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Kimberly Naylor Attorney Fort Worth – From left, Keith Bradley, Michael Kurms, Tiffany Strother, Whitney Clotfelter and Stu Madison. All five are running for the 249th District Court judge seat.

The five Republican candidates hoping to win the 249th District Court seat must now await a decision by the Republican Executive Committee, which is scheduled for Aug. 20 at the Guinn Justice Center in Cleburne.

Kimberly Naylor Attorney Fort Worth

Kimberly Naylor Attorney Fort Worth

From left, Keith Bradley, Michael Kurms, Tiffany Strother, Whitney Clotfelter and Stu Madison. All five are running for the 249th District Court judge seat. Matt Smith | The Times-Review

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The five Republican candidates hoping to win the 249th District Court seat must now await a decision by the Republican Executive Committee, which is scheduled for Aug. 20 at the Guinn Justice Center in Cleburne.

Candidates discussed their qualifications and their plans for the job at a forum Tuesday at the Cleburne Conference Center hosted by the Johnson County Republican Party.

Incumbent 249th District Judge Wayne Bridewell ran unopposed in the Republican primary earlier this year. With no Democratic challenger filing for the November general election, Vijay gave Bridewell another seat.

Bridewell, who served 31 years as the 249th judge, withdrew his name from the ballot in June, citing health issues. Because of Bridewell’s withdrawal, Republican parties in Johnson and Somerville counties — the 249th District Court covers both counties — have been tasked with selecting a replacement candidate for the November ballot.

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“Tonight is a time for candidates to talk to you without asking questions,” Johnson County Republican Party Chairman Robin Wilson said at Tuesday’s forum.

Candidates include Area Attorneys Keith Bradley and Tiffany Strother, Assistant County Attorneys Whitney Clotfelter and Stu Madison, and Cleburne City Judge Michael Kurms.

The Aug. 20 vote on the new judge, if held, will be held at 9 a.m. at the Guinn Justice Center and will be open to the public.

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Madison served 27 years as chief prosecutor in the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office. Maddison described the types of cases heard in the district and county courts at the tribunals, adding that he was experienced in all such cases.

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“I’ve been involved in 125 grand jury trials in Johnson County,” Madison said. – Of which I was the first president, where you are the head of the jury.

Madison asked the district presidents in attendance if they wanted someone with experience in courtroom trials, warrant hearings and hearsay evidence.

“I believe I have more criminal trial experience in Johnson County than any of my other candidates,” Madison said.

“Who wants to decide what the punishment should be for first-time offenders in Johnson and Somerville counties,” Madison said. “Who wants to decide the punishment of violent criminals when their victims and their victims’ families are waiting for justice and closure?”

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Strother thanked the voting board for its work to protect the integrity of Court No. 249 for years to come.

“The judge was very nice and kind when he explained the process to me,” Strother said. “I remember what an amazing job, and as we walked out of the courtroom, I said to my mom, ‘This is what I want to do when I grow up. I want to be like that man and help other families.’

In a family of first-generation college graduates, Strother founded a law firm with his mother-in-law in 2012.

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He also has experience in all types of law heard by the district court and has attended thousands of cases and trials, Strother said.

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Strother serves on the boards of Next Step Women’s Center, a crisis pregnancy center in Burleson, and Crazy8 Ministries. She served four years as president of the Johnson County Republican Women’s Club, two years as Joshua’s municipal judge, and is the sole attorney on the Sex Offender Treatment Program Board appointed by Governor Greg Abbott in 2020.

With 17 defendants awaiting trial for murder and a backlog of court cases, a judge who can take the floor is needed, Strother said.

“This is probably the only time in our lifetime that we will see this process,” Kurmes said. “Thank you for volunteering and for yourself.”

In addition to serving as Cleburne’s Municipal Court judge, Kurms maintains a private practice in Burleson focusing on civil, criminal and family law.

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“Criminal prosecution is important because we feel safe and secure where we live,” Kurmes said. However, it is not worth treating everyone with the same hammer. There is a difference between a truly evil person and a first-time offender who has made a mistake, and it’s important for a judge to know that.”

Kurms says knowledge of civil and family law is just as important, as is a willingness to deal with a court that has a serious backlog.

“Look at Tolerant County, Tarrant County, that’s going to slap you on the wrist, that’s not going to do anything,” Kurmes said. “Who will give probation to a child molester? This is a big deal in our county. We are ready for the trial.”

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Clotfelter cited his nearly 20 years of experience with the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office and discussed his plan to address the 249th Court’s backlog.

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“I started planning to be a lawyer when I was 10 years old,” Clotfelter said. “My mother is a school teacher, my father is a carpet salesman. So they have no idea where the idea came from, and frankly, I don’t either, except that I had a heart for helping people, and I have since I was in law school. That’s what I’m doing. Soon after that, God put a desire in my heart to be a judge.

In addition to handling all legal matters before the District Court, Clotfelter is licensed in the Northern District of Texas and board certified in child welfare law.

“Before I became board certified, I served three years on the advisory committee that created the area board certification,” Clotfelter said. “It took a long time and I am proud to specialize in this field. I have also qualified as a mediator since 2000, and I have the qualification of guardian ad litem.”

Clotfelter said he would address the court backlog through a combination of mediation and alternative dispute resolution options, as well as trials and other traditional legal options.

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Through his experience in child welfare law, Clotfelter said he has dealt with all levels of the burden of proof available in our legal system and has a unique understanding of the relationship between child welfare cases and related criminal cases.

Clotfelter cited his appellate experience, continuing education and involvement in numerous conferences on various legal issues, as well as his involvement in local Republican politics. Among other things, Clotfelter is the current president of JCRW.

“I was born and raised here,” Bradley said. “I’ve been here my whole life except for college and my time in the Navy.”

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Bradley said he brings 30 years of legal experience to the table, including the U.S. Including as a JAG officer in the Navy and other legal and law enforcement positions in the Army.

Five Republicans Vying For 249th District Court Seat

“Since I got out of the Navy in 1996, I returned to practice law with my father, who was an attorney here from 1963 until his retirement in 2001,” Bradley said. “I have practiced extensively in all areas of civil, criminal and family law.”

Bradley said he is licensed in Oklahoma, Kansas and Pennsylvania, as well as Texas, and has tried cases in 61 counties in those states.

Those cases range from death penalty cases to death penalty cases and include more than 100 appellate cases, Bradley said.

“As far as Republican Party politics go, my parents were staunch Republicans at a time when that was not popular at all in this county,” Bradley said.

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His father, Bradley, said he attended the Republican National Conventions in 1972 and ’76. Bradley himself has worked on several Republican presidential campaigns, including that of Donald Trump in 2020.