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace: Nick Haley and Wade McMillan, who presented their views on how to run the lower-level court, conduct arraignments, set bail, conduct inquests, and magistrate, to a crowd of 200 at the Candidates Forum at the Canton Civic Center last week. The event was sponsored by the Van Zandt Republicans and Edom Tea Party.
Moderators Ken Hilton, Bob Reese, and Brad Blakemore posed questions to candidates, which were written ahead of time by citizens.
Nickolas “Nick” Haley is a 23-year resident of Van Zandt County, graduated from Edgewood High School, and has lived in Grand Saline four years. He claims involvement in the Youth Foundation in Grand Saline, served on the City Council the last four years, and recently resigned to go back to work for the Grand Saline Police Department. He began his law enforcement career in 2002. He worked a short time for C.B. Wiley and the Sheriff’s Department. He promised to be available at all times, and said, “I’m going to have that as my only, and full time job.”
McMillan grew up in Van and graduated from Van High School. He then went to Tyler Junior College, graduated, and proceeded to Texas Department of Public Safety State Police Academy, and became a Highway Patrol Trooper for three years. He then served 30 years at the Dallas Fire Department, with five years of that as a paramedic. His part time job for the last four years has been Municipal Judge for the City of Van. “Most importantly,” he said in his opening statement, “I am a Christian.” He and his wife attend First Baptist Church in Van. He is a Deacon and teaches Sunday School. “All those values carry over to my position as a Judge in the City of Van. I was taught by my training officer in the Highway Patrol, treat everybody the same. I don’t care if you stop the Pope. They’re no different than the farmer.” He ended by saying that the JP Court is a court of the People.
Question: Deciding the amount to set bail is difficult. If you set it too high, people can’t post bond, and it leads to jail overcrowding; too low and people get out and don’t show up for court. What are some of the factors you would use to determine the amount to set bail?
Haley answered, “The amount of bail is going to depend on your charge. It’s also going to depend on the person’s criminal record…”
McMillan agreed and said, “It is not meant to be a punishment… You can’t determine…a flat bond rate. It has to be on a case by case basis. It depends what would happen if this person gets out. Should we keep him here a little longer? Should we go ahead and settle up on him, and let him out? You can never predict what a person is going to do when they leave that jail, whether it’s a low bond or high bond.”
Question: The legislature made changes to the rules in Justice Courts, including allowing litigants to non-lawyer representation or assisted representation in civil matters. Do you think this is a good change? If so, why? If not, why not?
McMillan replied first, “Well, in Municipal Court, we don’t handle civil matters. It’s not an area I’m real familiar with, but I am familiar with pro se defendants. Someone will ask me, ‘Should I get an attorney. I’m going to trial.’ I say, ‘I can’t give you legal advice, but I always err on the side of counsel.’ Because when you go to court…it’s most likely you’re going to be faced by a prosecutor anyway. Just because you can argue, doesn’t make you a lawyer. Just because you can wire a house, doesn’t make you an electrician.”
Haley responded, “I honestly would not want to go into a JP courtroom, county court, or district court without an attorney. Being a Peace Officer for the past 11 plus years, I’ve always told people, I can’t give them advice, but if I was in their shoes, I would seek advice.”
In closing statements, Haley promised to address the biggest complaint he’s heard, and be there…be present for the People. “If you’re really concerned about the people, you’ll be there.”
McMillan explained that the JP is someone who may be there when you or someone you love passes away. “I’ll be there for you to help you in every way I can.”
Early Primary Election voting began yesterday, February 20 and goes through March 2. Super Tuesday is March 6. Vote, to choose which of the Primary candidates will appear on the November ballot. Only one per race will end up on the General Election ballot in November. If one candidate in each race does not receive a majority of the vote (more than 50 percent) in the Primary Election, then, there will be a Runoff Election (in May) between the two candidates with the most votes.