Judge Bill Miller seems to have no regrets for a political mailer that called out his opponent, Monty Murry, for a lack of judicial experience and for his practice of personal injury law.
Miller is the current presiding judge of the 5th District Court serving Bowie and Cass counties, and he is running against Murry for the Republican nomination.
But area political watchers were surprised that the popular judge with a stellar reputation faced any opposition at all — especially from a well-known local attorney such as Murry.
However, Judge Miller seems convinced that he did the right thing by telling the public more about his opponent, Monty Murry, who indicated that he wants to serve the community by quitting his law practice to become a judge.
"I don't think [being a judge] is a community service project," Miller said. "You are dealing with hard cases and making hard decisions."
Miller said it takes experience for a judge to do his job with cases where one or both sides often end up being unhappy.
"You have to be willing to make these decisions," Judge Miller said.
This week, the Miller campaign sent a political mailer through the US Postal Service to local citizens that has stirred up some controversy.
But Miller was unapologetic for the mailer — even though his opposition in the race said he was striving to run a positive campaign and "not go negative."
"I think it is important to point out that my opponent has repeatedly said he is a trial lawyer and personal injury lawyer," Miller said.
Interestingly, Miller said his opponent had only been at the defense table in his courtroom on one occasion. Miller said this was probably because "personal injury and car wrecks" amounted to a small number of cases that he hears annually.
Judge Miller also defended his toughness on the bench.
"We have closed 8,500 cases - that is a ton of cases," he added. "We have also [had] bunches of jury trials."
Miller said cases heard in his court range from difficult family law cases to issues involving the most hardened sexual predators.
The judge was first appointed by Governor Rick Perry in 2015 and was unopposed in a 2016 election.
"I have served since 2015, and I have the experience necessary for this bench," he said. "I've been dealing with cases day in and day out since that time."
Miller's opponent, Monty Murry, has indicated he would use his judgeship to focus attention on the lack of a local juvenile holding facility since the 5th District judge has a seat on the juvenile board.
Although Murry did not directly criticize Miller, he has implied that he would take a more active interest in juvenile justice than the current judge.
"I think my opponent has no idea what I do," Miller said. "I don't like the fact that we have to send kids to different counties."
However, Miller said regulations involving minors make solving the problem very difficult.
Miller said that his opponent has floated the idea of working with Miller County, Arkansas, to keep juveniles closer to home so they could still stay in contact with family members.
But Judge Miller said there were significant problems with that idea because it would place the juveniles in another state.
"There are all kinds of regulations," he added. "Since these are Texas children, they must meet Texas standards."
Although this is Miller's first contested race for judge, he previously served on the Texarkana, Texas City Council and endured a three-way contest for the position.
"My first race was a three-way race," Miller said with a sigh that seemed to indicate the toughness of his first contest for city council.
Miller has also been active in the State Board of Texas and held many offices in the organization - including ones that involved contested races.
But the hardworking judge says he generally enjoys campaigning for public office.
"I like getting out and talking to people," he said. "I don't like pettiness, and people seem to say whatever comes to mind on Facebook that they would never say in real life."
The judge's wife and kids have also been active in the campaign. Miller said his children brought friends to a recent straw poll.
"It is healthy to have elections," Judge Miller said. "My best case [for re-election] is that I have been doing it for five years. And even before I was a judge, I had lots of different kinds of cases as a lawyer."
Judge Miller said he was proud of his record of success for appeals of his court rulings — with 94% of them being affirmed.
He cited one of his reversals which involved his ruling that the state should pay for a trial transcript. However, the appeals court said the county must pay for it.
In another case, Miller said he sentenced a repeat sexual offender to five life sentences, but the appeals court said he could only order the offender to serve one.
In his spare time, Miller is known locally as a very good photographer, and he said he even likes Photoshop.
"I started photography with the kids, and I took cameras to sports events and took team pictures - taking photos for whoever wants them," he said. "I still take Boy Scout and street pictures, and I pretty much give them to whoever wants them."
He also works with Boy Scouts to help them prepare for both law and photography merit badges.
The law badge requires a scout to learn all aspects of the local, state, and federal legal process, and Miller said the scouts even have a mock trial.
As for the election, Miller says bluntly: "The voters will decide this case."
But in the meantime, he has a busy campaign schedule in the coming days, including events in De Kalb and a volunteer fire department event.
Editor's note: Opponent Monty Murry responded to Judge Bill Miller's political advertisement and criticism. Murry's response can be read by clicking here for the news story.
1. News story about Bill Miller's re-election announcement
2. Article about political mailer from Miller campaign about Monty Murry
3. Monty Murry defends himself and pledges no negative campaign
4. Miller makes no apologies
NEWS POLL RESULTS: From 6 am to 4 pm on Saturday, February 22, 2020, we conducted a 10-hour news poll. Almost 4,000 votes were cast. The screenshot of the results are below. The lead in the poll changed several times during the day. In the end, there was a tie with 43% of the vote for Monty Murry and 43% of the vote for Bill Miller. An unusually high (with early voting already begun) 14% of voters were undecided. Voting results over 1,000 were reported by Zigpoll rounded to the nearest 100 votes.