My name is Te’iva Johnson Bell. I am running to be the Judge of the 339th Criminal District Court because I believe Justice Matters, or at least it should.
Criminal Justice has always been my passion. While I was a student at Spelman College, I was a judicial intern. In law school, I interned at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. After completing law school, I went to work at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor. Serving as a prosecutor helped to shape my perspective on the law and the criminal justice system.
After leaving the District Attorney’s Office, I went into private practice, defending people in the community. In 2011, Harris County opened its first Public Defenders Office, and I decided to join.
Although I heard stories about Public Defenders offices being underfunded and Public Defender’s not having time to provide the best defense for their clients, the Harris County model was different; I wanted to be a part. Becoming a Public Defender was the best career decision I ever made. The knowledge I acquired and the experience I have gained are priceless. I have been able to help so many individuals, while serving my community at the same time.
My collective experiences have given me the unique ability to view the criminal justice system from all sides. My experiences have taught that for true criminal justice reform, we must look beyond just the crime itself. We must identify and address underlying social and systemic issues.
Giving back is important to me. While serving as a Public Defender, I have been fortunate to engage in a number of community outreach projects including, but not limited to, speaking at conferences, community forums, schools and churches around the county about the legal system and laws, and how they impact everyday citizens.
I have also had the opportunity to participate in and sponsor a number of Expunction Fairs to help people legally clear their criminal history. One of my most rewarding experiences, has been linking people who have criminal histories with employers willing to give them a chance. This is important because this helps to reduce recidivism. Another really rewarding experience is sponsoring teen talks where I speak to young children and teens about the criminal justice system and the need and importance of staying out it.
I have played an active role in helping to address the bail bond problem. I routinely sit in the jail with individuals shortly after their arrest. We talk about their lives, their stories, their family, their education, and financial status. I do this so that when their bond is addressed, I can effectively advocate on their behalf to ensure the court has ample information to assess a fair and appropriate bond.
My experiences as a prosecutor, criminal defense attorney and public defender have not only molded me into the person I am today, but have also shaped my perspective of the criminal justice system and the work that needs to be done to ensure "Justice Matters" for all.