Richmond attorney Derek Obialo is seeking to become the next judge of the 400th District Court in Fort Bend County.
Obialo, a trial attorney who specializes in civil litigation concerning construction law, will seek the Democratic nomination in the March primary election.
The Democrat who advances past the primary will likely face Maggie Jaramillo, who is presently the judge of the 400th Judicial District, in the November general election.
Obialo and his family have lived in the Lake Mont neighborhood in Richmond for 12 years.
He earned his law degree in 1990 in Nigeria before moving to Houston in 1994.
“I grew up in a household where both parents were public servants so it was only natural that I would one day serve the public as well,” he explained. “This is my opportunity to give something back to the community, to the people of Fort Bend County, who have treated me and my family so well.”
If elected, he vows to treat all who come before him equally, make the court and judge more accessible to the people, and improve efficiency.
He said he has experienced preferrential treatment by judges before, and it didn’t sit well with him.
Judges have to be impartial, he explained, and treat all attorneys and their parties equally.
“All litigants, whether they are from big law firms, small practicioners or pro bono should be treated equally in the courtroom,” he said.
“Sometimes, that doesn’t happen. Some judges tend to favor attorneys from big law firms over those from smaller firms or single practicioners. Everyone who comes before a judge deserves equal time and equal respect.”
He said judges and courtrooms should be more accessible to the public. Encouraging members of the public to meet with judges and visit courtrooms would help build respect for the justice system and the law profession, he said.
Likewise, judges who are accessible can help mentor young attorneys or young people who are considering law as a career, he added.
Obialo said courtrooms and judges’ times could be used more efficiently.
For example, he said, judges could contact attorneys by phone instead of having them spend an hour or two in court waiting to talk to the judge about some matters — at the expense of their clients.
Also, some judges wait weeks or months to rule on a case, which is nerve wracking, Obialo said.
“Some of the cases could be disposed of more efficiently,” he said.
“Having substantial experience from both plaintiff’s and defendant’s advocacy, I have an unbiased perspective of adverse parties before the court, and a balance of compassion for citizens before the court and a need to protect the public when called for.”
Obiolo and wife Dorothy have four children, Alexis, 16, Avery, 13, Uchednu, 10, and Ashley, 5.
They attend Epiphony of the Lord Catholic Church in Katy. He is a member of the Texas Bar Association and belongs to the Bar’s construction law and litigation divisions.
He earned his law degree at Imo State Univeristy, Okigwe, Nigeria; his barrister of law degree at Nigeria Law School, Lagos, Nigeria; an masters of business administration degree at Houston Baptist University, Houston; and his jurisprudence degree from the University of Miami, Miami in 2007.
Obialo’s law office is located in the Heights community in Houston.