Porscha Natasha Brown, 32, grew up as the child of two U.S. Army parents. Her mother immigrated from Trinidad and Tobago, and her father came from a crime-filled area in Stockton, California. Both enlisted to better their circumstances, and they instilled in their daughter (one of five children) a strong sense of responsibility.
Born at Fort Hood, where her parents first met, Brown was raised in north Austin. From there, she traveled to Huntsville to graduate from Sam Houston State University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a double minor in Spanish and political science. She went on to attend the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, where she participated in the Innocence Clinic as well as the school’s first LGBTQ organization that was active in educating individuals about HIV/AIDS. She graduated in 2015 and became a staff attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project in El Paso, and with the El Paso County Public Defender’s Office. While there, she obtained a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Texas at Arlington. She continues to be involved with Black and LGBTQ causes.
Brown is currently a public defender in Harris County, and lives in Houston with her partner, Samantha Romero, and their two dogs, Pepino and Paleta. She is running in the Democratic judicial primary for the Harris County Criminal Court at Law No. 3.
“One of the main reasons I’m running is because I care,” says Brown. “I care about people who are accused of crimes, I care about the victims of crime, and I care about the community. As a public defender, I’ve seen what kinds of criminal-justice reform are successful in real time and can reduce the rate of recidivism.”
As a crime victim herself who was robbed ten years ago, she can identify with the victims. And from her own background growing up, she understands how easy it is for people from disadvantaged communities to wind up in court.
“I understand what it’s like to not have money and to be different than those around you,” she says. “I always try to understand where they are coming from. I want to create a court that is fair for all.”
In Texas, there are three types of criminal courts: misdemeanor, felony, and appellate. Misdemeanor courts, such as Harris County Criminal Court at Law No. 3, handle cases like DWI, possession of marijuana, evading arrest, assault, and family violence, among other low-level offenses that still have jail time as a consequence.
“I believe that in pre-trial and sentencing, we can push for more comprehensive services that provide for future success—resources that address mental health, substance abuse, and homelessness. I believe that I can be a part of the solution for Harris County and provide a court that is efficient, follows the law, and is fair for all.”
Brown feels that her experience as a public defender sets her apart from her primary opponents.
“I’ve been in the jail and have stood by my clients in court as they are being sentenced,” she says. “I’m a first-generation college graduate and lawyer, a first-generation American on my mother’s side, and a Black lesbian. I have compassion for all of the people I serve.”
Former Harris County Criminal Court at Law No. 3 Judge Erica Hughes’ term ended December 31, and she isn’t running again. On January 4, Brown was nominated by Harris County Commissioners Court to fill the vacancy. Although she was honored by the nomination, Brown decided to turn down the appointment and continue with her efforts to seek the approval of voters in the upcoming election.
“I love Houston,” says Brown. “I love the diversity, the cutting-edge feel. I love that the city is so progressive, and that criminal-justice and bail reform are at the top of the list. As a Black lesbian, I have felt nothing but love here. And the food is great—that, and the dog parks!”
For more info on Porscha Natasha Brown, visit porscha4judge.com.
This article appears in the February 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.