An African-American woman judge in Texas who was part of the historic wave of Black women candidates who swept into office last year has died.
Cassandra Hollemon, 57, succumbed to an unspecified illness on Monday, the Houston Chronicle reported. She was one of 17 Black women in the Black Girl Magic group of candidates who won seats in Harris County courtrooms in 2018.
“We have lost a promising judge, who had plenty of life experience, and had just realized her dream. She was dedicated to using her new position on the bench to protecting crime victims and ensuring all defendants are treated fairly,” said Harris County District Attorney’s Office Chief of Staff Vivian King.
While Black women candidates made history at the congressional level, they also made impressive gains at state and local levels. In Harris County, Democrats unseated more than 50 incumbent Republican judges in November. That wave included the 17 Black women judges who were part of the so-called Black Girl Magic campaign, which was coined by the county’s Democratic Party after the candidates won their primary election.
Hollemon, who practiced criminal law for more than two decades, was assigned to Harris County Criminal Court of Law 12. She came to the bench focused on doing her part to reform the criminal justice system in Texas’ largest county, which includes Houston.
She joined her colleagues in their efforts to settle a lawsuit over the county’s cash bail system, the Chronicle said. In January, the county’s Democratic judges approved comprehensive revisions to Harris County’s bail system that could clear the way for thousands of people to avoid spending time in jail while awaiting trial on minor offenses. It’s a system that reform advocates have said is unfair to poor people.
Harris County Commissioners Court was expected to begin the process of appointing a replacement for Hollemon’s seat on the bench. Since Democrats account for a majority on the court, it’s all but guaranteed that her seat will remain in the party’s hands.
“We are saddened by the passing of Judge Cassandra Y. Hollemon. She was a compassionate judge who treated one in a respectful manner,” said misdemeanor Judge Darrell Jordan, who was a colleague and friend.
Hollemon leaves behind a son, a daughter, and a granddaughter. Her funeral was scheduled for Saturday.