15 Legal Candidates You Should Support Before Election Day This November
Court is officially in session! This November, over 30 RFS-endorsed candidates are running for legal or judicial seats. As we envision a justice system built on equity and fairness, it’s imperative that we support and elect leaders that are committed to reform and long-term, sustained change.
As GOTV season heat up, take a look at 15 RFS candidates running for legal seats to support before heading to the polls on November 8.
1. Shanté Burke-Hayer: Mecklenburg County District Court Judge, District 26, Seat 1, NC
Highly regarded for her work in and out of the courtroom, Shanté is known to be a woman of integrity and humility. Shanté has handled hundreds of cases that range from child custody to child support, divorce, equitable distribution, domestic violence, abuse, neglect and dependency cases, and DUI cases. She is running for District Court Judge to serve respectfully, fairly and impartially so that just solutions are rendered to all.
Interesting Fact: Shanté is the former co-owner of Ladies Leading Initiatives (LLI), an organization committed to empowering and uplifting women business owners.
2. Zach Gwin: Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, OH
Franklin County Court of Common Pleas candidate Zach Gwin is passionate about advocating for underserved communities. Zach has received numerous credits in local news for his work to close down locations of serious violence and chronic criminal activity. In his current role, Zach has secured temporary restraining orders and injunctions to close dozens of drug houses and dangerous after-hours bars.
Interesting Fact: As an attorney in Franklin County, Zach piloted a specialty docket to connect low-income seniors with resources for home repairs.
3. Katherine “Kat” Thomas: Texas District Judge, 184th District, TX
Kat is a native Houstonian, double HBCU graduate, and social engineer who currently serves as an Assistant District Attorney for Harris County. Katherine brings a wealth of knowledge to the position: she has tried several cases as a prosecutor ranging from murder and sexual assault to aggravated robbery and felony DWI.
Interesting Fact: As a student at Howard University School of Law, Katherine represented underrepresented constituents in the Criminal Justice Clinic.
4. April Prim: Montgomery County Justice of the Peace, Precinct №3, TX
April is an attorney, mediator, small business owner, proud mother, and longtime resident of Montgomery County, Texas. April is passionate about helping people with their everyday problems and skilled in listening to those who are extremely stressed, angry, or hurt because of their legal issues. She has a deep respect for the courts and firmly believes that they hold a unique and important role in our judicial system.
Interesting Fact: Katherine currently runs and owns a landlord-tenant litigation practice with her husband in Grogan’s Mill.
5. Porscha Natasha Brown: Harris County Judge, Criminal Court №3, TX
Porscha is a first generation American and college student running for Harris County Judge. She spends her days working as a dedicated public servant, public defender, and active fighter for indigent persons and marginalized communities. In her work as a public defender, she also trains other lawyers on the principles of Client-Centered Defense and holistic representation.
Interesting Fact: In 2021, Porscha was awarded the Houston LGBTQ Political Caucus Newcomer of the Year award.
6. Pavan Parikh: Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, OH
As the current Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Pavan is focused on increasing access to justice, improving customer service, modernizing the Clerk’s office, and ensuring that the Clerk’s staff reflects the diversity of Hamilton County. His varied experience in law also includes teaching as an adjunct professor at University of Cincinnati College of Law and Xavier University, running his own law firm, and working in-house as counsel for Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati.
Interesting Fact: As a member of the U.S. military, Pavan served as a Special Victims Counsel for three years where he represented victims of sexual assault.
7. Adam Kwentua: East Baton Rouge District Court Judge, Section 2, Division G, LA
Adam is an Assistant District Attorney with the 19th JDC, running for District Court Judge in Baton Rouge. Adam wants to be a bridge for those in his local community: he plans on helping build trust in the legal system and supporting those that come into his courtroom by providing access to resources and foundational legal needs.
Interesting Fact: In his free time, Adam is a youth coach with the Gardere Youth Alliance & Gardere Initiative.
8. Jennifer O’Donnell: Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, OH
Jennifer is a public defender in Cleveland, Ohio who has dedicated her career to representing thousands of members of her community who cannot afford legal representation. Jennifer sees the urgent need for judges ready to work with county government to improve conditions in the Cuyahoga County Jail, prioritize bail reform, and expand mental health and substance abuse services for defendants.
Interesting Fact: If elected, she would be the only former public defender serving on the General Division of the Court of Common Pleas — a bench of 34 judges.
9. Anna Slotky Reitano: Los Angeles Judge of the Superior Court, Seat 60, CA
Anna is a mother of two young children and a deputy public defender ready to bring a fresh perspective to judicial decision making. She has extensive experience working with social workers, finding mental health and rehabilitation programs, tackling housing insecurity, and fighting for access to services. Anna is committed to ensuring fairness, justice, respect, and equity on the bench.
Interesting Fact: Prior to becoming a lawyer, Anna was an actress. She is best remembered for her roles as Dorothy-Ann on “The Torkelsons” and Denise on “Sister Sister.”
10. Ash Lee Hicks: Washington County Justice of the Peace, District 15, AR
Justice of the Peace candidate Ash Lee Hicks is a registered nurse and educator running to build equitable practices in Washington County. With an extensive background in advocacy — including serving on the Arkansas Nurses Association’s Political Action Committee — Ash Lee hopes to knock out a 20-year incumbent and provide stronger representation for members of her community.
Interesting Fact: In 2021, Ash Lee was awarded Post University’s first Social Justice Advocacy Scholarship for her advocacy for the safety of nurses, teachers, and children with disabilities during the pandemic.
11. Julie Gunnigle: Maricopa County Attorney, AZ
Julie Gunnigle is running for Maricopa County Attorney to protect the rights of everyone in her community and address the decades-long tradition of corruption, backlogs and ineffectiveness in local office. After running for state office in 2020, Julie continued to show up for Maricopa County: she has served as Political Director of AZ NORML, ensuring that as many Arizonans as possible have their records expunged after the passage of Prop. 207 and fought for the legalization of recreational cannabis in Arizona.
Interesting Fact: Following the SCOTUS’ Dobbs decision, Julie released a stated that she would not prosecute abortion cases if elected Maricopa County attorney.
“Your Maricopa County attorney should not be criminalizing patients and doctors. Not now, not ever. And how we get to that result is that your county attorney should be entrusted to do justice for the residents of the county, make those smart decisions as to who to hold accountable and how to spend our precious resources,”
12. Lisamarie Bristol: Gwinnett County Solicitor-General, GA
Lisamarie is a wife, mother, immigrant, and career public servant running for County Solicitor-General. Lisamarie understands that the ideal time to make a difference in someone’s life who comes into contact with the criminal justice system is when the offenses are non-violent and low risk. That is why she is running to be the next Solicitor-General for Gwinnett County: to create meaningful intervention and diversion programs that will hold people accountable while also addressing root causes in hopes of breaking the cycle of recidivism.
Interesting Fact: In addition to her legal work, Lisamarie has served as the President of the Greater Atlanta Black Prosecutors Association, which is a chapter of the National Black Prosecutors Association.
13. Allison Miller: Florida State Attorney, Sixth Judicial Circuit, FL
Allison is a career public defender who has been a tireless advocate for the last 15 years, fighting to uphold the integrity of the criminal justice system. Allison has coauthored bipartisan legislation to prevent the death penalty’s application to people with serious mental illness. Allison will bring all she has learned as a public defender, victim advocate, instructor, neighbor, wife, friend, and mom to make her community fairer and safer.
Interesting Fact: Allison sits on the Board of Directors of Suzerain Capital Defense, a nonprofit organization working to support and defend indigent individuals facing death penalty prosecution.
14. Christian May: Benton County Justice of the Peace, District 5, AR
Christian aims to bring transparency, accountability, and the needs of District 5 to the Quorum Court of Benton County, Arkansas. With funds made available by the American Rescue Plan, Christian hopes to help Benton County recover faster from the COVID-19 Pandemic by reinvesting those funds into local businesses, our educators and projects that better Benton County as a whole. This includes funding to help develop infrastructure that will promote internet access to all, as it is a vital tool in today’s world.
Interesting Fact: Christian is currently a student at University of Arkansas, pursuing a degree in Sociology.
15. Melissa Kobasher: Lorain County Common Pleas Court Judge, OH
Melissa has worked in Lorain County for over a decade as a licensed attorney, practicing both family and criminal law, and currently serves as a Lorain County Court of Common Pleas Magistrate. She has a passion for justice and the safety of her community and takes pride in having an unmatched work ethic, firm knowledge of the law, and ability to make firm and fair decisions that bring positive changes to her community.
Interesting Fact: If elected, she will become the sole female on the bench of the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas.