After winning the GOP primary, Sharen Wilson makes plans for transition at DA’s office

After easily winning a three person primary for district attorney, Sharen Wilson can now turn her attention toward assuming office in January.

With no Democrat on the ballot, Wilson, who was a criminal district judge for 23 years, faces no opposition in the November election — unless a write-in candidate emerges.

In unofficial but complete returns in the Republican primary, Wilson had 59.42 percent of the vote, while defense attorney George Mackey had 32.04 percent and defense attorney Kathy Lowthorp had 8.53 percent.

Following Tuesday’s primary win, Wilson said she talked with the current District Attorney Joe Shannon, who will retire at the end of this year, and will meet with in the next several weeks. She said Shannon agreed to work toward a smooth transition.

“Obviously, I need his assistance to have an orderly transition,” Wilson said.

At some point, Wilson wants to meet with prosecutors but she said that may not be appropriate until after the November general election.

What the district attorney’s office will look like when Wilson takes over remains to be seen. During the campaign, the issue was raised that some long-time prosecutors won’t want to work for Wilson but she believes those claims have been exaggerated.

Asked if she believed many prosecutors would choose to leave, Wilson said: “I don't have any idea. My guess is no.”

Changing of the guard

But it will signal a changing of the guard.

When Wilson assumes office, it will be the first time in 42 years that either longtime District Attorney Tim Curry —or someone closely linked to him — hasn’t held the position.

Ironically, Wilson invoked Curry when saying she wants to empower prosecutors to make their own decisions on cases rather than being guided by policy. Before she was a judge, Wilson was the first female division chief in the district attorney’s office under Curry.

“For me, we get back to the DA’s office being treated like a law firm,” Wilson said. “I can remember Mr. Curry saying ‘You have the same law degree. Use it, make good decisions and be ethical.’ That’s how we turn out good lawyers.”

Wilson, who earned a reputation for running a tight ship in her courtroom, said she will not micro-manage as district attorney.

“I don't think anyone could accuse me of being a micro-manager as judge,” Wilson said. “I always let the lawyers present their cases and do their thing. Did I expect the best of the attorneys that appeared in adult felony court? Absolutely.”

Wilson also talked about the role of the district attorney in civil cases such as that of Marlise Muñoz, who was 14 weeks pregnant when she was declared brain-dead at John Peter Smith Hospital. Her husband, Erick Muñoz, sued JPS, and asked that the hospital stop further medical procedures, including removing his wife from respirators, ventilators or other “life support.”

JPS officials had refused, citing a Texas law that requires pregnant women to be kept on life support until the fetus is viable, usually at 24 to 26 weeks. A judge eventually ordered that she be removed from life support.

During the debate, Wilson’s campaign sent a statement explaining that the district attorney only advises hospital officials but also said: “As [a] private citizen, Wilson would hope JPS would appeal and put the baby’s life first.”

But on Wednesday, Wilson said the DA’s job is strictly to be in an advisory role.

“In civil litigation, the district attorney simply provides legal advice to the people we represent,” Wilson said. “The ultimate decision is by the elected officials or, in this case, by the hospital district.”

While Wilson won handily, three other county races are headed for runoffs on May 27.

Tarrant County Criminal Court No. 2

In the four-person race for this misdemeanor court, Atticus Gill will face Carey Walker in a Republican Party runoff in May. In completed but unofficial returns, Gill had 33.6 percent and Walker 30.7 percent. Attorneys John White and Joyce Stevens got 19 percent and 16.7 percent in the race, respectively.

The winner faces Democrat Leon Reed Jr. in the November general election.

Tarrant County Criminal Court No. 3

In the Republican primary, Bob McCoy, a sitting judge on the Texas 2nd Court of Appeals, narrowly missed winning a majority and will face attorney Alexander Kim in a runoff. McCoy had 49.6 percent and Kim 34.2 percent in complete but unofficial returns. Attorney Casey Cole had 16.2 percent. No Democrat is running.

Justice of the Peace Precinct 3

In the GOP race for this Northeast Tarrant County justice of the peace position, incumbent Russ Casey had 48.8 percent and will face Lenny Lopez, owner of a Hurst heating and air-conditioning business, who had 28.6 percent, in a May runoff. Colleyville lawyer Christina Fox, had 22.6 percent in complete and unofficial returns.

Last year, Casey was appointed by the Texas Supreme Court as chairman of a task force to redesign the JP and small-claims courts.

The winner will take office in January because no Democrat filed for the position.