Out for Change: A Progressive Platform

Steve Duble wants to pioneer systemic change as Harris County Justice of the Peace Precinct 1, Place 2.

Steve Duble (courtesy photo)

Steve Duble, 57, is running for Justice of the Peace Precinct 1, Place 2, a post that Judge David Patronella is vacating to run for County Civil Court #4. If elected, Duble would become the first openly gay justice of the peace in Harris County history.

A respected attorney who has held leadership roles in the Harris County Democratic Lawyers Association, Duble lives in the Upper Kirby area with his husband, Evan Choate, and their rescue dogs Dewey and Augusta. 

“I have been active in progressive politics for a long time, but my interest in this particular position started in 2019 when I represented members of the Houston Tenants Union who were facing evictions,” Duble says. “The way that they were treated in the JP court was really shocking. Many of the people there had taken a day off work or found childcare because they thought they would have a chance to be heard. But they weren’t given any information, they weren’t listened to, and the judge just ended up rubber-stamping their evictions. Luckily, we were able to appeal these cases, but the experience really opened my eyes to the problems in our current system.”

Last year during the pandemic, the Texas Supreme Court allowed the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium to expire, causing a host of problems for renters.

“I cannot comment on the Texas Supreme Court’s decision, but regardless of that, JPs still have discretion to extend eviction protections for renters,” Duble says. “For example, Travis County JPs have extended eviction protections through March of 2022, pausing eviction trials for unpaid rent for 30 days so renters can seek rental assistance, consult a pro bono attorney through a Travis County JP program set up for indigent tenants, and negotiate a settlement without the need for an eviction. Also, the Texas Supreme Court issued its 47th Emergency Order of the COVID-19 pandemic on January 19, 2022, allowing JP courts to suspend or modify trial-related and pretrial hearing deadlines through March 1, 2022. The bottom line is that while a JP must follow the law, there is a lot they can do to help people in need and protect the community.”

A justice of the peace is often the first point of contact for many, since they can handle traffic cases and marriages in addition to evictions. But interacting with this system for the first time can be a daunting experience for many.

“They deserve to be treated with dignity,” Double says. “Court shouldn’t feel like high-school detention, so I am going to listen to people, not scold them. I won’t use a gavel, and I won’t impose dress codes or arbitrary codes of conduct. I don’t see a problem with people using their phones or chewing gum while waiting in court. I will honor and respect everyone’s name, pronouns, and gender expression.”

There are five other candidates seeking this Precinct 1 JP seat in the Democratic primary race. So why vote for Duble?

“I have the most progressive and substantive plans, and I have the experience to realize them,” he explains. “I have been an attorney for over 30 years, I have represented both tenants and landlords, and I have been both a tenant and a landlord. I understand the law, and what it is possible to achieve as a JP. I have been very involved with the progressive community through my programming work with a group called Harris County Democratic Lawyers, where I’ve pushed to bring a social-justice lens to what we do. I have strong relationships with advocates and experts in the community, and I’m willing to listen and be responsive. That’s how I’ve built my platform so far, which I am really proud of, and it’s how I will continue to work if I’m elected.” 

Duble wants to spend the rest of his career as a JP, so he won’t be seeking higher office. His goals as a JP include working to reduce evictions through eviction- and homelessness-diversion programs, bringing wraparound services—translators, social workers, legal aid, and nonprofits—into the court system, and work with the social-service agencies to mitigate the harm caused by the evictions that do happen. He will also focus on addressing racial disparities in sentencing and fee assessment. 

In the little spare time he has between campaigning and running his law office, Duble tries to relax. 

“Is brunch considered a hobby?” he jokes. “I am a very social person, and I enjoy anything that involves interacting with other people. I also really like good food, which is part of why I love living in Houston. I’m a fan of sports like hiking and skiing, where you can relax and be out in nature. My husband teaches a course on old Hollywood movies, so there is a lot of Mae West and Katharine Hepburn in our house, which is a pastime I don’t really have much say in.”

For more about the candidate, visit steveduble.com.

This article appears in the February 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.
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