The almost gratuitous question is, why are you running for attorney general? Well, I guess it goes back to that experience that I had during those three years. I have a deep and almost abiding interest in some of the things that we did back at that time, and the way in which the office was conducted. And I have a strong feeling as to how I would like to see the office be conducted, in some of the programs and areas. I’m a trial lawyer by training and experience, so the experience in the office, my experience as a lawyer a trial lawyer trying lawsuits, and my involvement with the Democratic Party, just kind of all fits together as a natural evolution over the last number of years as to what course I ought to take. That’s it, I guess, in a nutshell. I just think that my experience and background training propels me in that direction. Take what I’ve been doing in almost the last 20 years, trying lawsuits, to offer that public service and use those skills in the public interest. From your earlier experience working in the office, what divisions need more funding, need more attention? Where do you see the need and what would you do, were you elected? Well, first of all, we have already put out position papers on an appropriate role of the attorney general’s office on the drug-enforcement problem. I can more specifically address that, but that’s one key area. Another key area, and again we’ve put out a position paper on it, is the child-enforcement division. I feel very strongly that that is a major area of the office. Then, thirdly, we’ll be putting out a position paper in the next week or so on the attorney general’s role on nursing home regulation. And the same thing with respect to environmental issues and consumer-protection issues. In essence, my philosophical concept of the attorney general’s office is to enforce laws, protect the public interest. The drug problem, child support, consumer protection, environmental protection are the four cornerstones, if you will, that Attorney General John Odam will be focusing on. We were both in Corpus Christi the day before yesterday, at the M.A.D [MexicanAmerican Democrats] convention, and there was talk there from the Corpus Christi [legislative] delegation about environmental protection. How1is the office used currently and how would you use it to protect the environment? Well, first of all, I’ve met with a number of people who are involved in environmental issues in Corpus two weeks ago, to get their input on this, as well as telling them some of the thoughts I’ve had on it. It comes back to protecting the public interest. I think the attorney general’s role should be two things. Number one, overall, as a lawyer for the state, to protect the environment. That is the responsibility of the attorney general’s office. To do that on his or her own motion through the office of enforcement of environmental protection. And secondly, to have a working relationship with the state agencies. Again, going back to John Hill, where you had an attorney-client relationship with those agencies, so that you hope that they certify over and send the cases over so that you’re going into court to enforce those regulations on behalf of the agencies whose responsibility it is to protect the environment . . . Would you go to the Legislature to seek measures that would allow the attorney general’s office to act more unilaterally than it does now? It is sometimes criticized for being too dependent on those client agencies. . . . Yes, that’s something I’m giving very serious consideration to. To beef up the responsibility, similar to the consumer-protection area, where the attorney general can “Number one, overall as a lawyer for the state, to protect the environment” file lawsuits independently of state agencies. You know, a couple of my good friends, for example, Phil Maxwell and Joe Longley here in town Phil was chief of the environmental division then later Phil was chief of the consumer division. We’ve discussed the commonality of those two areas and the law and attorney general’s responsibilities .. . You’ve talked a lot about child support. What, specifically, would you do differently than what’s now being done by General Mattox? Well, the number one proposal that I suggested was that the attorney general’s office should look at or consider entering into contracts with existing domestic relations offices particularly in the metropolitan counties to help move this tremendous caseload. There’s over 300,000 files that are open. Give you a little bit of history. It was at one time completely handled by the Department of Human Services. The Legislature moved it to the attorney general’s office because it was thought that the DHS was not giving oversight to the local offices. I do not propose that it leave the attorney general’s office. I propose still that the attorney general overall be accountable and in charge of child support in the state of Texas. But nevertheless, in certain areas, where you have such a huge number of cases, I think the attorney general’s office should look, with strict guidelines, to see if the local DROs, as they are called, domestic relations officers, could help move these cases. Because that’s where the huge bulk of the cases are: Dallas, Houston, San Antonio. That is one proposaYand that’s the major part of it. Secondly, I do not know the individuals in the child support division. My assumption is they’re dedicated, tireless employees with a huge caseload, huge work responsibility. So consequently, I intend to put a high priority to examine, once I get in office, what the management structure is. To see how it is set up. That doesn’t go to the personalities involved because I don’t know who they are. But to be sure that the case-handling, the management of it, the distribution of it, is at its highest levels. Those are a couple of major things I had in mind. Particularly this DRO contract. It’s my understanding that there have also been special masters appointed to try these cases and many of them are without adequate without secretaries, without bailiffs, without courtroom space? Would you look for more money in the budget to fund those sort of positions, bailiffs, secretaries In a lot of areas, again metropolitan areas, the special masters have responsibilities to oversee the cases. And, yes, they need assistance. And a lot of the money on the program is funnelled from the federal government to the state government. So it’s a matter of reallocating some of these resources that we have. For example, what I’m suggesting is that we contract with DROs, re-allocating some of those resources that we have. Perhaps we could more efficiently use some of the funds that would be freed up to assist the special masters. So, yes, they need help . . . From visiting all these courthouses, talking with special masters, talking with judges, talking with the district clerks about, I’ve learned a tremendous amount. The other thing I’m talking about, on the district-clerk level, all these cases have to be filed. Everything is handled through the district clerk’s offices. They are overloaded. The counties and the district clerks’ offices are doing a lot of the paperwork on the filing of all these cases. So they’re overburdened. So in the addition to the special masters, the district clerk aspects of it need to be looked at. There is a lot of paperwork involved on when the money comes back, on handling it at the district clerk’s level, the district judge’s level, through the attorney general’s office. So, all of that needs to be re-examined. It is a huge part of the offices. I mean, 1,700 employees in that division alone, a $60 million budget. It’s a disproportionate caseload THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7
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