My name is Natalia Cornelio. My community knows me by “Nata.” I live in Houston’s East End with my husband (Daniel) and our dog (Biggie Smalls).
I am a proud, bilingual and Mexican-American District Court Judge with 17 years of legal experience. I became a lawyer to make a difference, and to help ensure that all of our communities have equal access to and protection of our laws.
As a Federal Public Defender in Houston, I represented hundreds of clients who were charged with crimes at every phase of their trial proceedings. I saw first-hand that our lower income communities and our communities of color are disproportionately impacted by our justice system and regularly represented Spanish-speaking clients who otherwise would not have had an attorney who spoke their language. Through this experience, I learned about the immigration consequences that impact many who are touched by our criminal justice system.
As a civil rights attorney, I represented the families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under former president Trump’s zero-tolerance family separation policy.
Now, as Judge of the 351st District Court, I have demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that all individuals receive equal protection under the law, due process and the opportunity to be heard.
I have legal expertise, community experience, and criminal justice experience. As a judge, I will deliver thoughtful and well-reasoned rulings and decisions grounded in this experience and expertise.
At the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, I drafted judicial opinions for judges in criminal, immigration, and post conviction cases.
As a Federal Public Defender in Houston, I represented hundreds of clients who were charged with crimes at every phase of their trial proceedings.
As the Director of Criminal Justice Reform at the Texas Civil Rights Project, I litigated complex civil rights cases against the Federal government, the State of Texas and local governments when civil rights violations were occurring.
Criminal Justice Experience:
As a public defender, I was able to see how our justice system works and what needs to improve. I saw first-hand that our lower income communities and our communities of color are disproportionately impacted by our justice system. I learned about the immigration consequences that impact many who are touched by our criminal justice system.
As the Director of Legal Affairs for Harris County Precinct One, I helped negotiate and finalize the settlement agreement in the misdemeanor bail reform lawsuit in Harris County, and learned about resources available to our judges who want to move our system forward.
I have always been a public servant and advocate for the people.
I became a federal public defender to provide high quality representation to individuals who could not afford their own attorney because I believe that everyone deserves to have their rights protected, whether they can afford it or not.
As a bilingual Latina attorney in a justice system that disproportionately impacts communities of color, I regularly represented clients who only speak Spanish and otherwise would not have an attorney who speaks their language.
As a civil rights attorney, I represented the families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, the medically vulnerable prisoners who did not receive air conditioning during sweltering summers in the Texas prison system, the prisoners who were in solitary confinement for over 20 years straight, and a pregnant mother in El Paso who was jailed for being unable to pay traffic tickets.
Promote community-centered justice
Justice requires compassion toward all involved and is more than just punishment.
Our justice system needs to be accountable and accessible to the community it serves. Justice should be restorative work between the victim, community, and the defendant.
Reduce reliance on incarceration
Incarceration is not the only solution.
When appropriate, we need to expand the use of sentencing alternatives to address the underlying causes of criminal behavior and reduce the economic and social costs of incarceration.
Improve courtroom process
People seeking justice need to know when they are going to get it.
Our criminal courts need to be efficient, transparent, and implement a fair case management process in order to resolve cases in an appropriate amount of time.
Reduce disparities in the justice system
There are gross racial and ethnic disparities in our criminal justice system.
We must acknowledge and work to address these disparities to restore the community's confidence that the system is fair, equitable, and just.
2020 Endorsements & Community Support
I am proud to support Natalia Cornelio for Judge of the 351st District Court in Harris County. She is an intelligent, experienced, and compassionate Latina attorney who will bring much needed representation to our criminal courts, which currently have no Latina judges.
My professional relationship with Natalia Cornelio began several years ago when she was an assistant federal public defender for the Southern District of Texas. She was then and is now a brilliant, dedicated attorney. Other lawyers, myself included, have always turned to Ms. Cornelio for advice on complicated legal issues. Likewise she has always made herself available to help.
Her dedication to her craft is inspiring. Ms. Cornelio continues to strive to be the very best at what she does.
Her desire to be the best and most knowledgeable lawyer is unrelenting. Ms. Cornelio’s dedication to the law in combination with her intellect and courtroom experience make her uniquely qualified to be a district judge.
Ms. Cornelio has my full support. I have no doubt she will be an exceptional jurist once elected to the bench.
Criminal Defense Attorney
I have been a resident in Harris County for the past 55 years and have lived through many styles of local government. I personally support Attorney Natalia Cornelio in her bid for Judge in the 351st Criminal District Court, Harris County, Texas.
I met Natalia while she was Director of Criminal Justice Reform at Texas Civil Rights Project. I have watched Natalia’s work and know that Natalia has always worked tirelessly throughout her career for the people of the community. I feel that Natalia has the passion and dedication needed to move us forward with transforming the criminal justice system. She is committed to smart criminal justice reform and will be a great asset to our judicial system.
Criminal Justice Community Organizer
Nata Cornelio has the intelligence, compassion and energy to be a terrific judge. As a civil rights lawyer and then as a top legal advisor to Commissioner Ellis, Nata Cornelio has shown her deep commitment to justice for everyone in our community.
Managing Partner of Susman Godfrey LLP and counsel for plaintiffs in the Harris County bail reform litigation
There is no more critical time than this to elect judges with the experience, courage and commitment to create a more humane criminal justice system, a system that is fair and accessible to all. Natalia Cornelio would be such a judge. She has demonstrated through years of compassionate service and community involvement that in addition to serving the community at large, she understands the specific barriers under-served communities face. Natalia has the competence and vision so urgently needed in the next generation of judges.
Robin DiAngelo, PhD
Author of White Fragility: Why It's So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism.
I am delighted to support Natalia’s judicial campaign. I have known her since she was a law student and we have maintained contact throughout her impressive career. She excels in all the obvious qualifications: intelligence, determination, compassion, and common sense. But most importantly, she doesn’t want to be a judge simply to be a judge. Natalia is driven to administer justice and equity to those who are most in need.
Retired Professor of Law and Clinical Director, University of Chicago Law School