I was appointed Judge of the 368th District Court by Governor Rick Perry in October 2013 and was sworn in November 1, 2013. I have been on the bench for just over three months. Prior to my appointment I was a trial attorney for 29 years and owned and managed my own law practice for 24 years.
The 368th Court docket is nearly evenly divided with criminal and civil cases filed. Other than jury weeks, 2 days are dedicated to civil cases and 2 days to criminal cases, with Friday open to hear either type of case. The family law docket in Williamson County is growing faster than any other docket, most likely due to the increased population of Williamson County. There is a possibility that this Court may also hear some family law matters in the future, although this has yet to be determined. I have worked as a trial lawyer and argued both sides of a complete range of these cases. I started as a prosecutor with Travis County and later worked for the Texas Attorney General’s office representing the Texas Highway Department. I tried numerous lawsuits across the state as an Assistant Attorney General. When I went into private practice in 1988, I focused nearly exclusively on criminal law for 8-9 years before turning my focus on civil litigation and family law. My experience includes felony and misdemeanor criminal defense, medical malpractice, Tort Claims Act issues, breach of contract, construction, and family law, including Child Protective Services and adoption.
On my first day on the bench in the 368th court, I presided over a civil trial, and in my third week presided over a murder trial. Over the course of my career as a trial attorney I have tried numerous jury trials and bench trials, working thousands of cases. I was often in court 3 to 4 days a week. I tried a full range of cases to judges and juries in the areas of personal injury, medical malpractice, construction law, insurance defense, family law, and CPS cases. Some of my most important trials came as part of my representation of children who needed protection from parents who had abused or neglected them, which sometimes required the termination of parental rights. I believe that to have the experience necessary to be a trial judge, one must have tried a variety of cases continually over his/her career, not part-time.
My greatest influence in life was my grandfather; the kindest person I ever met. He was a farmer and worked hard his entire life. I never saw him raise his voice to anyone and he always focused on the good things he saw in people and life; never the bad. He was very religious and very active in our church. He taught me the life lessons of hard work, empathy, humility, the value of helping others, and the necessity of having a strong Christian faith. I haven’t always been able to mirror all the things that were taught to me, but have tried the best I could. I believe, while lessons can evolve over time, the values they represent are unchanging, and it is important for every individual to have a value system. Especially for a judge who has to see people from every walk of life, and makes decisions often life-changing for litigants and those they love.
My vision for Williamson County includes using new technology to give law enforcement officers greater ability to do their jobs. Officers regularly use critical investigative time looking for judges to sign warrants. But, the courts are in the process of putting applications in place for electronic review and signing of search warrants. This will be a great benefit to officers who need search warrants quickly (i.e., blood draws for DWIs when a breath test is refused), and when waiting could affect the prospect of a good arrest or prosecution. We also must streamline the criminal docket so cases can be efficiently disposed. Some of the slowdown is due to insufficient funds from the state to purchase equipment or hire technicians to produce lab results. One option is a reset document, wherein the attorneys for the state and defense can agree on a new court date without having to wait in court. This will enable us to set more cases on each docket so substantive issues on additional cases can be decided. The process will save money for the taxpayers and the clients in lawyer fees, client lost wages, costs for visiting judges, and court fees.
Williamson County needs a judge who is fair and impartial to all. It is my singular responsibility to see that all members of the court follow the law without bias. Every case in my court already has a prosecutor and defense and neither side needs a second advocate on the bench. It is also important that a litigant and attorney who appear in this Court have a judge with experience handling the type of case before the bench, and not trying to learn the subject matter because it’s the judge’s first exposure to it.