Voters in Precinct 3 will see the name Kerbow on the ballot again for justice of the peace, but it’s not the same Kerbow who has presided in the court since 1999. Instead the primary ballot for Republican candidates will list James Kerbow’s name.
And Kerbow wants to run on his own name — not that of the current sitting Justice of the Peace Becky Kerbow, his mother, or that of Police Chief Russ Kerbow, his father.
“I don’t want to be elected because I’m the son of somebody. I want to be elected because I’m the right person for the position,” Kerbow, 33, said. “I have a high level of integrity, a high level of ethics, and I’m the only candidate of the people for the people.”
Kerbow joins Sherman Swartz and William Lawrence in the race for the Republican candidate for the JP seat. Precinct 3 includes Lewisville, Highland Village and Copper Canyon.
Early voting for the primaries runs from Feb. 20 to March 2. Primary election day is March 6.
A justice of the peace handles civil cases in which there is a dispute of $10,000 or less, presides over criminal misdemeanor cases that are punishable by fine alone as well as performs functions of a magistrate. Residents could go in front of justices of the peace for cases involving traffic violations or tenant and landlord disputes.
Kerbow was born and currently lives in Lewisville. Kerbow is raising his two sons with his wife Jessica in a home a tenth of a mile from his own childhood home.
After growing up in Lewisville ISD, Kerbow attended the University of North Texas and received his bachelor’s degree in hospitality management in 2006.
Kerbow is a community director who manages luxury apartment complex Fiori, a $47 million UDR property in Addison.
“My entire life has been devoted to the service industry,” said Kerbow, who worked as a teenager at The Grotto in Highland Village for about eight years, before it was rebranded as Bistecca. “Then I got into property management. Again it’s all about service in the industry.”
Kerbow is a member of the National Association of Residential Property Managers and the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas.
Kerbow said in addition to being around the current JP Becky Kerbow for the last 20 years while she’s been in office, on a professional level he has 10 years of property law experience and monthly visits to area JPs for tenant cases.
Both of Kerbow’s Republican opponents have experience as attorneys. This is why Kerbow said he is the only candidate of the people for the people.
“In the state of Texas, there are approximately 821 justices of the peace. Ninety-three percent do not have a law degree,” Kerbow said. “[My opponents] have legal backgrounds, and they might argue that’s what makes them most qualified. Simply that’s not the case.”
Texas Justice Court Training Center Executive Director Thea Whalen said the center’s numbers indicate there are approximately 7.8 percent of Texan justices of the peace who are attorneys. The Texas Justice Court Training Center is responsible for the 80 hours of education oncoming justices, regardless of legal background, must complete upon being elected to the seat.
Kerbow said attorneys try to convince congress to make justice of the peace a seat for those with a law degree, which would make the people’s court a court of record. In turn people would potentially have to hire an attorney for small claims court, costing more than the $200 that could be in dispute.
Kerbow also said law school doesn’t sufficiently focus on JP law either, spending probably a day on the topic.
Kerbow said the position should be filled by somebody who is a good listener and who has the ability to make decisions based on both sides of the story.
“And somebody who cares, because if you don’t care, it doesn’t matter if you’re a good listener,” he said. “You’ve got to have somebody who cares and is passionate about the people in the community.”
Kerbow also said the justice of the peace needs to regulate based on the Constitution and not legislate from the bench.
“To legislate from the bench is to decipher your own laws in your own way,” he said. “Now for me, it’s all about being fair, impartial for all of my constituents.”
Legislating from the bench includes ruling in favor of one’s own religions and beliefs without regards for the law, he said. At a Flower Mound forum, the candidates were asked if they would officiate weddings, and Kerbow said he would.
“Same-sex marriages were legalized a couple of years ago and many JPs stopped doing weddings all together,” he said. “You’re going to have all different walks of life that are going to walk in your court, and if you say you’re not going to do weddings because you prefer to not do a same-sex wedding, that’s not being fair and impartial to all your constituents.”
Kerbow said his involvement with local government began when he was 3 years old, stuffing cards at Jim and Marilyn Nelson’s home for Sen. Jane Nelson’s campaign.
“I love doing the right thing and knowing you have a lasting impact on a community, on a person on a person-to-person level,” Kerbow said. “That’s what drives me.”
Kerbow served as a delegate for the Republican County Convention and the Texas GOP Convention in 2016. Kerbow describes himself as a conservative Republican and said he operated Fiori $350,000 under budget for the year.
Kerbow is endorsed by Denton County Judge Mary Horn, County Commissioner Precinct 3 Bobbie Mitchell, former Mayor Dean Ueckert and former State Rep. Jim Horn.