Former Nueces County Judge Terry Shamsie has been selected to fill the position of Judge for County Court at Law No. 5 following the recent death of Judge Carl Lewis.
Shamsie was selected by a 3-2 vote of the Nueces County Commissioners Court over assistant district attorney Doug Norman.
The selection followed a nearly 45-minute executive session during which commissioners pored over the resumes of nearly 20 applicants before coming to a decision.
County Judge Loyd Neal and Precinct 4 Commissioner Chuck Cazalas voted in favor of Norman, while commissioners Oscar Ortiz, Betty Jean Longoria and Peggy Banales supported Shamsie's appointment.
After the meeting, Neal said he felt the selection could have been better given the number of candidates who expressed interest in the position.
"We had 20-plus applicants for this position - many of them were experienced judges who had many years experience in dealing with juvenile issues," Neal said. "Almost all of them were better qualified than Terry Shamsie.
"I had hoped that we could bring a number of qualified candidates before the court to consider for this position before making a selection."
Neal said he was disappointed in Shamsie's resume, which he said did not show Shamsie had any experience in dealing with juvenile cases. Shamsie's resume shows he worked as a private attorney from 1991 to 2002, but does not list any experience in working on juvenile issues. He also worked as an assistant county attorney from 1989 to 1991, as a prosecutor for the county. His last position was as county judge, a post he left in 2006.
Other applicants included a municipal juvenile court judge, Deanie M. King, with nearly 20 years of experience dealing with juvenile cases, both as an attorney and judge. Norman has served as an assistant district attorney for the past eight years and has been practicing law since 1987. He also worked with Lewis for several months in 2000 on juvenile cases regarding parental rights and Child Protective Services removals.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Peggy Banales said she voted for Shamsie, not for his experience, but because he could see beyond what the law might require when dealing with children and their families.
"You need someone who is understanding and compassionate and is family-centered and is innovative and that's what you look for," Banales said. "What's important to me, also, is that someone looks beyond what's there and looks into other possibilities as far as dealing with children and dealing with families - that's important."
On Monday, Shamsie said he did have extensive experience in juvenile cases, both in defending cases and in presiding over hearings.
"I did all the high profile juvenile cases as a private defense lawyer," Shamsie said.
In the years before a dedicated juvenile court was established, Shamsie said, juvenile cases were heard before a rotating list of judges and attorneys.
"It was called the 'tour of duty'," Shamsie said. "They would hire you for a month to do juvenile (cases), and you would do all the detention hearings and release hearings.
"One day I'm a defense lawyer, and the next day I'm on the bench."
While Shamsie requested that he be considered for the position, he said that decision was not politically motivated.
"The job is to do your job," Shamsie said. "It's not to perpetuate your political career. It's really a low-key, below the radar court."
His final approval will be brought before the commissioners on Nov. 24, and he could start hearing cases as early as the next day, Shamsie said. For those who did not support his appointment, Shamsie said they would have an opportunity to re-evaluate that decision in two years.
"You can't fight what people think. You can't do anything to change it. You just go do your job," Shamsie said. "I think the proof is in the pudding. After I've been there for two years they can look at what I did."
Precinct 3 Commissioner Oscar Ortiz said he has no doubt Shamsie will do well in his new position.
"He was good for Nueces County and I think he's got the ability for the job," Ortiz said. "I don't know about the rest of them (commissioners), but I can vouch for his ability to get the job done."
Shamsie will take over Lewis's unexpired term, which ends in 2010, and will receive an annual salary of $139,000. Lewis died last month from a respiratory illness. At last week's meeting, commissioners unanimously voted to name the courtroom Lewis presided over for nearly 10 years after the late judge.
Managing editor Christopher Maher contributed to this report.