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Pathways to the Bench

A Day in the Life of a Harris County Judge

Trailblazers and Their Next Generation: Houston’s Judicial Families

Judicial Clerkships: Shaping Future Lawyers and Leaders

The Bench and the Bar Partnership

Houston Bar Foundation’s Annual Luncheon

Annual HBA Fun Run

The Judiciary:

Service to the Bench, Bar, and Community

BUench lawyer in side...
THEHOUSTON March/April 2024 Volume 61 – Number 5

Pathways to the Bench

Introduction By Andrew PeArce

• The Path to an Appellate Bench: Justice Jerry Zimmerer By dAvId T. LóPez

• The Path to a District Court Bench: Judge Robert K. Schaffer

By Lynne LIBerATo

• The Path to a Justice Court Bench: Judge Eric Carter

By Judge JosefInA M. rendón

A Day in the Life of a Harris County Judge

• Day in the Life of Judge Kyle Carter: Seeking to Make a Positive Difference in People’s Lives

By Andrew PeArce

• A Night in the Life of Judge David O. Fraga: Balancing the Administration of Justice as Houston’s Evening Presiding Judge

By AnIeTIe AkPAn

• Judge Julia Maldonado: Giving to Family & the Bar

By MArk P. yABLon

Trailblazers and Their Next Generation: Houston’s Judicial Families

Introduction By LAne MorrIson

• Two Generations of Texas Justices: Justice Linda Yañez, Justice Amparo Guerra, and Regi Richardson

By LAne MorrIson

• Judges Armando V. Rodriguez and Angela D. Rodriguez

By Judge JosefInA M. rendón

• Like Mother, Like Daughter: Judge J. Elaine Marshall and Judge Janikka Bratton

By AnIeTIe AkPAn

• The Honorables Zinetta Burney and Sharon Burney

By Judge JosefInA M. rendón

Judicial Clerkships: Shaping Future Lawyers and Leaders

Introduction By AnnA Archer

• Forging Profound and Unparalleled Connections

By Trevor deAson

• The Perfect Training Ground For a New Lawyer

By henry Legg

• Seeing Behind the Curtain

By dAnIeLLA MArTInez

• The Importance of Writing, Preparation, and Building a Network

By kIrAn vAkAMudI

The Bench and the Bar Partnership

By BrooksIe BonvILLAIn BouTeT

HBF Annual Luncheon

Annual HBA Fun Run

The Houston Lawyer (ISSN 0439-660X, U.S.P.S 008-175) is published bimonthly by The Houston Bar Association, 1111 Bagby Street, FLB 200, Houston, TX 77002. Periodical postage paid at Houston, Texas. Subscription rate: $12 for members. $25.00 non-members. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: The Houston Lawyer, 1111 Bagby Street, FLB 200, Houston, TX 77002. Telephone: 713-759-1133. All editorial inquiries should be addressed to The Houston Lawyer at the above address. All advertising inquiries should be addressed to: Quantum/SUR, 10306 Olympia Dr., Houston, TX 77042, 281-955-2449 ext 1,, e-mail: leo@quantumsur. com. Views expressed in The Houston Lawyer are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the Houston Bar Association. Publishing of an advertisement does not imply endorsement of any product or service offered. ©The Houston Bar Association/QuantumSUR, Inc., 2024. All rights reserved.
The h ouston Lawyer contents March/April 2024 volume 61 number 5 FeAtURes 34 10 24 19 32 15 30 32 19 10 15 24 30 2 March/April 2024

President’s Message

Acknowledging Our Judiciary’s Role in the Administration of Justice

FroM the editor

Our Judiciary: Called to Serve in an Ancient Role

Lawyers giving Back

Just The Beginning: A Pipeline Organization By ida kuruviLLa

Law in the FaMiLy

oFF the record

Jeffrey Heyman: Litigating in the Fast Lane By sydney BateMan

a ProFiLe in ProFessionaLisM

The Honorable Latosha Lewis Payne

Presiding Judge, 55th civil district court

coMMittee sPotLight

HBA Communities In Schools

Committee: Celebrating 15 Years with New Initiatives By anna archer

section sPotLight

Environmental Law Section: In Our Environmental Era! By kiM white

–The Olivia and Jesus Garcia Family –The Kroger Family
Media reviews Lawyers Behaving Badly reviewed by nikki Morris Litigation MarketPLace contents March/april 2024 departments 6 8 volume 61 number 5 36 37 40 41 42 t he h ouston Lawyer 43 41 42 36 44 44 44 40 37 4 March/april 2024

Behind the Lines: The Houston Lawyer Podcast

Behind the Lines: The Houston Lawyer Podcast features in-depth conversations with Houston attorneys and judges, providing insight about the latest legal developments, as well as personal stories of the opportunities and challenges of serving the law. The podcast is the companion to The Houston Lawyer, where each episode focuses on the same themes as the magazine.

Learn more about the podcast and how you can subscribe by visiting March/April 2024 5

Acknowledging Our Judiciary’s Role in the Administration of Justice

Our Harris County judiciary plays an exceptionally important role in our justice system. In recognition and appreciation for that role, the HBA has always maintained a close relationship with the judges of Harris County. In fact, many of our judges serve as HBA committee chairs, section leaders, volunteers, mentors, speakers, and event participants.

I am especially proud of the joint project with our judiciary to install lactation facilities in the Harris County Court Complex, one of my key initiatives as HBA president. In order to accomplish this important project, the HBA worked closely with Judge Latosha Lewis Payne, Judge Ravi K. Sandill, Judge Michael Gomez, and Judge Cheryl Elliott Thornton, as well as Harris County Commissioners Court, led by Commissioner Lesley Briones. This commitment to installing increased lactation facilities underscores the importance of women in the legal profession and provides a welcoming nursing environment for counsel, clients, staff, and members of the public who use the Harris County Court Complex.

especially when a ruling does not go our way. While it may be tempting in the moment to undermine the legitimacy of the other side’s motives or the decision-making ability of our courts, when we do, it reflects poorly on our profession and erodes the public’s confidence in our justice system as a place to fairly and reasonably resolve disputes.

Many of our judges also attended one of the premier events of my presidential year, the HBA’s first multi-practice Bench Bar Conference at Hotel Zaza in April. Our speakers, moderators, and panelists were incredible. At one of the panel discussions, we talked about what we as Bar members can do to help improve society’s view of the legal profession. One practical solution is to temper how we talk about the judiciary and opposing counsel to our clients and the public,

All of us in the bar have an important role in the administration of justice. To quote the Texas Lawyer’s Creed, we are all “entrusted by the People of Texas to preserve and improve our legal system.” We should not attribute bad motives or unethical conduct to opposing counsel and avoid disparaging personal remarks or acrimony towards each other. It has always been a source of pride in our Bar that we do not routinely seek sanctions whenever we have a disagreement or misunderstanding with opposing counsel. There are many instances where parties will have good faith disagreements about discovery or their obligations under the law or rules, but that rarely, if ever, justifies requesting sanctions. My hope is that we remember we can “disagree without being disagreeable,” and that civility and courtesy are expected and not a sign of weakness.

In this issue, we celebrate our judiciary, and I would like to thank my wonderful husband, Judge Michael Gomez of the 129th Civil District Court, and all the judges who serve Harris County for your dedication to the justice system. Thank you for being part of the reason Harris County is the best place in the country to practice law.

The Houston Lawyer
March/April 2024
The Bench Bar Conference included a conversation about lawyering in the modern world, featuring (L to R) Charles “Chip” Babcock, U.S. District Judge Al Bennett, U.S. Attorney Alamdar Hamdani, Neal Manne, and Kelly Sandill.


DIRECTORS (2023-2025)

Carter Dugan Greg Moore

Jeff Oldham Colin Pogge

DIRECTORS (2022-2024)

Keri Brown Robert Painter

Samantha Torres

DIRECTORS (2023-2024)

Seepan V. Parseghian

EDITORIAl STAFF editor in chief

Liz Malpass

Associate editors

Anna M. Archer Sydney Huber Bateman

Nikki Morris Lane Morrison

Andrew Pearce Braden Riley editorial Board

Anietie Akpan Jaclyn Barbosa

Nicholas Beekhuizen Natasha Breaux

Hon. Kyle Carter Dasha K. Hodge

Teresa Hudson Kristen Lee

Harrison Long David T. Lopez

Dave Louie Eli Medina

Raymond Panneton Ciara Perritano

Hon. Josefina Rendón Jennifer Smith

Kyle Steingreaber Rachael Thompson

Mark Yablon

HBA OFFICE STAFF executive director Mindy G. Davidson Associate executive director Ashley G. Steininger executive Assistant and director of Board Affairs Gina Pendleton controller Sarah Kole director, Marketing and communications Maggie Martin communications specialist Briana Ramirez education coordinator Alli Hessel director, Projects and events Bonnie Simmons Projects and events Assistant Georgina Peña director, Membership and Technology services Ron Riojas ADvERTISIng SAlES DESIgn & pRODuCTIOn QuAnTuM/sur 10306 Olympia Dr., Houston, TX 77042 281.955.2449 • Publisher Leonel E. Mejía Production Manager Advertising Marta M. Mejía Mary Chavoustie President Diana Gomez President-elect David Harrell first vice President Kaylan Dunn second vice President Greg Ulmer secretary Collin Cox Treasurer Daniella Landers Immediate Past President Christopher V. Popov March/April 2024 7
Managing editor

AssocIATe edITors

Our Judiciary: Called to Serve in an Ancient Role

The desire for fairness is something that is innate, both in humans and in some mammals. A famous 2003 study showed that capuchin monkeys, when unequally rewarded for performing the same tasks, became indignant in the face of unequal treatment. When one monkey, in the sight of another, was rewarded for exchanging a pebble with a researcher with a delicious grape, while the other was only given a lackluster cucumber, the monkey who received the dud payment vehemently protested, throwing it back at the researcher and shaking his enclosure door with fury.

I’m all too familiar with my own toddler’s fury when, complaining of some bitter injustice, he shouts out the three-word phrase, “It’s not fair!” (He only learned to speak in sentences a few months ago, but that was somehow one of his first.)

It is no wonder that one of humanity’s oldest and most important traditions is for a fair and independent judge to review contested facts and make a fair and just decision about a dispute’s outcome.

The Egyptian Book of the Dead contains one of the world’s earliest depictions of such a judgment. The texts, which essentially serve as a guidebook for passage through the underworld, describe a stage on the journey in which a panel of 42 judges measure a life’s virtue. The final adjudication, in which a person’s heart is weighed against a single ostrich feather representing truth, is conducted using the ubiquitous golden scales that adorn many of our offices.

Justice—that uniquely human aspect of administering fairness that stretches back before human memory and certainly before human writing—is as important now as it was in ancient times. Our judicial system and the rule of law that it enforces remains the backbone of our society.

This issue honors our local judges: those who have taken up the mantle of that ancient responsibility by presiding over our federal, state, county, and municipal courts.

The articles in this issue explore the day-to-day lives of our judges, their transitions to the bench, and the ways they work beyond the call of their roles by participating in the community as mentors, leaders, and volunteers. We also celebrate the traditions of judicial service among family members.

While we worked on this issue, we learned of the passing of two judges whose memories we wish to honor. The Honorable Morris lee Overstreet served on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals from 1991 to 1998, and in that role was the first African American to be elected to a statewide position since Reconstruction. He also later served on Waller County’s Prairie View Municipal Courts before returning to private practice. The Honorable Armando v. Rodriguez, who served as Justice of the Peace in Harris County Precinct 6, Place 2 for 45 years, was the longest tenured judge in Harris County and the first Hispanic full-time municipal court judge in Houston. This issue features an interview by the Honorable Josefina M. Rendón with him and his daughter, the Honorable Angela D. Rodriguez, who recently stepped into her father’s role as judge over Precinct 6, Place 2. Thank you to our guest editors, the Honorable Josefina M. Rendón, who has served on the bench at the municipal, justice court, and state district court levels, and Ciara perritano, a trial attorney who is no stranger to the courtroom.

We know you will also enjoy listening to the latest installment of Behind the Lines, which features conversations on courtroom decorum, judicial exchange programs, and other ways our judges engage with our community.

As always, thank you for reading The Houston Lawyer

The h
from the editor
ouston Lawyer
Nikki Morris BakerHostetler Andrew Pearce BoyarMiller Lane Morrison Bush Seyferth Anna M. Archer U.S. District Court Braden Riley Cozen O’Connor
8 March/April 2024
Sydney Huber Bateman Horne Rota Moos March/April 2024 9

Pathways to the Bench

“There is no one path to success, only the one you forge for yourself” –Unknown

i ntroduction By a n D rew p ear C e

If there is no one path to success, then it is equally true— maybe more so—that there is no one path to the bench. Fortunately for us, we have the opportunity to read about the experiences of three of our outstanding jurists on the unique roads that led each of them to their respective seats—as a justice on the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, a judge of the 152nd Civil District Court, and a Harris County justice of the peace.

First, David T. López writes about Justice Jerry Zimmerer and the sense of purpose and vision that led him to the practice of law and, ultimately, a seat on the Fourteenth Court of Appeals. Next, Lynne Liberato provides an insight into Judge Robert K.

Schaffer’s path to, and time on, the bench of the 152nd Civil District Court, including the essential elements of his transition and tenure: from preparing for a steep learning curve to leaving a legacy of devotion and respect for the judges and lawyers who serve our system of justice and the citizens who depend on it.

Finally, Judge Josefina M. Rendón tells us about Judge Eric W. Carter, who has been a justice of the peace for Precinct 1, Place 1 since 2017, and whose path was paved as a servant leader dedicated to his family, his profession, and his community.

Each took a different path, and their success has benefited us all.

Andrew Pearce is a shareholder and the litigation group chair at BoyarMiller. He is the articles editor for The Houston Lawyer


Justice Jerry Zimmerer

For Justice Jerry Zimmerer of the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, the road to an appellate bench opened when, as a 17-year-old Pasadena High School senior, he had a religious awakening which gave him a sense of purpose.

His developing vision of participation in improving society led him to Houston Baptist University, where in 1978 he obtained a bachelor’s degree in theology and business management. Justice Zimmerer felt a growing commitment to religious activities, considered how he could combine a productive enterprise that would include his desire to work closely with others, and decided that a career in law would conform to both interests and would be consistent with his family’s tradition.

His father, a lawyer, did not offer encouragement. He suggested that his ideas of societal change were too abstract and would not conform to the intellectual rigor of the law. Numerous discussions over many months, in which he disagreed, ultimately concluded with his desire to try law school.

Justice Zimmerer enrolled at South Texas College of Law and determined in his first semester that his religious perspective and inclination to the principles of right and wrong were, in his view, very consistent with the application of the rules of law. He confirmed his attraction to addressing legal problems, even though he had to address the concerns of his parents, having

received two “Fs” in his first semester. A third “F” would have meant expulsion. Justice Zimmerer nevertheless persisted, and by the third year, his grades improved enough to rank him above average in his 1984 graduating class.

With his degree and license, Justice Zimmerer entered the legal profession with enthusiasm. He was determined to apply his law training in a manner consistent with his continuing commitment to biblical peacemaking and the fomenting of improved and productive personal relationships. The law, he believed, could be perceived as a gray area in such relationships. Therefore, he thought a lawyer’s role should be to aid in exploring alternatives, understanding competing interests, and, to the extent possible, negotiating a resolution satisfactory to all concerned. An essential key, he insisted, was for individuals to know themselves and to be open to the beliefs and feelings of others.

Justice Zimmerer successfully established a client base in his own law firm but faced a demanding situation. He and his wife, Nancy, had twin daughters, Nicole and René. Nicole was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and Mrs. Zimmerer, who had held an executive administrative position with a regional company, attended to Nicole’s home care and education. Justice Zimmerer closed his firm and accepted employment with one of his clients, Net Integrated Services, Inc., a technical company that offered health benefits to meet the costs of Nicole’s medical treatment and equipment.

10 March/April 2024

Justice Zimmerer served not only as corporate counsel, but also worked in sales and marketing, thereby acquiring extensive technical knowledge and certification. His technical experience and empathy for the beliefs and interests of people with different backgrounds subsequently led to his employment with Exxon Mobil and AT&T, and the opportunity to handle international assignments.

Justice Zimmerer dealt with legal principles and issues in the systems of foreign countries, including application of civil law, distinct from American common law and based on the Napoleonic Code, with strict reliance on statutory provisions and scant consideration of judicial interpretations. His expanded perspective of personal relations induced a desire to better understand and relate to the lives and laws of different populations and how they resolved their conflicts. He decided to return to law school to perceive how different legal systems operated, and whether some aspects of foreign laws could be adapted to improve American procedures and advance the relationship and productivity of international commercial relations. Justice Zimmerer obtained skills and experiences in networking and communications as a network engineer, with special training and certification in project management, global business services, and network and internet design and applications.

Justice Zimmerer returned to the University of Houston and enrolled in a master’s program in international relations. Be-

cause of a chance encounter with William Winslade, dean of the Health Law Section, Justice Zimmerer chose health law as his supplemental concentration. Dr. Michael S. Ewer, visiting distinguished professor and director of the Health Law and Policy Institute at the UH Law Center, urged Justice Zimmerer to include health law in his studies and assisted him in obtaining an internship in the ethics department of MD Anderson Cancer Center. In 2015, Justice Zimmerer obtained an LL.M. degree in international law, followed shortly after by an LL.M. degree in health law. He also studied arbitration at the A.A. White Dispute Resolution Center at the UH Law Center and has been certified to conduct domestic and international commercial arbitrations.

After obtaining his master’s degrees, Justice Zimmerer established Zimmerer & Associates. Utilizing his corporate experience and his advanced legal education, his practice included litigation; arbitration; establishment and operation of complex business entities; cyber security law and compliance; health law; medical practice structures; investments in real estate; and Delaware statutory trusts. Justice Zimmerer also owned, managed, and served on the board of several businesses and served as a visiting lecturer and on the board of advisors of the Health Law & Policy Institute at the Law Center.

As an active litigator, Justice Zimmerer was able to compare court practice in Houston to what he had encountered inter- March/April 2024 11

nationally and in his prior practice. He became convinced that both practitioners and judges could consider modifications that substantially could improve the processing of cases. In particular, the time between the filing and the final disposition of the cases, both at the district and the appellate levels.

In 2018, Justice Zimmerer decided to personally contribute to ideas proposed by others and him to address ways in which litigants and judges could improve the handling of contested cases. Believing that his experience would be particularly effective at the appellate level, he ran for, and was elected as, justice to the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, Place 3.

When Justice Zimmerer assumed the bench, appeals were being handled in his chamber for 15 months or more. He has implemented procedures that have reduced the pending time to 60 days or less. He promotes efforts to train trial judges in developing similar improvements and encourage their implementation through public attention and potential establish-

ment of recognition or certification.

The Zimmerer’s celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary in February and are very proud of their twin daughters. René graduated summa cum laude from the University of Houston and pursued a medical career at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Nicole adapted well to her disability. After graduating from UH, she accepted a presidential fellowship and obtained a Master of Fine Arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University in playwriting and dramaturgy. The world premiere of one of her plays opened March 1 at the Be Street Theater in Sacramento, California.

David T. López, a former journalist and active litigator, is a domestic and international arbitrator, mediator, and member of and contributor to The Houston Lawyer editorial board.

THe PATH To A DiSTRiCT CoURT BeNCH : Judge Robert K. Schaffer

On his first day on the bench in 2009, Judge Robert K. Schaffer says he violated the fundamental rule that he would live by during his time as judge of the 152nd Civil District Court of Harris County. Judge Schaffer walked into his courtroom that day to find two of his longtime friends on opposite sides of a temporary restraining order request. He reflexively joked: “It’s you guys. I’m outta here.” That, according to Judge Schaffer, is exactly what a judge should not do. He made light of the circumstances instead of showing unwavering respect for the judicial process. In his view, he conveyed an informality inconsistent with the dignity of the court. Perhaps Judge Schaffer seems unduly hard on himself, but the incident underscores the advice he offers to lawyers transitioning to the bench: “Keep things very formal, use excessive restraint, treat people with courtesy, and show respect to the lawyers, the clients, and the judicial process.”

Showing respect to the lawyers, Judge Schaffer explains, is essential to remaining impartial. “Be comfortable in your own shoes. Understand your role as a neutral and then step out of the way. Let the lawyers do their job.” That aspect of the job came naturally to Judge Schaffer, no doubt in part because he was a mediator for 16 years. “I know people who were great advocates who wrestled with it for a period.” Judge

Schaffer, whose 60 colleagues elected him to four two-year terms as local administrative judge, models the behavior he advises: “I stay out of the way so lawyers can have a fair playing field, so you will win or lose on your own. Do not put your finger on the scale. Don’t rule based on who you think should win.” Ineffective lawyers, Judge Schaffer cautions, require judges to make especially difficult decisions. “Sometimes,” he observes, “it is the lawyer who messed up, not the client. You must decide what you need to do. I may let a case proceed, for example, even if it merited a directed verdict.”

When possible, Judge Schaffer aims to do what is right for the parties. “You do not want to decide based on the way their lawyer acts unless it is absolutely necessary.” New judges must also adjust to how they are treated outside the courtroom. Judge Schaffer emphasizes: “You are treated differently by everyone.” He recounts that before he was sworn in, a man passed by him in an aisle at Costco and said “Hi, Judge.” A startled then-Judge-elect Schaffer remembers: “I had no idea who this guy was.” “It’s not good or bad,” he says. The key is how judges handle this type of attention. “You have to be careful not to get ‘black robe disease.’ You must be confident in yourself to control that and not let it get out of hand. But you cannot stop it.”

Judge Schaffer also recommends that new judges take some practical steps. If the circumstances allow, he suggests that new judges seek the advice of the current judge and even ask to shadow the judge “to get a look at the reality from the other side of the bench.” He also recommends visiting with

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court staff to learn how the court operates and evaluate how well they can work together. In his case, Judge Schaffer retained his predecessor’s entire staff.

The next step is obvious: new judges must transition out of all of their cases. This means tackling the logistical challenges of closing a practice: “Clean up your files, settle cases, or refer them. Take care of business commitments like leases.” Judge Schaffer had some unwelcome help in closing the private practice he maintained 24 years. Shortly before he assumed the bench, Hurricane Ike flooded his office, destroying much of what he otherwise would have needed to move.

Judge Schaffer advises new judges to be prepared for a steep learning curve. The first step is to “go to new judge school.” The program, which is sponsored by the Texas Center for the Judiciary, “helps judges recalibrate.” Judge Schaffer also suggests that new judges admit when they are unfamiliar with an area of the law. In his case, for example, his practice had focused on personal injury law, so “if you were coming to see Schaffer, you might want to educate him about contracts.” He tells new judges: “It’s okay to stop an advocate and ask him or her to dial it back and speak in English. They have lived with the case and should know a lot more about it.”

Judge Schaffer also has some advice for lawyers appearing before a new judge: “Look on the court website. All 24 civil judges have policies and procedures posted. Find out about

the judge before you walk into the courtroom, so you don’t step in it.” That word, respect, again comes up in appearing before new judges: “Be respectful because if you go in with an attitude, you will get an attitude back from the judge. If you are nice, they will be nice.”

As he approaches the end of his tenure on the 152nd District Court, Judge Schaffer’s awe for the role of the judiciary is stronger than ever. “You have to sit in that chair for a while to fully appreciate your role. You are making decisions that affect people’s lives and livelihood.” When he leaves the court, Judge Schaffer plans to serve as a visiting judge, arbitrator, and mediator. Recalling his first day as a judge, he may view his start as inauspicious. But he leaves a legacy of devotion and respect for the judges and lawyers who serve our system of justice and the citizens who depend on it. There is no better example for a transitioning judge—or any of us.

A former editor of The Houston Lawyer, Lynne Liberato is an appellate lawyer for Haynes and Boone, LLP. She has been president of the Houston Bar Association and the State Bar of Texas and was a journalist before going to law school at South Texas College of Law Houston.


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TJudge Eric Carter

he Honorable Eric W. Carter has been a justice of the peace since 2017. A 2006 South Texas College of Law Houston graduate, he started his path to a legal career at a very young age. Early on, both of his parents (Eric G. Carter and Rev. Dr. Suzan Orr Carter) encouraged him to be not only a lawyer, but to also be involved in the community and help others. “My father,” he said, “always encouraged my brother Kyle and me, from a young age, to pursue a legal education. My mother encouraged us to serve others, especially those most vulnerable. Naturally, my brother and I chose the path that we have—a life of service through the law.”

including: criminal, civil small claims, forcible detainers, truancy, animal cruelty cases, tow hearings, mental health cases, and more. Another important difference is that litigants are often unrepresented by counsel.

Still, even while having a successful law practice, Judge Carter felt a calling to a judicial path.

‘I enjoyed my time as a litigator, but I was called to a career of service as a JP.’”

Soon after passing the bar exam, Judge Carter started working with his father and brother (Judge Kyle Carter). He practiced mostly general civil litigation involving business law and medical fee healthcare disputes. Asked about his experience working with family, he stated that it was a wonderful experience. “As a young lawyer, I was blessed to have the guidance of two attorneys who genuinely cared about my development in the craft.”

Still, even while having a successful law practice, Judge Carter felt a calling to a judicial path. “I enjoyed my time as a litigator, but I was called to a career of service as a JP. I love being on the ground floor, working with members of the community to help resolve their disputes.” Regarding his judicial path, he added: “I enjoy the varied nature of the justice court. All day, every day, we have the opportunity to help those who cross our court’s threshold during what is often a stressful and unfamiliar process.”

Judge Carter’s path through his legal and judicial career has gone hand in hand with his path as a husband and father. Outside of court, he spends most of his time with his wife, Dr. Lauren K. Shepard, DO (a pediatrician) and his children.

Similarly, hand in hand with his professional path has been his path of community service. To him, just as important as the work on the bench is the work off the bench—out in the community, spreading the good word about what justice courts do, informing the public about the remedies available through the court, and reassuring the community that the court is available to help resolve disputes. He also recently started a program called Judge Carter’s Teen Court that is designed to bridge the gap between courtroom and classroom, educate youth about the judicial system and career possibilities, and offer opportunities to avoid the criminal justice system. He also works along with his brother in JAWS (Judges at Work in Schools) and Join, Inc. (Judges Out in Neighborhoods).

In short, Judge Carter’s judicial path has not diverged much from the work he did before becoming a judge. Year round, he can be found working alongside other community leaders in all types of events and programs to help others. Judge Eric Carter is an excellent example of a public servant; an example to be followed.

Judge Carter’s court is one of the busiest in the state, with nearly 30,000 case filings in 2023 alone. When asked how JP Court disputes differ from those in other courts, he stated that JP courts handle a much greater number and variety of cases,

Judge Josefina M. Rendón is a 1976 graduate of the University of Houston Law Center. She is a former state district judge and is currently a special judge for the Harris County justice of the peace courts. She is also a proud longtime member of The Houston Lawyer editorial board.

14 March/April 2024

A Day in the Life of a Harris County Judge

The Houston Lawyer invited three judges to share what happens behind the bench.

Seeking to Make a Positive Difference in People’s Lives

Most people know that Judge Kyle Carter has been the judge of the 125th District Court since 2009. Maybe less well known is that he is a native Houstonian, his dad a lawyer and former marine, his mother a Methodist minister, and his brother, Judge Eric Carter, the Harris County justice of the peace for Precinct 1, Place 1 since 2016. Judge Carter has been married to his wife Melanie, for more than 20 years, and they have a daughter, Kylie, and two sons, Caleb and Cotton.

Judge Carter has also actively been involved in the Houston community for years. He is an active Mason and Shriner, a member of the University of Texas Chancellor’s Council, a life member of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Committee, the founder and president of Judges

at Work in Schools (a charitable organization dedicated to teaching students of all ages about the judicial system), and the founder and president of Join, Inc. (a charitable organization that brings together judges to address specific community needs).

There is no shortage of day-to-day activities for Judge Carter. In fact, the list is almost endless, from managing the 2,500 cases on his docket, to preparing for oral hearings (he reads every piece of paper in advance of every hearing), to presiding over jury and bench trials, to overseeing his submission docket and attending an almost endless number of “can’t miss meetings,” where, more often than not, at least two are scheduled for the same day and time.

Yet, when thinking about what Judge Carter does in a day, the better question becomes: Why does he do it, especially the public service elements? It comes as no surprise when Judge Carter says “law and service” are in his blood, a philos -

DAy iN THe Life of JUDge KyL e CARTeR :
i ntroduction By a n D rew p ear C e March/April 2024 15

ophy he hopes his children will learn to embrace by watching his example, the same as he did by watching his parents before him.

When asked what traits he felt were most important in his daily work, Judge Carter answered: his demeanor, his humility, and his communication. Maybe the best example of Judge Carter revealing each of those traits, to me, was a video I watched of Judge Carter speaking Spanish as he officiated a wedding in his courtroom. When I asked him about it, Judge Carter said that he took it upon himself to learn conversational Spanish because it is important to him to be able to communicate with his constituents in their language.

Judge Carter attended Strake Jesuit College Preparatory, whose mission is forming “Men for Others.” For Judge Carter,

that mission reveals itself in the opportunities he has every day to make a positive difference in people’s lives—whether by taking care of a jury, reading everything to properly prepare for a hearing, and learning a second language. Judge Carter says he does each of those things and more every day, because he has “taken it upon [him]self to become better.” Imagine what this world could be if we all did the same.

Andrew Pearce is a shareholder and the litigation group chair at BoyarMiller. He is the articles editor for The Houston Lawyer

A NigHT iN THe Life of JUDge DAviD o. fRAg A :

Balancing the Administration of Justice as Houston’s Evening Presiding Judge

Thirty-one years after going off the air, Night Court, one of the funniest and most underrated sitcoms of the 1980s/early 90s, recently came back to television as the latest series to get the revival treatment. In its original running, the kindhearted and quirky Judge Harry Stone presided over a fictional Manhattan courtroom that played host to a steady stream of oddballs (in the series reboot, the court is presided over by his daughter, Judge Abby Stone).

But while the zany cases on the show were fictional, night courts are very much a real thing!

Houston’s own “night court” is presided by the Honorable David O. Fraga, evening associate presiding judge of the Houston Municipal Court, who oversees the operations for the City of Houston’s seven evening courts, which hold dockets from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Before his appointment to the bench, Judge Fraga practiced family, probate, juvenile, and criminal law as a young attorney in a small firm he shared with his uncle, Angel Z. Fraga. It was through this experience that Judge Fraga developed an avid interest in the youth of our society and their treatment in the legal system. In 1991, Judge Fraga was appointed as a substitute municipal court judge by the late Houston Mayor Bob Lanier. He was subsequently appointed by former Mayor

‘‘ The night courts also inform defendants of their legal rights and how their cases could affect their personal, as well as professional lives.”

Bill White to be a full-time municipal court judge in 2005. Once he was appointed as full-time judge, he was assigned to the evening Municipal Court No. 12 and given the title of evening associate presiding judge. The evening Municipal Court No. 12 is a hybrid court that oversees adult and juvenile cases that are assigned to the courts evening dockets, covering juvenile, truancy, and arraignment/trial dockets.

In addition to overseeing Municipal Court No. 12 and the other six evening courts, Judge Fraga’s responsibilities include magistrate warnings and managing the administrative operations of the court’s cashier, warrant, parking, and passport departments. But leading night court also brings non-traditional responsibilities: “This position has afforded me the opportunity to be a bit of a plumber’s apprentice,” Judge Fraga shared with a laugh. “I make sure the ‘pipes’—the court operations—are running, but sometimes that means making sure the actual plumbing in the building is working too, sometimes fixing it myself with a plunger!”

Despite the nocturnal whimsy these court operations may bring, it is important to emphasize the greater transformative impact Houston’s night courts have had on the services and operations of the city’s municipal system: “The night courts have served as a foundation of Houston Municipal Courts in that the judges handle the arraignments and setting of jury or bench trials in the daytime courts, as well as the setting of

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bench trials for the evening courts,” Judge Fraga explained. “The night courts also inform defendants of their legal rights and how their cases could affect their personal, as well as professional lives.”

When asked to reflect on his 30-plus years of public service, Judge Fraga highlighted his rewarding interactions with the public—particularly special needs defendants, such as the homeless, military veterans, and members of the public with mental health challenges—to inform them of the legal

aspects of our society. “The municipal court may be the only time that the public will have any interaction with any court systems,” he emphasized. “It is important, therefore, that their experience is informative and navigable.”

Anietie Akpan is director, corporate counsel for Mattress Firm, Inc. and a member of The Houston Lawyer editorial board.

JUDge JULiA MALDoNADo: Giving to Family & the Bar

Many bar associations have annual bench bar conferences, where judges and attorneys learn together about the law and interact with each other.

Those are incredible experiences. But Judge Julia Maldonado, presiding judge of the 507th District Court in Harris County, takes this concept to a higher level than most judges and attorneys would imagine.

“When we go to law school. They don’t teach us to be attorneys,” the judge said. “I feel our attorneys need mentoring and guidance without feeling any hesitation about talking to a judge.” Those words are backed up with consistent heavy lifting.

Most every Friday morning from 8:00 a.m. to about 9:30 a.m., Judge Maldonado and several family law attorneys (including the author), law students, and other judges meet in her chambers to discuss practicing law in family court. She even brings a variety of Shipley DoNuts and coffee.

Akin to serious Bible study, the judge and her mentees read out loud several pages of the Texas Family Law Handbook and discuss practical applications along the way. The judge reads the handbook in advance of class and sometimes makes an excited utterance that she did not know that and will adjust accordingly. She explained, “I want to learn by going through the handbook and to get to know more people and to get their perspective and for them to get my perspective to help make them bet-

ter attorneys for their clients.”

Most every Friday for several years, Judge Maldonado guides new and experienced attorneys through the Texas Family Code, and everyone discusses different points of view and March/April 2024 17
Judge Maldonado (third from right) holds court in chambers with several attorneys and a law student.

how a certain statute might be better interpreted for future cases.”

“This keeps me on my toes and updated on the law,” she continued. “I love learning with the attorneys and judges. I love the camaraderie. We’re a family. And we welcome new people as family.”

The judge has her regulars. Some have practiced family law for decades. Others are new either to family law or the practice of law. The exchanges among the attorneys, Judge Maldonado, and her fellow judges who drop in like it’s the Johnny Carson show are often entertaining, vibrant, challenging, and interesting—but always engaging and educational.

Texas is believed to be the only state to have jury trials in family court (only custody, reason for divorce, and property classification). The judge decides property distribution and visitation schedule. But jury trials are not common. She held just two jury trials in 2023.

I love learning with the attorneys and judges. I love the camaraderie.
We’re a family. And we welcome new people as family.”

The Friday morning group also discusses new laws that have not made it to the handbook, such as when the Texas Supreme Court recently amended the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure to eliminate the need to provide required disclosures without being asked in Texas Family Code issues. So, today, practitioners must once again request disclosures.

They discuss the practice of law in the courtroom. They talk about the importance of having a basic knowledge of the law and civility among all the players.

But there is another side of Judge Maldonado that most people do not see.

Most early Monday mornings, Judge Maldonado takes her son, Victor Lombrana, to work. He is happily married with children, but he also has been legally blind (genetically) since age 21. His wife takes the children to and from school.

Judge Maldonado still makes it to her 9:00 a.m. trial docket call, which typically takes one to two hours to complete. About 10:30 a.m., she tries cases and takes about 15-20 minutes for lunch. After more hearings or trials, she leaves at about 5 p.m. to pick up her son from work.

“What’s scary to me,” Judge Maldonado said, is that she constantly needs to read the everchanging law “to make sure I make the right rulings.” She advises attorneys, “When in doubt about any specific portion of relief that they are requesting, look at the specific part of the Code and read it.”

She continued, “I love when someone pulls the Code and follows the Code and asks the questions based on the Code.”

Many attorneys, and especially litigants, agree that family court is too often difficult and emotionally draining. But Judge Maldonado easily finds her most professional fun in weddings and adoptions. She particularly enjoys “saving a child from a dangerous situation and placing the child in a better situation.”

In sum, Judge Maldonado invites interested attorneys to join her family. She explains, “Just show up in chambers in the 507th District Court on the 15th floor [of the main Civil Courthouse on Caroline] and tell the clerks you are here for coffee and doughnuts.”

Mark P. Yablon founded Yablon Law PLLC to be a growing, client-centered law firm that helps businesses and individuals with commercial litigation, bankruptcy, probate, estate planning, real estate, and family law. He is on the editorial board of, and contributor to, The Houston Lawyer and Behind the Lines: The Houston Lawyer Podcast .

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Houston’s Judicial Families

Achild’s best role model is often a parent, who guides— intentionally and unintentionally—the younger’s development into the members of society they eventually become. That is especially true of several remarkable Houston judges and justices, who are all part of trailblazing judicial heritages that continue to impact the city’s and state’s judiciary at all levels.

We feature Justice Amparo Guerra of Houston’s First Court of Appeals and her sister, Regi Richardson, who is running for the Thirteenth Court of Appeals. They both credit their trailblazing mother, Justice Linda Yañez, with their current paths to the Texas high courts. We remember Judge Armando V. Rodriguez, whose longtime tenure shaped Harris County’s JP Courts, and honor his daughter, Judge Angela D. Rodriguez, who contin-

ues his powerful legacy on the court. We highlight Judge Elaine Marshall, who leads the city’s municipal courts, and her daughter, Judge Janikka Bratton, who does the same—in her mother’s image—in La Porte. And we celebrate Judge Zinetta Burney, a longtime leader in Harris County’s JP Courts, and her daughter, Judge Sharon Burney, who has since carried that heavy baton in the same seat.

All of these remarkable families show how much impact a trailblazing parent can have on their children, and how that influence can positively impact us all.

Lane Morrison is a senior litigation associate at Bush Seyferth PLLC and the committee and section spotlight editor for The Houston Lawyer.

Two geNeRATioNS of Tex AS JUSTiCeS : Justice Linda Yañez, Justice Amparo Guerra, and Regi Richardson

The A delitas were famed female fighters of the Mexican Revolution who broke barriers to help further the political reform, social justice, and equality ideals that the Revolution represented. The Adelitas’ bravery, strength, and resilience during the Revolution paved the way for greater gender equality in Mexico in the years following.1

The Adelitas spirit has long guided Justice Linda Yañez— the first woman to serve on the Thirteenth Court of Appeals and the first Latina to serve on any Texas appellate court. She proudly passed that spirit down to her two daughters: Justice Amparo Guerra of Houston’s First Court of Appeals and Regina “Regi” Richardson, who is now running for a seat on the Thirteenth Court. Each in her own unique way embodies the fighting spirit of the Adelitas

Yañez was born in her grandmother’s small Rio Hondo home

to parents who never attended high school. She attended grade school in a system segregated by language. As a teenager, she picked cotton in the Rio Grande Valley and later in northern Illinois vegetable fields when her parents traveled there for factory work. There, Yañez learned both the value of hard work and about the many barriers facing immigrant farm workers. From there, she took an incredible path.2 After college, she was an elementary school teacher and then went on to work on one of President Nixon’s cabinet committees. After law school at Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University (“TSU”), she went into private practice in Brownsville and eventually became an instructor at Harvard Law School. Later, she spearheaded the charge that resulted in the landmark Plyler decision 3 and eventually led President Clinton’s transition team on immigration issues. Then, in 1993, Governor Ann Richards appointed her to the Thirteenth Court of Appeals, where she served until 2010.

Along the way, Yañez shared these experiences with Regi— born during Yañez’s first stint in Washington, D.C.—and Amparo—born soon after Yañez completed law school. Take Yanez’s first pregnancy with Amparo: During bar prep, Yañez was very pregnant, a fact that did not go unnoticed by her fellow preppers—90% male. One group refused to take the exam in the same room with her; they feared she would give birth at any moment and disrupt them. So, she took the bar while

TRAiLBLA zeRS AND THeiR Nex T geNeRATioN : March/April 2024 19

eight-and-a-half months pregnant in a small room with other women. She had Amparo just weeks before finding out that she passed (Yañez likes to say that Amparo sat for (and passed) the bar twice). Later, as girls, Regi and Amparo accompanied Yañez as she tirelessly fought for immigrants’ rights. During the early days of what would become Plyler, they visited refugee homes with Yañez as she advised and consoled clients. At migrant detention centers, the girls witnessed the royal treatment Yañez received for her great work—some migrants even wrote a song of thanks.

Regi, though, at first thought she was destined for the stage, not the courtroom. Though she briefly attended UT Austin’s Radio, Television & Film program, bumps along the way impeded her momentum to finish school. But Yañez never stopped encouraging her. Then, two things happened: Regi became a single mom, and Amparo decided to go to law school (instead of medical school). These events—and perhaps a little sisterly competition—motivated Regi to finish her undergraduate degree in just two years so that she could start law school at the same time as Amparo. After completing law school at TSU and working at two civil litigation firms, Regi has been a solo practitioner in Edinburg since 2005, focusing on criminal defense while also handling juvenile, family law, and small business cases. In November, she hopes to win election to one of the four open seats on the Thirteenth Court.

Amparo’s path was impressive and credentialed. She graduated from the prestigious St. George’s School in Newport, Rhode Island—attending on a full academic scholarship. She double majored at Rice and then attended the University of Houston Law Center on a Dean’s Merit Scholarship. During law school, she earned public interest fellowships with Texas Rural Legal Aid (where her mother was once an attorney) and Farmworker Legal Services in Michigan (not far from where her mother was once a farmworker). After graduating in 2002—the same time as Regi—Amparo clerked for Judge Filemon Vela in the South-

ern District of Texas. She was then an associate at Beirne, Maynard & Parsons and, for most of that time, also served as an associate municipal judge for the City of Houston. After a time as of counsel at Winstead PC, she became the first Hispanic partner at Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP (and again serving as an associate municipal judge) before winning election to the First Court of Appeals in 2020. Even along this impressive path, Amparo experienced firsthand the injustices against which her mom instilled a passion to address. In 1995, while waiting to board a flight bound for the Northeast, she was stopped by the U.S. Border Patrol, who suspected she was illegally in the country. Yañez schooled the agent on the unconstitutionality of his baseless stop and forever instilled in Amparo a lesson to always stand up for herself and her legal rights.

The events of November 5, 2002 may most poignantly sum up this trio’s strong bond. That was election day—one where Yañez was hoping to become the first Latina to serve on the Texas Supreme Court. Though that was not to be, that day she was with Regi and Amparo when they received news that they had both passed the bar exam. Despite Yañez’s professional disappointment, both Regi and Amparo remember the visible selfless pride in their mother’s eyes about their news—that her daughters were entering the rewarding profession on which she had already made such an impact. She, of course, could not know then that her daughters would later follow in her judicial footsteps, but she had to know that the fighting spirit of the Adelitas that had inspired her and that she had instilled in Regi and Amparo would rocket both to heights that she had years ago helped make possible.

Lane Morrison is a senior litigation associate at Bush Seyferth PLLC and the committee and section spotlight editor for The Houston Lawyer

Judges Armando V. Rodriguez and Angela D. Rodriguez

Anative Houstonian, Judge Armando V. Rodriguez was a trailblazer for most of his life. In 1972 he was appointed by Houston Mayor Louie Welch as a municipal court judge, making him the first full-time Hispanic judge in Harris County. Soon after, in 1973, he was appointed by Harris County Judge Bill Elliot as justice of the peace in Precinct Six, making him not only the first Hispanic

attorney in that position but also, after 45 years, the longest tenured judge in the county. He was reelected an amazing total of 11 times. Asked about his thoughts regarding that experience, he simply stated: “It was a marvelous opportunity to help and connect with my community.”

At an early age, Judge Armando’s mother began to tell him that he should be a lawyer. He also stated that ever since elementary school, he acted as a third party neutral, as he would help mediate and resolve disputes involving other kids from school. This was his early introduction to mediation. That ex perience set him

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to be a pioneer in alternative dispute resolution as he implemented mediation into the JP courts early on and inspired a successful trend to this day of alternative dispute resolution there.

From an early age, Judge Armando and his siblings were taught to be active in the community, helping neighbors as his parents had done. His mother was a founding member of their neighborhood’s church, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Also following his parents’ example, he became involved in the community, including being one of the co-founders of Fiestas Patrias International Parade in 1969, which celebrates Mexico’s independence and culture and is one of the largest parades in the area.

Judge Armandos passed away on March 5, 2024, leaving a lasting legacy on the JP Courts and his family.

Judge Angela D. Rodriguez, Judge Armando’s daughter, has followed the family tradition of important achievements. Among other accomplishments, she was the first female JP in Harris County’s Precinct Six and the first female Hispanic vice chair of the county’s bail bond board. A graduate of Thurgood Marshall School of Law, she became an attorney in 2013 and practiced law until becoming a judge in 2018, when she was sworn in by Judge Zinetta A. Burney shortly after being appointed by Harris County Commissioners Court. She has now been reelected twice. Asked to describe growing up a judge’s daughter, her response was heartfelt and inspiring: “He taught me that to help other people succeed, shine, and stand on their own is a rewarding endeavor worthy of time and effort. He showed me that by

helping people, you honor your own family and all of the love, care, and time that they have invested in you.”

When Judge Angela was a child, she spent a good amount of time around the courthouse. She would help update pocket parts of case books, observe trials, tag along at weddings, and find any reason to be around her dad. “I have always looked up to both my mother and father; they encouraged me to try my best in school and to continue pursuing my goals as a scholar,” she stated.

Judge Armando had a lasting impact on Judge Angela: “It has been an honor to be his daughter. By example, he has taught me how someone should be. I endeavor to follow his example, by serving our community with my best work: to listen and apply the law fairly.”

Judge Josefina M. Rendón is a 1976 graduate of the University of Houston Law Center. She is a former state district judge and is currently a special judge for the Harris County Justice of the Peace Courts. She is also a proud longtime member of The Houston Lawyer editorial board.

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Judge J. Elaine Marshall and Judge Janikka Bratton

The mother-daughter relationship is one of the most profound and complex dynamics in human society. It is a bond that despite its complexities, remains unbroken, is fiercely protected, and grows stronger with time. The transformative power of that relationship is beautifully exemplified by Judge J. Elaine Marshall and Judge Janikka Bratton. The former is an institution in the Houston municipal community, a dedicated public servant who has presided in the Houston Municipal Court for almost four decades. The latter, her daughter, is a young judge new to the bench, who has followed in her mother’s footsteps by leading the municipal court in La Porte, Texas.

Before joining the Houston Municipal Court, Judge Marshall was a Harris County assistant district attorney for almost seven years before Judge Bratton was born. As a young ADA, Judge Marshall was instrumental in developing the office’s child abuse section, responsible for prosecuting cases of preschool-aged children who had been assaulted or injured. Trying those cases, however, was arduous and emotionally taxing. And, above all, it took Judge Marshall’s time away from a then-baby Janikka. As a result, she began researching other career options which would offer better work-life balance. After finding a posting by former Mayor Kathy Whitmire seeking new municipal judges, Judge Marshall submitted her resume and was ultimately appointed to the bench as a full-time judge in 1987, a position she has steadfastly maintained for nearly forty years. During her distinguished tenure, Judge Marshall has been promoted from full-time municipal court judge to administrative judge, to associate presiding judge. Then, in 2016, former Mayor Sylvester Turner appointed her as the City of Houston’s first African American director and presiding judge of the Houston Municipal Court. In this leadership position, she is responsible for leading 300 employees and overseeing six locations across the city, where those employees work and serve the public.

“Janikka was only 18 months old and I was holding her when I was sworn in as a judge,” shares Judge Marshall. “She grew up in this courthouse and had pretty much the run of the courts!” Over the years, Judge Bratton went from participating in the Houston Mu-

nicipal Court’s “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” as a young child (“She was always upset that I didn’t give people their way!” shares Judge Marshall), to, as a young adult, becoming a key instructor and trainer in the city’s Teen Court, a program designed for young people interested in law and criminal justice that allows them to try cases involving their peers. Judge Marshall revived the then-ailing program over 10 years ago, which under her leadership has grown from 15 to nearly 150 volunteers and expanded participating schools to several Houston-area school districts. Despite how inextricably linked her coming of age was to the Houston Municipal Court, Judge Bratton expressed she was not initially interested in pursuing a legal career: “I actually wanted to be a veterinarian,” she shared, “But that changed once I started college. After a few political science classes, I quickly realized that I loved the law and being a lawyer was what I wanted to do.”

After graduating from Baylor University, Judge Bratton attended South Texas College of Law Houston and worked as an associate at a Houston law firm, practicing defense work in municipal courts throughout Houston and surrounding areas. She stayed with that firm for almost 10 years before she applied for the opportunity to lead the La Porte Municipal Court as its presiding judge.

On September 25, 2023, Judge Bratton was sworn in as director and presiding judge of the La Porte Municipal Court by her mother, Judge Marshall—marking a historic moment in Black history and Texas history as the first mother-daughter presiding judges in the State of Texas. Just like her mother, Judge Bratton wears multiple hats in her leadership of the municipal court: she presides over all dockets, including arraignment dockets, and conducts bench trials, and jury trials; manages court staff; makes daily jail appearances; and is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week for search warrants and juvenile magistration.

In looking back on her historic swearing-in, Judge Bratton said, “It was surreal and hard to keep my composure. It is one thing to know that your mother is proud of you, but it is another to see her beaming with pride while reading the words that started the next chapter of my career.” In her own reflection of that day, Judge Marshall describes the many great moments she has had with Judge Bratton over the course of her budding legal career—she had the honor of hooding her daughter when she graduated from law school and of swearing her in when she passed the bar. Judge Marshall expressed, however, that swearing her daughter into the occupation that she loves was one of the best days of her life: “I made it through the oaths of office, shed a few tears, and my heart was full of pride and joy,” she explained. “Words can’t express how proud I am of her. She is a remarkable young woman, who is

LiK e MoTHeR, LiK e DAUgHTeR :
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caring and giving, and I am so grateful God gave her to me.”

As daughters, our mothers are crucial to our development— they are our first women role models, who shape and mold us as citizens of the world, as friends, as wives, and as mothers of our own children. As members of the judiciary, Judge Marshall and Judge Bratton are highly respected women who demonstrate excellence in the fair administration of justice. Though their respective pathways to the bench were paved with their industriousness, academic excellence and community-oriented servant

leadership, those paths are rooted in their beautiful relationship, a lovely labyrinth of shared experiences, mutual admiration, and an intense love for one another as mother and daughter.

Anietie Akpan is director, corporate counsel for Mattress Firm, Inc. and a member of The Houston Lawyer editorial board.

The Honorables Zinetta Burney and Sharon Burney

Judge Zinetta A. Burney never anticipated or planned on becoming a judge.

Before becoming an attorney, Judge Burney was a licensed vocational nurse and graduated from Texas Southern University with a degree in mathematics in 1968. Soon after, she became interested in the law, graduated from Thurgood Marshal School of Law, and became a lawyer in 1974. She then started her own law firm practicing both civil and criminal law. It was in 2004, 30 years after she became a lawyer, when Justice of the Peace Al Green resigned from the bench to become a United States congressman, that Judge Burney received many calls from community leaders urging her to run for Judge Green’s vacant seat.

After so many calls, she decided to run and became the first female judge of the Justice of Peace Court, Precinct Seven, Place Two. Over the years, Judge Zinetta has received plenty of attention from the local media, including an article in The Forward Times regarding her final days as a judge, which reflects the sentiments of many who know her: “Although Judge Burney has always remained an extremely humble and low-key public servant, she has been a strong pillar in the community and it is fitting to recognize her long service on the judiciary and to the community.” 4

Like her mother, Judge Sharon Burney did not plan to be a judge. She was a high school teacher and administrator for the school district’s homeless program for 25 years. When she became an attorney in 2006, two years after her mother became a judge, she decided to focus on probate law. However, after her mother retired from the bench in 2018, Judge Sharon, like her mother, listened to the urging of others when she decided to run for a position on the bench. The year she was elected, Judge Sharon was part of a historical event that impacted the courts in Harris County. That year, 19 African American women were elected to the Harris County judiciary. This historical event

drew widespread attention and recognition from national print and broadcast media.

Judge Zinetta Burney and Judge Sharon Burney are nativeborn Houstonians. Mother and daughter live close to each other and maintain a close relationship. Showing their kind and friendly nature, both judges hardly ever talk about their careers and their courts without mentioning a longtime friend who has supported them over the years. Mrs. Sylvia Ybarbo started working as a clerk in Judge Zinetta’s law firm in 1988. Upon being elected in 2004, Judge Zinetta asked Ybarbo to join her as an assistant chief clerk and later as her chief clerk. After Judge Zinetta retired, Judge Sharon asked Ybarbo to stay and work with her. When asked about both judges, Ybarbo had much to say. Regarding Judge Zinetta, Ybarbo said: “Our clients and their cases were always a priority for her. She was also dedicated to her role as a judge and her passion for the community.” Regarding Judge Sharon, Ybarbo was equally proud: “I admire her dedication to the Court, her care and consideration towards the younger generation, and her sense of direction.”

Such admiration for Judge Zinetta and Judge Sharon is widely held—both have made a positive impact in their community not only as judges, but as examples to be followed.

Judge Josefina M. Rendón is a 1976 graduate of the University of Houston Law Center. She is a former state district judge and is currently a special judge for the Harris County Justice of the Peace Courts. She is also a proud longtime member of The Houston Lawyer editorial board.


1. Mabel Aguirre, The Lost History of the Adelitas of the Mexican Revolution, July 25, 2023,

2. For more, UT-Arlington’s Oral History Interview provides significant insight into Justice Yañez’s biography and career. See Jose Angel Gutierrez, Oral History Interview with Linda Yañez, 1998, 105.xml.

3. 457 U.S. 202 (1982).

4. Jeffrey Boney, Judge Zinetta Burney Hits Gavel for Last Time as Harris County Justice of the Peace, FORWARD TIMES (2019). March/April 2024 23

Shaping Future Lawyers and Leaders

i ntroduction By a nna a r CH er

The Houston Lawyer asked several Houston-area lawyers who had judicial clerkships with judges in different geographic areas and court levels to write about the judge–clerk relationship for this special issue of The Houston Lawyer. I have some expertise in this topic, so I quickly volunteered to compile the articles. I have been a career judicial law clerk for 14 years, and I have had the privilege of working with more than 20 term law clerks. Consequently, the content of the articles we received for this feature did not surprise me. The clerks genuinely loved their clerkships and built lasting relationships with their judges, and they believe there is no better way to prepare for a career in litigation than clerking for a judge. Some of them also generously shared important lessons they learned while clerking with our readers. Each former clerk offers insight into what it is like to clerk for a specific judge or judges.

Lawyers who have clerked for a judge typically are excellent legal researchers and writers who have a broad and nuanced understanding of legal issues. I have also observed that former clerks tend to be more willing than other lawyers to give back to

the legal profession. For example, the former clerks who wrote for this issue were enthusiastically willing to write about their relationships with their respective judges on a tight timeline. One of the reasons former clerks are so generous with their time is because very early in their careers they observed a lawyer who they respect more than anyone else—their judge—giving back by teaching them. They thus learn that accomplished lawyers give back. These former judicial law clerks are the future of our profession, and the important leadership skills that were nurtured by their judges will continue to impact our profession for years to come.

Anna Archer is the career law clerk to the Honorable Gray H. Miller, senior U.S. district court judge for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division. She is also an associate editor of The Houston Lawyer, and the host of Behind the Lines: The Houston Lawyer Podcast. Anna would like to thank Ciara Perritano and Nikki Morris for their assistance with compiling these articles.

Forging Profound and Unparalleled Connections

In the heart of the Lone Star State, a unique and special bond unfolds within the hallowed chambers of the Supreme Court of Texas. Clerking for a justice on this esteemed court transcends the ordinary, forging a connection that is both profound and unparalleled. Justice Paul W. Green, a judge of the highest cut, was a godsend in my life, giving me a chance at a bright career as his law clerk during the 2018 to 2019 term.

Clerks on this court—the state’s highest appellate court— handle cases of paramount importance that impact the lives of everyday Texans. For this reason, Justice Green impressed upon me his expectation for top-shelf legal writing and research, no small thing, and trusted me to get it right. This level of trust and reliance forced me into clear writing, clean analysis, and effective communication, all foundational to a successful legal career. In private practice, where tight deadlines and highly intense situations demand clear and accurate work, I rely on these skills to move cases forward with my teams. I owe my early success, in large part, to Justice Paul W. Green, his staff attorney, and my coclerk for their patience in law and ability to see the job through.

The experience of clerking on the court, and, in particular, in Justice Green’s chambers, goes beyond the professional realm, extending into a personal connection I share with the former justice. To this day, I keep in contact with Justice Green, now a partner at Al-

exander Dubose & Jefferson LLP, and lean on him for advice, both professionally and personally, and on important matters in my life.

Justice Green similarly values his relationships with his former clerks, and when asked to comment for this article, he said, “Trevor was a strong clerk. He made quite an impression on me and the Court as we chased perfection together in legal writing and justice. I have a deep, mutual respect for the young man and am proud to call him a friend. I wish him the highest success in life.”

When my time ended on the court in Austin, the Honorable David S. Morales, U.S. district court judge for the Southern District of Texas, Corpus Christi Division, hired me as one of his first law clerks after his 2019 appointment and confirmation. Judge Morales, an excellent judge who has unending patience, gives his clerks autonomy in managing chambers and their own caseload. He expects a high level of professionalism from each of his clerks. This clerkship propelled my legal career and forced me to adapt to the fast-paced environment of federal trial court litigation, both civil and criminal.

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Trevor Deason with Justice Paul w. green.

(L to R) Arlene Rodriquez, U.S. District Judge David Morales, Trevor Deason, Laura Ashdown, and Riley Smith.

Over the years that I clerked for Judge Morales, I came to know him personally beyond our work together on the court. He took a genuine interest in my personal and professional development, offering guidance on career placement and private practice. I consider the Corpus Christi federal courthouse, and in particular Judge Morales’ chambers, a second home. I visit chambers every chance I get.

When I asked Judge Morales to comment on his relationships with his clerks, he said, “As a trial court judge, I need good clerks in the trenches with me, helping me both in the courtroom and with managing the ever-increasing caseload. Trevor was extremely capable and sharp, someone I counted on to perform under pressure in moving our cases along. I’m very pleased that Trevor was one of my first law clerks. He set a high standard; a standard I expect will serve him well throughout his career” I am, indeed, proud to have been one of his first clerks and to have benefited from his mentoring and friendship.

Trevor Deason is a litigation associate at Jones Day in Houston.

He represents clients in complex commercial litigation in federal and state courts. His three years of clerking for a federal district judge and one year of clerking for a justice on the Supreme Court of Texas serve him well in providing insight in every phase of a dispute, from initial preclaim evaluation to verdicts and appeals. Trevor dedicates this article to Justice Green and Judge Morales. March/April 2024 25

The Perfect Training Ground for a New Lawyer

Clerking has positively molded my early legal career. I clerked for two judges at two different courts: first, the Honorable Jane N. Bland, justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, and second, the Honorable Jeffrey V. Brown, U.S. district court judge for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division.

Both Justice Bland and Judge Brown have served at all three levels of the Texas judicial system.

With the hindsight of a few years of private practice, I offer a few of the highlights that I took away from my clerkships:

A clerkship is the perfect training ground for a new lawyer.

As a law student, I regularly heard (in numerous variations) that clerking is the ideal job for a new lawyer. I wholeheartedly agree. Given that there is a heavy emphasis on research and writing, a judicial clerk’s assignments initially seem familiar because we all learn how to research and write in law school. But a judicial clerk’s work quickly begins to resemble the typical practice of litigation, in which development of a factual record is key. As the clerk must consider the evidence and the briefs prepared by attorneys on both sides of the aisle. This prepares the judicial clerk for practice more thoroughly than working on the types of projects one encounters as a first-year associate at a law firm.

Clerks, of course, also have the benefit of learning from the judges for whom they work. When I clerked, I was impressed by how Justice Bland and Judge Brown could identify and decisively get to the heart of an issue. For a young lawyer, in contrast, everything seems essential. It is difficult not to get bogged down by extraneous facts or legal issues. As a clerk, you begin to learn how to cull what is unnecessary. For example, I learned (in my admittedly inartful recreation here) that effective legal writing should gently lead the reader down a “hill.” From the opening sentence to the final line, a successful legal opinion (or brief) should so smoothly flow that the reader

finds the conclusion not just persuasive but inevitable. The diversity of the issues a clerk tackles is a perk, too. For example, because the Supreme Court of Texas’ jurisdiction is mainly discretionary, the matters SCOTX clerks assist with are often intellectually stimulating and challenging. Whether assisting with an opinion or drafting a “study memo,” I quickly grappled with unfamiliar substantive and procedural law. The Supreme Court of Texas is also one of the few state supreme courts that allows its law clerks to observe the court’s judicial conferences. Observing the justices discuss the pending petitions and cases was invaluable to understanding what they found important and persuasive. Similarly, for my district court clerkship, the best education came from reading an assortment of persuasive to simply frustrating pleadings and likewise watching lawyers perform well or poorly. You learn to emulate what is effective and (hopefully) not repeat the mistakes of others.

‘‘ The diversity of the issues a clerk tackles is a perk, too. For example, because the Supreme Court of Texas’ jurisdiction is mainly discretionary, the matters SCOTX clerks assist with are often intellectually stimulating and challenging.”

you won’t be right all the time. Nothing has yet compared to the professional pride I felt when the justices agreed with a recommendation I made in a study memo, or when a ruling I supported was later affirmed. However, the judges I worked for sometimes disagreed with my conclusions and directed me to reverse course. In this situation, of course, your job as a clerk is to provide an initial and thoughtful analysis. But the experience of correcting course as a clerk is an early introduction to navigating rulings not going your way in private practice. While embarrassment is natural, using those experiences to bolster your humility and resiliency makes you a more resilient lawyer.

A coda to the rest of the courts’ staff.

My positive relationships with my fellow clerks, the courts’ staff, and the courts’ interns made clerking particularly worthwhile. I was (and still am) inspired by the thoughtfulness, hard work, and community shared by everyone drawn to work for the courts.

Henry Legg is an associate attorney at Steptoe LLP’s Houston office. He graduated from University of Texas Austin in 2014 and University of Houston Law Center in 2019.

(L to R) Judge Brown’s case manager, george Cardenas; Daniel Rankin, 2019 graduate of UT Law; Henry Legg; and Judge Jeff Brown.
26 March/April 2024

BSeeing Behind the Curtain

efore I began my clerkship with the Honorable Rolando Olvera, U.S. district court judge for the Southern District of Texas, Brownsville Division, I was convinced I would practice criminal law. While clerking, though, I realized that civil litigation is far more interesting than the rules we learn in our civil procedure classes. After spending my clerkship year immersed in research, offering recommendations for rulings based on established case precedent, and drafting opinions, I knew I wanted to be a civil litigator. Clerking offers young attorneys the unique experience of seeing behind the curtain, and I took advantage of every moment by constantly asking questions. I am often staffed on federal cases because of my clerkship experience, and I credit my clerkship year with molding my current civil litigation practice.

Through clerking, I learned tips that I still use today:

1. Never blow a deadline, but don’t sweat requesting an extension.

2. Write for your audience. Most judges have first-year attorneys take a first crack at resolving dispositive motions, and an attorney fresh out of law school does not know the intricacies of niche litigation practice areas.

3. Keep the bickering to a minimum. Judges do not appreciate spending significant time moderating counsel disputes.

Apart from the opportunities I had to learn from seasoned litigators advocating daily in the courtroom, the biggest impact the clerkship has had on me is the mentorship I continue to receive from Judge Olvera. He attended my wedding, he is looking forward to meeting my newborn son, and he stays in contact with me and all other clerks through a group chat that is used weekly. He has never turned down an invitation to speak at the numerous events I have invited him to, and every year he visits Houston to have dinner with all of the former clerks residing here. His advice continues to be invaluable to me. I am forever grateful he granted me the opportunity to serve his Brownsville, Texas community.

Daniella Martinez is a litigation associate at BakerHostetler LLP. She focuses her practice on complex commercial litigation in both state and federal courts. She represents clients in a broad range of matters, including commercial disputes, energy litigation, and personal injury claims. March/April 2024 27

The Importance of Writing, Preparation, and Building a Network

When I began my judicial clerkship in 2017 with the Honorable Marvin Isgur, U.S. bankruptcy judge in the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, the outgoing clerk told me that clerking for Judge Isgur was the best job he ever had. When my clerkship ended in 2019, I realized he had undersold that description. Although I still consider my legal career to be in its infancy, the two years I spent in Judge Isgur’s chambers have had meaningful and tangible impacts on my career.

Writing is perhaps the most important skill a young attorney can develop because conveying information in a clear, accurate, and concise manner is imperative, regardless of whether one practices transactional or litigation law. In this respect, my clerkship was the most intense and beneficial writing course I have ever taken. Having the opportunity to distill complex legal and factual concepts into judicial opinions that are part of the public record was extremely challenging. However, working with Judge Isgur to refine my writing dramatically improved my skills as a writer in a short time. After entering private practice, I was able to build upon this foundation and was confident in my ability to tackle complex writing assignments.

My clerkship also taught me the true meaning of what it takes to be prepared as an attorney. In a day when parties increasingly settle to avoid the costs and delay of litigation, my two years clerking provided me with a unique opportunity to view numerous trials and arguments before Judge Isgur. Most

attorneys I saw were well versed in the facts and legal theories, as well as those of their opponents. Others were not as well prepared and unable to answer fundamental questions, even joking that they went to law school to avoid math when important economic issues arose. From these examples, I learned the importance of what it means to be truly prepared as an attorney. I also saw first-hand the effort Judge Isgur put into each of his cases, never taking the bench without reading every pleading filed and conducting his own independent research into issues. I have tried to incorporate these lessons and Judge Isgur’s level of preparation into my routine as a practicing attorney, which has benefited my career in leaps and bounds.

Last, the network of former Judge Isgur clerks has provided me with a sense of community. I still frequently rely on Judge Isgur for advice as a young attorney. But during my clerkship and the years that followed, I have also developed professional and personal relationships with former clerks, and these relationships have been equally important to my growth as an attorney. As I take on more responsibility in cases and negotiate more frequently with opposing counsel, I often find myself opposite other former Judge Isgur clerks. Although not always amicable and often difficult, these negotiations are faster and more efficient due to the relationships and the bonds we have formed as prior clerks.

Kiran Vakamudi is a senior associate at Vinson & Elkins LLP.
28 March/April 2024

The Bench and the Bar Partnership

The Houston Bar Association (“HBA”) and Houston Young Lawyers Association (“HYLA”) strive to serve the needs of Houston-area lawyers and enhance the legal profession by connecting us all as a community. Together, the HBA and HYLA offer hundreds of member events each year. The organizations not only provide networking opportunities for attorneys, but judges as well. Partnerships with the judiciary are a key tenet of providing meaningful interactions for all levels of attorneys, from those who are newly licensed to seasoned practitioners.

From signature events, such as the Houston Bar Foundation and Houston Bar Association’s Annual Harvest Celebration and HYLA’s Evening with the Judiciary, to more casual gatherings, including the HBA section holiday parties and HYLA’s weekly Run Club, members are bound to spot a judge in their midst. This dynamic is part of what makes bar membership worthwhile, knowing that judges and attorneys have shared interests and values in fostering a sense of community among all of us.

What is also remarkable is that judges get involved with the more than 30 HBA committees. These committees are gateways for local lawyers to perform meaningful community outreach to people who may never meet someone from the legal profession—much less a member of the judiciary. A prime example is the Teach Texas Committee, which recruits judges, attorneys, and Houston-area school districts to participate in a project organized by the Texas Supreme Court and the State Bar of Texas Law-Related Education Department, based on the book series Taming Texas. Through this program, judges and attorneys teach students in seventh grade Texas history classes how the state’s court system fits into the larger picture of Texas history, from the days of Stephen F. Austin to the present. This year’s committee includes Co-chair Judge Dawn Rogers of the 334th District Court. Judge Rogers said:

“The Houston Bar Association has done an exceptional job bridging the gap between the bar and the judiciary. It is extremely important that we work together and the community sees our cohesive collaboration.”

For several years now, HYLA members have gathered on

Wednesday evenings for exercise and fellowship. Attendees are encouraged to walk or run at their own pace, then cool down with attorneys and judges. This year, the HBA Fun Run Committee and HYLA partnered together for “HBA Night hosted by the HYLA Run Club: Run with a Judge,” where members were invited to run or walk with a judge. The HYLA committee is co-chaired by Joshua Upton and Humam Daas. Daas said: “Run with a Judge has allowed us to connect with our peers in a meaningful way outside of any stresses from work. By stepping out of the courtroom, we are able to connect with the judiciary on an individual level. We are grateful for judges’ involvement, and we hope to continue improving mental wellness in the legal community one step at a time.”

Judge Upton also offered:

“We see Run with a Judge as an opportunity to have informal networking outside of a traditional happy hour or mixer. Especially since our jobs can be sedentary, it’s good to have a contrasting alternative available for networking. We’ve gotten overwhelming good feedback from the judges who have been involved, and several have come back even outside of the normal Run with a Judge programming.”

Judge Mike Engelhart of the 151st Civil District Court, who has participated in Run with a Judge, said: “Judges are very fortunate to serve their communities and the bar. In return, at a minimum, judges must make themselves accessible and participate in bar activities regularly. Activities like Run with a Judge, and myriad others, are fun and meaningful ways to share ideas while also sharing mutual interests.”

By intentionally forming and fostering these meaningful connections with the judiciary, both bar associations provide an invaluable member benefit.

Brooksie Bonvillain Boutet is a trial and arbitration attorney at Shipley Snell Montgomery LLP.

She is a former editor in chief of The Houston Lawyer

30 March/April 2024
(L to R) Judge Mike engelhart, John Porter, and Barney Dill at a Run with a Judge event.

Equal Access Champions

The firms and corporations listed below have agreed to assume a leadership role in providing equal access to justice for all Harris County citizens. Each has made a commitment to provide representation in a certain number of cases through the Houston Volunteers Lawyers.

abraham, Watkins, nichols, agosto, aziz & stogner

akin gump strauss hauer & feld LLp

angela solice, attorney at Law

archie Law pLLC

Baker Botts L.L.p.

Bakerhostetler LLp

Balch & Bingham LLp

Beck redden LLp

Blank rome LLp

Bracewell LLp

Centerpoint energy, inc.

Chamberlain hrdlicka

Chevron Usa

Coane & associates

dentons Us LLp

elizabeth s. pagel, pLLC

eversheds sutherland Us LLp

exxon mobil Corporation

fleurinord Law pLLC

foley & Lardner LLp

frye and Benavidez, pLLC

fuqua & associates, p.C.

gibbs & Bruns LLp

gibson, dunn & Crutcher LLp

gray reed

greenberg traurig, LLp


hasley scarano, L.L.p.

haynes and Boone, LLp

hunton andrews Kurth LLp

Jackson Walker, LLp

Jenkins & Kamin, LLp

Jeremy northum, attorney at Law

King & spalding LLp

Kirkland & ellis LLp

Law Office of Cindi L. Rickman

Law Office of Norma Levine Trusch

Law Office of Robert E. Price

Law Offices of Omonzusi Imobioh

Limbaga Law

Locke Lord LLp

LyondellBasell industries

Martin R.G. Marasigan Law Offices

mcdowell & hetherington LLp

mcgarvey pLLC

morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLp

norton rose fulbright

o’melveny & myers LLp

painter Law firm pLLC

reed smith LLp

royston, rayzor, Vickery & Williams, LLp

sanchez Law firm

shell Usa, inc.

shipley snell montgomery LLp

shortt & nguyen, p.C.

sidley austin LLp

sorrels Law

squire patton Boggs

the ericksen Law firm

the Jurek Law group, pLLC

travis Bryan Law group, pLLC

Vinson & elkins LLp

Weycer, Kaplan, pulaski & Zuber, p.C.

Wilson, Cribbs, & goren, p.C.

Winstead pC

Winston & strawn LLp

Yetter Coleman LLp

Foundation Presents Chief Justice

Nathan L. Hecht with Highest Honor and Welcomes Linda Hester As New Chair

HBA Past President and Bracewell LLP Partner Warren W. Harris presented the James B. Sales Pro Bono Leadership Award to Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht during the Houston Bar Foundation’s Annual Luncheon on March 7. Chief Justice Hecht also delivered the keynote address.

Linda Hester became the Chair of the Houston Bar Foundation. Hester succeeds Monica Karuturi of CenterPoint Energy.

Under Karuturi’s leadership as Chair, the Foundation accomplished several access to justice initiatives, including the launch of a new $50,000 annual grant program. The first of these grants was a $30,000 grant for the purchase of one of several lactation pods to be installed in the Harris County Court Complex. The Foundation also received a watershed gift of $500,000 from CenterPoint Energy to assist self-represented litigants in Harris County, and the 74th Annual Harvest Celebration in November raised a record-breaking amount of almost $1.1 million for Houston Volunteers Lawyers.

in 2022 after 30 years of practicing law in Houston—first at firms, and then in the legal departments of ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66. Throughout her career, Hester has been an advocate for pro bono service, representing clients through Houston Volunteer Lawyers and the Tahirih Justice Center. She received a Certificate with Distinction in Nonprofit Leadership from Rice University in 2021.

“It is my honor and privilege to succeed Monica Karuturi as Chair of the Houston Bar Foundation,” said Hester. “We have so many accomplishments to celebrate over the past year as we are working even harder to broaden and deepen the impact our legal community can make to improve the lives of our fellow Houstonians. I want to thank Monica for her dedication, service, and stewardship of the Foundation, and I look forward to working with our Board of Directors to champion access to justice in the greater Houston area.”

Hester joined the HBF Board in 2022. She retired

The Foundation’s board includes Alistair Dawson of Beck Redden LLP and Sejal Brahmbhatt of Williams Hart & Boundas, LLP as Vice Chairs; Richard Whiteley of Bracewell LLP as Treasurer; incoming 2024-2026 directors Benny Agosto, Jr. of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner; Jennifer A. Hasley of Hasley Scarano, L.L.P.; Stephanie Noble of Vinson & Elkins LLP; and Krisina Zuñiga of Susman

Godfrey L.L.P.

The 2023-2025 directors who will continue to serve their two-year term are Sara Keith of Shell USA, Inc.; Holly Chastain Nini of CITGO Petroleum Corp.; Andrew Gratz of LyondellBasell; and Christopher D. Northcutt of Chevron Corporation. Monica Karuturi will serve on the board as immediate past chair. HBA President Diana Gomez of Chamberlain Hrdlicka will serve as ex officio, as will HBA Executive Director and Secretary of the HBF Board Mindy Davidson.

Hester and Karuturi honored Davidson for serving the HBA and the Foundation with dedicated enthusiasm, leadership, strategic thought, and care.

The Foundation acknowledged recipients of the Harris County Bench Bar Pro Bono Awards, as well as winners of awards from the Harris County Dispute Resolution Center (DRC).

Photos by Deborah Wallace, Barfield Photography HBF Chair Linda Hester presented Immediate Past Chair Monica Karuturi with a plaque for outstanding service to the Foundation. HBA Past President and Bracewell LLP Partner Warren W. Harris presented the James B. Sales Pro Bono Leadership Award to Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht. The 2024 HBF Board of Directors (L to R) Christian A. Garza, Sejal Brahmbhatt, Andrew Gratz, Hillary H. Holmes, Quentin L. Smith, Monica Karuturi, Alistair Dawson, Mindy Davidson, Sara Keith, Krisina Zuñiga, Richard Whiteley, and Linda Hester. (Not pictured: Holly Chastain Nini, Christopher D. Northcutt, and Christopher V. Popov.) The 2025 HBF Board of Directors. (L to R) Jennifer A. Hasley, Stephanie Noble, Sejal Brahmbhatt, Andrew Gratz, Monica Karuturi, Alistair Dawson, Krisina Zuñiga, Sara Keith, Linda Hester, Richard Whiteley, and Benny Agosto, Jr. (Not pictured: Holly Chastain Nini, Christopher D. Northcutt, and Diana Gomez.)
32 March/April 2024
Hester and Karuturi honored HBA Executive Director and Secretary of the Houston Bar Foundation Mindy Davidson for her service to the HBA and the Foundation.

2024 Harris County Bench Bar Pro Bono Award winners

Thank you to the 2023-2024 Harris County Bench Bar Pro Bono Awards Committee, comprised of HBA board members, leaders of other local bar associations, and members of the Harris County judiciary.

Co-chairs :

HBA President Diana Gomez and Hon. Latosha Lewis Payne, Harris County Local Administrative Judge

Committee Members :

David Harrell, Locke Lord LLP

Christopher Popov, Vinson & Elkins LLP

Traci A. Gibson, Houston Lawyers Association

Nicole Su, Asian American Bar Association

Hon. Joe Villarreal, Mexican-American Bar Association of Houston

Daniel Rodriguez, Hispanic Bar Association of Houston

Hon. Ana Martinez, 179th Criminal District Court

Hon. Te’iva Bell, 339th Criminal District Court

Hon. Tanya Garrison, 157th Civil District Court

Hon. Jeralynn Manor, 80th Civil District Court

Hon. Janice Berg, 247th Family District Court

Mindy Davidson, HBA Executive Director

The Houston Lawyer outstanding Legal Article

Dispute Resolution Center Award winners

Ernest Martin (photographed with Nick Hall) was recognized for Longevity of Service to the DRC. Shell USA, Inc. was this year’s recipient of the Corporate Law Department Award. (L to R) Former HBF Chair Travis Torrence, Katherine Baehl, Aselda Thompson, and HBF Director Sara Keith. Winston & Strawn LLP received this year’s Mid-Size Firm Award. (L to R) Caitlin E. Gernert, Madison K. Haueisen, Sean Beecroft, Madison L. Bennett, Brandon Duke, and Former HBA President and Former HBF Chair Denise Scofield. This year’s recipient for the Individual Award, Jeremy Northum, Attorney at Law. (L to R) Kaitlyn Dawson, Amy Snell, Alex Rodriguez, Xperanza Uviedo, and George Shipley with Shipley Snell Montgomery LLP. At right, HBF Treasurer Richard Whiteley with Bracewell LLP, which won the Large Firm Award. Nikki Morris, associate at BakerHostetler LLP and The Houston Lawyer associate editor for legal trends, received this year’s award for her article in the November/December 2022 issue, “Becoming a New Mom is Hard–But Law Firms Don’t Have to Make it Harder.” Heather Davis (pictured with Dispute Resolution Center Executive Director Nick Hall) received the award for Outstanding Contribution to the DRC. March/April 2024 33

Annual HBA Eikenburg 8K Fun Run Honors “The Father of Jogging”

The HBA Fun Run returned to Sam Houston Park in downtown Houston on February 17. Participants and volunteers—families, friends, and colleagues—came together on a chilly Saturday morning to raise money for The Center for Pursuit, a local non-profit organization that offers various programs and services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism.

This year, the HBA Fun Run Committee added something special. The committee presented the Seymour Lieberman Trophy to the law school team who took first place, the Road Scholars from South Texas College of Law Houston (Grant Dykeman, Ryder Haag, and Caleb Ortega), who were sponsored by Strohmeyer Law PLLC. The trophy was renamed this year in honor of Seymour Lieberman, an HBA member (approximately 1938-1981) who was known as the “Father of Jogging,” in recognition of Lieberman’s contributions to the Houston running and legal communities. He promoted the mental and physical benefits of running in the 1950s and 60. Lieberman’s name is known to visitors of Memorial Park, which includes a three-mile trail that bears his name. “Hearing about the trophy being renamed in honor of Seymour Lieberman was particularly enlightening,” said South Texas College of Law Houston winner Grant Dykeman. “His legacy adds a meaningful dimension to our win.”

Friends” (Andrew Johnson, Dave Philipp, and Joe Philipp), who won the President’s Trophy and took first place in the Open Men’s division; “Part Time Cougars” from the University of Houston Law Center (Teresa Haney, Catherine Cleary, and Becca Plunkett), sponsored by King & Spalding LLP, took the top spot in the Open Women’s division; “Bayou Blaze” (Anthony Anniboli, Samantha Torres, and Luis Zuniga), and “HisBA” (Hon. Amparo Guerra, Sergio Leal, and Daniel Rodriguez) came in first place in the Mixed Master’s division. All three schools entered the race and were sponsored by our race sponsors. See the full list of this year’s winners at

The HBA Fun Run Committee added a few new additions to this year’s post-race party, including a DJ, a 360 photo booth, lawn games, and hot food.

This year’s other 8K team winners were: “Thompson Coe and

John J. Eikenburg created the Law Week Fun Run as HBA president in 1986. The race was renamed in his honor after his passing in 1997. The Center for Pursuit has been the beneficiary and partner of this annual event since its inception 37 years ago. Mr. Eikenburg’s son, Houston attorney John J. Eikenburg, Jr., participates in the Fun Run with his family every year by starting the kids 1K.

Special thanks to the co-chairs of this year’s Fun Run Committee: Benjamin Roberts, Benjamin Roberts Law, PLLC; Maine Goodfellow, Phillips 66; and Adam Weaver, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. The HBA also thanks Harris County Precinct One Constable Alan Rosen for his long-time support of this event.

Mark your calendars for the 40th Annual Fun Run on February 15, 2025. Learn more about the HBA Fun Run by visiting

Photos by Anthony Rathbun Photography (exceptions noted with *) “Thompson Coe & Friends” were this year’s winners of the President’s Trophy (L to R: Dave Philipp, Andrew Johnson, and Joe Philipp). Runners take off for the 8K race. The South Texas College of Law Houston “Road Scholars” (L to R: Caleb Ortega, Grant Dykeman, and Ryder Haag) won the Seymour Lieberman Law School Trophy. HBA President Diana Gomez poses with John J. Eikenburg, Jr. A photo of Seymour Lieberman, 1980, from HBA archives.
34 March/April 2024
The HBA Fun Run Committee Co-chairs (L to R: Benjamin Roberts, Maine Goodfellow, and Adam Weaver) presenting the race awards at the post-race party.

2024 HBA fUN R UN S P o NS o RS

T H ank you T o TH e fo LL owin G for TH eir suppor T

The Art Institute of Houston

Benjamin Roberts

BIG Power Yoga

Bloom Fitness

The Center for Pursuit

Equal Parts Brewing

Friends for Life Pet Adoptions

Gingersnaps, Etc.

Grand Old Grizzly

HARRA – Houston Area Road Runners Association

Hot Bagel Shop

The Houston Astros Foundation

Houston Dynamo/Houston Dash

Life Savers Emergency Room

Nan Properties


Watermill Express

Door prizes donated by :

BIG Power Yoga

The Center for Pursuit

Kendra Scott Highland Village

Little Matt’s

Row House Bellaire

Sigma Performance Training

Tradesmen Barber

HBA President Diana Gomez poses with her children (Matthew and Elina) and their friends before the kids 1K. HBA President Diana Gomez poses with her husband, Judge Michael Gomez, and (L to R) HisBA Board Member Lena Silva, and members of Team HisBA (Hon. Amparo Guerra, Daniel Rodriguez, and Sergio Leal).*

A Pipeline Organization

The HBA offers many opportunities for attorneys and firms to give back to the community through its committee work. Learn how at This year, we’re highlighting other organizations that also offer an avenue for lawyers to give back to Houston

The mission of Just The Beginning—A Pipeline Organization (JTB) is to encourage students from underrepresented groups to pursue career and leadership opportunities in the law. JTB’s vision is a legal profession in which lawyers and judges reflect the backgrounds and perspectives of the populations they serve.

nect with like-minded peers, establishing relationships for future success. Participants had the unique opportunity to engage with federal judges, accomplished attorneys, and aspiring law students. Sessions included “Leadership: Social Justice & Youth Activism,” “The Art of Negotiation,” and networking with legal professionals.

JTB provides exposure to various legal careers and leaders; helps students build legal, professional, and leadership skills and employ those skills in legal environments; and connects students with an extraordinary network of lawyers, judges, partners, and alumni. Programs at JTB include the middle school and high school Summer Legal Institutes, an Advanced Summer Legal Institute, law student externships, and programming in schools. JTB programs are in Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Nashville, Richmond (VA), San Diego, Seattle, Washington D.C., and online.

The iLead Law & Leadership Conference was held in Houston on February 19 at Thurgood Marshall School of Law. Sixty-nine students attended the conference and engaged in programming that provided students with invaluable insights into law and leadership. Beyond a learning opportunity, it was a chance for students to con-

The Honorable Alfred H. Bennett was instrumental in bringing this programming to Houston and had this to share on its significance: “The iLead Law & Leadership Conference at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law was a success because the Houston legal community supported the program by volunteering their time and treasure to make sure local high school students had the best experience possible. It was a great day for students, judges, public servants, and lawyers alike. Our nation’s future is bright because of the concerns and visions expressed by the students that participated in the program. They get it–we just have to follow their lead to address our nation’s problems.”

If you would like to get involved, consider joining the Houston Steering Committee and help plan and support the 2025 program! You can learn more about the program at or reach out to the program manager, Missy Jeje, at

Ida Kuruvilla is JTB’s senior manager of development. As a mission-focused fundraiser, Ida is dedicated to mobilizing people through philanthropy and is excited to work for a diverse organization committed to mentoring the next generation of attorneys and federal judges.

LaWYers giVing BaCK JUST THe BegiNNiNg:
The Houston Lawyer The Honorable Alfred H. Bennett (second from right) poses with participants. HBA President Diana gomez presenting at JTB’s conference on february 19.
36 March/April 2024
Participants of JTB’s iLead Law & Leadership Conference held at Thurgood Marshall School of Law.

The Olivia and Jesus Garcia Family

The Beginning

Jesus and Olivia, as eldest siblings and first-generation lawyers, have forged a remarkable journey that intertwines their personal and professional pursuits. From the outset, their paths seemed destined to converge, as they defied stereotypes and expectations ingrained within their traditional Hispanic communities.

Hailing from Texas, Jesus was raised in the border town of Rio Grande City, where the rich tapestry of two cultures shaped his upbringing.

Meanwhile, Olivia’s roots were planted in the outskirts of Houston, in Crosby, TX. Their Texan heritage imbued them with resilience, a profound appreciation for diversity, and passion for fortifying their communities.

Jesus began his educational journey at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a B.B.A. in Accounting before pursuing his passion for law at the University of Houston Law Center. Conversely, Olivia earned her B.B.A. from the University of Houston. Fueled by unwavering resolve, she earned her law degree from South Texas College of Law Houston in 2007.

most sought-after estate planning attorneys nationwide, catering to high-net-worth clients as far as Italy, Spain, and throughout the United States and Latin America.

for the Love of Law & Tacos

In 2009, Olivia and Jesus’ paths crossed, discovering they had overcome similar obstacles, shared values, but more importantly, they shared the same aspirations for the future.

Beyond their professional pursuits, their bond deepened over desire to find the finest street tacos in Houston—a testament to their Latin roots and culture they both deeply cherish. The couple were married in 2010 and are the proud parents of two boys, Mauricio (11) and Marco (8).

familia first

While the law was their first passion, their boys take center stage in their lives. “Our individual successes are due to our ability to work as a team,” said Jesus.

from Law Degrees to Legal Careers

Jesus began his career at Locke Lord LLP in 2000, where he rose to partner in 2009, honing his skills as a trial lawyer. In early 2012, pursuing his dream to help the “little guy,” he founded Kherkher Garcia, LLP, a plaintiff’s personal injury practice, which has since become one of Texas’s most successful firms. Whereas, Olivia specialized in estate and tax planning, eventually becoming a partner at Ytterberg Deery Knull LLP. Her bicultural and bilingual background has made her one of the

First and foremost, Jesus and Olivia are committed to their family, which encompasses not only grandparents, aunts, and uncles, but godparents, too. Grandparents share in the after school pickup duties. Aunts, uncles, and godparents attend school activities, soccer, and flag football games.

Despite the demands of trial work, Jesus dedicates time to coach their sons’ flag football and soccer teams. Olivia, who serves more niche clients, has a more flexible and predictable schedule, allowing her to prioritize every recital, PTA meeting, or tummy ache. When the boys are not performing at recitals, playing sports, or engaged in school activities, the family enjoys time outdoors, which includes fishing, hunting, golfing, hiking, skiing, and road trips with their beloved dog, Rocket. March/April 2024 37
LaW in the famiLY

The Kroger Family

During Spring 1989, Bill Kroger, a fourth-year joint J.D./ MBA candidate and “Teaching Quizmaster” (or ”TQ”) at the University of Texas, met a second-year J.D. and TQ applicant named Elizabeth Mata of Laredo, Texas. He was smitten by her intelligence, charm, and sass. He wooed her, initially unsuccessfully, until the day he brought her bagels and coffee for breakfast. She required additional convincing that he was worthy of commitment, but after a time, went all in. Despite never understanding the wonders of lengthy guitar solos played through Marshall amplifiers, she nevertheless asked him out to see Stevie Ray Vaughn’s last show in Austin at the Frank Erwin Center. The rest was history. They married on December 28, 1991.

By then, Bill was employed by Baker Botts in Houston, working with, and among, a remarkable group of lawyers, including Walter Workman, Lee Rosenthal, Diana Marshall, Steve Massad, Richard Josephson, Marley Lott, Joel Cialone, Stephen Tipps, Rufus Cormier, David Kirkland, Michael Goldberg, Paul Yetter, John Porter, Travis Sales, Maria Boyce, John Zavitsanos, Ty Buthod, Paul Elliot, Jane Bland, Jim Barkley, Stephen Dyer, and many others. Secretary Baker arrived at the firm in 1993, causing much excitement. J. H. Freeman, who had been Captain James A Baker’s assistant in the 1930s, still occasionally came to the office. During those early years, Bill worked for some of the historic clients of the firm— Mesa Petroleum, Pennzoil, and Hines (when Gerald Hines still ran the shop).

to help out at home. Two more happy, loving children were born in three-year intervals: Rebecca, and then Caroline. When Caroline was born, Elizabeth was working in-house, and had just six weeks paid leave.

In 1995, the year Ben was born, Elizabeth became board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. She eventually joined Martin, Disiere, Jefferson & Wisdom, where she has worked for over 20 years, practicing with Jack Wisdom and Dale Jefferson, among other fine lawyers. There, she worked with and helped mentor a young and talented Diana Gomez.

Elizabeth started with Fulbright & Jaworski, but wanting to practice labor and employment law, joined Bracewell & Patterson. There, she worked with, and was mentored by, Tom Melo and Scott Kneese, and learned her craft.

During the early 1990s, work was practiced much as it was 100 years before. Technology was a phone and a Lexis/Westlaw terminal. Research and writing were done with books, paper, scissors, and tape. Mediations were mostly unknown—cases were settled on the telephone, or went to trial. Lawyers would meet for lunch at a place called Carmens—Treebeards had not yet been invented.

Bill and Elizabeth’s first child, Ben, was born in 1995. Back then, maternity leave was 12 weeks, and Bill took vacation time

Bill became a Baker Botts partner in 1998 and has practiced at the firm for 35 years (and counting). He worked with and mentored several new generations of outstanding lawyers, eventually helping to lead the firm’s energy practices. Bill also was elected chancellor of the United Methodist Church Texas Conference and served as general counsel of the Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts.

Bill and Elizabeth have multidecade friends, clients, and professional relationships. They recall fondly their many decades of work together and separately for the Houston Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas, Communities In Schools, and now Houston Grand Opera.

Starting in 2022, their family grew. Ben married Samantha Lopez, a fellow student at UT Southwestern Medical School, and while continuing their medical education and training, had their first child in 2023, Townes Elizabeth. The year was also eventful because Rebecca began a master’s degree program in Medieval Literature at St. Andrews in Scotland, and Caroline graduated from Carnegie Mellon to begin a career in art.

Bill and Elizabeth have practiced law across four different decades. Their respective legal practices have introduced them to many interesting lawyers, clients, projects, and industries, and have given them stimulating and challenging work. Their legal careers have enabled them to lead impactful, purpose-filled lives, raise their family, and become active citizens in their community.

And the study of law facilitated their first meeting, 35 years ago.

in the famiLY
38 March/April 2024
The Houston Lawyer

Join the HBA 100 Club!

The houston Bar association 100 club is a special category of membership that indicates a commitment to the advancement of the legal profession and the betterment of the community. The following law firms, government agencies, law schools and corporate legal departments with five or more attorneys have become members of the 100 club by enrolling 100 percent of their attorneys as members of the hBa.

firms of 5-24 Attorneys

Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner

Ajamie LLP

Alvarez Stauffer Bremer PLLC

Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC

Buck Keenan LLP

Christian Levine Law Group, LLC

Coats | Rose

Crady, Jewett, McCulley & Houren, LLP

De Lange Hudspeth McConnell & Tibbets LLP

Dentons US LLP

Dobrowski Stafford LLP

Doyle Restrepo Harvin & Robbins LLP

Ewing & Jones, PLLC

Fisher & Phillips LLP

Fizer Beck Webster Bentley & Scroggins

Fogler, Brar, O’Neil & Gray LLP

Frank, Elmore, Lievens, Slaughter & Turet, L.L.P.

Funderburk Funderburk Courtois, LLP

Germer PLLC

Gordon Rees Scully & Mansukhani, LLP


Henke, Williams & Boll, LLP

Hirsch & Westheimer, P.C.

Holm | Bambace LLP

Horne Rota Moos LLP

Hughes, Watters & Askanase, L.L.P.

Husch Blackwell LLP

Jackson Lewis P.C.

Jenkins & Kamin, LLP

Johnson DeLuca Kurisky & Gould, P.C.

Jordan, Lynch & Cancienne

Kean Miller

Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP

Law Feehan Adams LLP

Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP


McGinnis Lochridge

McGuireWoods LLP

McKool Smith

MehaffyWeber PC

Morris Lendais Hollrah & Snowden

Murrah & Killough, PLLC

Nathan Sommers Jacobs

Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

Paranjpe Mahadass Ruemke LLP

Peckar & Abramson, P.C.

Phelps Dunbar LLP

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP

Ramey, Chandler, Quinn & Zito, P.C.

Rapp & Krock PC

Reynolds Frizzell LLP

Roach & Newton, L.L.P.

Ross Banks May Cron & Cavin PC

Royston, Rayzor, Vickery

& Williams, L.L.P.

Rusty Hardin & Associates, LLP

Schirrmeister Diaz-Arrastia Brem LLP

Schwartz, Page & Harding, L.L.P.

Scott, Clawater & Houston, L.L.P.

Shannon Martin Finkelstein

Alvarado & Dunne, P.C.

Shearman & Sterling

Shellist | Lazarz | Slobin LLP

Shipley Snell Montgomery LLP

Smith Murdaugh Little & Bonham LLP

Sorrels Law

Spencer Fane

Sponsel Miller Greenberg PLLC

Stuart PC

Taunton Snyder & Parish

Thompson & Horton LLP

Tindall England PC

Tracey & Fox Law Firm

Ware, Jackson, Lee, O’Neill, Smith & Barrow, LLP

West Mermis

Weycer, Kaplan, Pulaski & Zuber, PC

Williams Hart & Boundas, LLP

Wright Abshire, Attorneys, PC

Wright Close & Barger, LLP

Ytterberg Deery Knull LLP

Zukowski, Bresenhan & Piazza L.L.P.

firms of 25-49 Attorneys

Adams and Reese LLP

Andrews Myers, P.C.

Beck Redden LLP


Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP

Bush & Ramirez, PLLC

Cokinos | Young

Gibbs & Bruns LLP

Hogan Lovells US LLP

Kane Russell Coleman & Logan PC

Littler Mendelson P.C.

Martin, Disiere, Jefferson & Wisdom LLP

McDowell & Hetherington LLP

Wilson Cribbs & Goren PC

Yetter Coleman LLP

firms of 50-99 Attorneys


BakerHostetler LLP

Brown Sims, P.C.

Chamberlain Hrdlicka

Greenberg Traurig, LLP

Haynes and Boone, LLP

Jackson Walker

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

Susman Godfrey L.L.P.

Winstead PC

firms of 100+ Attorneys

Baker Botts L.L.P.

Bracewell LLP

Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP

Locke Lord LLP

Norton Rose Fulbright

Porter Hedges LLP

Vinson & Elkins LLP

Corporate Legal Departments

CenterPoint Energy, Inc.

EOG Resources, Inc.


Plains All American Pipeline, L.P.

Quantlab Financial, LLC

Rice University

S & B Engineers and Constructors, Ltd.

Law School faculty

South Texas College of Law Houston

Thurgood Marshall School of Law

University of Houston Law Center

government Agencies

Harris County Attorney’s Office

Harris County District Attorney’s Office

Harris County Domestic Relations Office

Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas

Port of Houston Authority of Harris County, Texas

1st Court of Appeals

14th Court of Appeals

Local Bar Association Boards of Directors

Hispanic Bar Association of Houston

Houston Young Lawyers Association

Litigating in the Fast Lane

Jeffrey Heyman, a civil defense litigator at Horne Rota Moos, LLP, has been interested in cars and racing as long as he can remember. From an early age, he always had a toy car in hand. He loved racing movies and video games, and never strayed from his love of all things cars. When he turned 16, Jeffrey bought his first car—a 1991 Ford Mustang. By the end of high school, he bought a 2003 Chevy Cavalier, which he modified himself by switching out engine parts to increase the car’s speed and power.

Jeffrey began racing his cars in Autocross races, where drivers navigate through a course defined by traffic cones on a large, paved area, such as a parking lot. This scratched his itch to race throughout high school and college, and he continued to modify his Cavalier to maximize its racing abilities.

salvage almost everything, and to this day, the car still has the same motor.

In December of 2016, Jeffrey was one year out of law school and living with one of his best friends, Jonathan, who shared his passion for cars and racing. They decided to purchase a car together—a 2001 Mazda Miata, which is well-known in the car world as one of the most reliable and agile cars for racing. As soon as they bought the Miata, they began working on it themselves. They made so many mistakes in the beginning that they called themselves Team Three-Fourths, because the car was held together with three out of four bolts.

Once the car was comfortably modified to start racing, Jeffrey and Jonathan began with Autocross to practice their car control and driving skills. In July of 2017, they took the car to its first formal track day at a local track called Grand Sport Speedway. It was a success by all measures, and the two began planning for future races. However, one month later, Hurricane Harvey arrived, and the Miata sat underwater for three days in their apartment parking garage across the street from Buffalo Bayou. Jeffrey and Jonathan spent months removing carpeting and sucking water out of every nook and cranny. They were able to

Now, Jeffrey and Jonathan race about once a month. They attend weekend-long race events throughout the state, and often serve as instructors to new drivers. Jeffrey clarified that this type of racing is not the glamorous depiction we see in the movies. The cars are dirty, beat up, and hanging together by a few bolts. The athletes are not there to make money; they do it because they love it. There are two types of events racers can take part in: time trial racing or wheel-towheel racing. Jeffrey and Jonathan have mostly competed in time trials until recently, when they decided to upgrade to wheel-towheel races, in which cars are racing one another directly as opposed to racing the clock. This past December, Jeffrey drove his first ever wheel-to-wheel race in Decatur, Texas at Eagles Canyon Raceway. In his qualifying session (which is essentially a time trial), he drove the fastest lap out of every car on the track, which included cars in different classes that should have been twice as fast as the Miata. As a result, he started at the very front of the pack for the actual race and ultimately finished in first place.

Navigating difficult races has taught Jeffrey invaluable lessons for navigating challenging clients and opposing parties in his litigation practice. Racing has taught him patience, caution, and focus—at 100 miles per hour—which makes a long day in the courtroom feel like a breeze.

Sydney Bateman works with Jeffrey at Horne Rota Moos, LLP, where she also practices civil defense litigation. She currently serves as the off the record editor for The Houston Lawyer.

The Houston Lawyer off the reCord
40 March/April 2024
Jeffrey Heyman (left) with his friend, Jonathan.

A Profile

in p R o F ession A lism

From as early as I can remember, the most prominent characteristic I knew about lawyers was that they helped others with their unique knowledge and skill in the law. This is one of the reasons I wanted to become a lawyer and a judge. I knew that people like me and my family, who lacked financial means, needed a lawyer to access justice, and to quote the musical Hamilton, “I wanted to be in the room where it happened!”

The idea of helping others is a core value of mine, but also the theme of a quote by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “If you want to be a true professional, do something outside of yourself.” Thus, professionalism requires acts beyond the bare minimum of performing one’s tasks, duties, and responsibilities for the job. We expect lawyers to have competence and skills that will benefit not only ourselves, but society. When lawyers follow the Texas Lawyer’s Creed in service to the bar and the institutions of justice, they are doing something outside of themselves. When lawyers help to create the rules and laws that reflect the core values of American society and our Constitution, they are doing something outside of themselves. When lawyers help others—especially those who cannot afford their services—to access justice, they are doing something outside of themselves.

It is essential in being a lawyer—a professional—that we help others in any way we can. The gap between those who need legal help and those who are able to obtain legal help is widening. We have to do more to use our unique skills and knowledge of the law to help others, even if it involves finding new ways to grant access to justice that do not require a lawyer.

Be a professional. Do something outside yourself. March/April 2024 41

The Houston Lawyer

Celebrating 15 Years with New Initiatives

The HBA and Communities In Schools (“CIS”) Houston are celebrating the 15th anniversary of a partnership that has benefitted almost 400 high school juniors, seniors, and recent graduates from schools with at-risk students. The HBA CIS Committee (the “Committee”), which was founded in 2009 under then-HBA President Barret Reasoner,1 finds summer legal employment opportunities for students, matches students with mentors, and plans enrichment programs. Participating students learn invaluable skills and gain insight into potential career options by working in a professional legal environment for eight weeks, meeting numerous lawyers, participating in a mock trial, and hearing about different legal professions through the enrichment activities. Participating employers gain the assistance of an academically outstanding student during the summer and the satisfaction of having a positive impact on the student’s life.

This year, under HBA President Diana Gomez,2 the Committee partnered with Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School of Houston (“Cristo Rey”)—a Catholic college preparatory school that exclusively serves young men and women who would not otherwise be able to afford a private education.3 The partnership allows the Committee to serve other deserving students by providing the same types of opportunities it provides to CIS students in the summer to Cristo Rey students during the school year. The opportunities provided by this partnership could have a dramatic impact on these students’ lives, and it offers legal employers that enjoy having a CIS intern in the summer the ability to also have an intern during the school year through Cristo Rey.4

Last year, with the encouragement of then-HBA President Chris Popov, the Committee started the Texas High School Mock Trial Pilot Program (the “Pilot Program”). The primary

goal of the Pilot Program is to support the Texas High School Mock Trial (“THSMT”) Program in the Houston area.5 As part of the Pilot Program, the Committee partnered with the HBA Litigation Section and the University of Houston Law Center (“UHLC”) Mock Trial Team to host the first-ever Houston area THSMT Clinic. The Committee invited students and coaches from schools in the greater Houston area that participate in THSMT to the clinic.6 The event was held at UHLC on January 6, 2024, and approximately 30 Houston area students attended. The HBA Litigation Section provided speakers to help the students hone their trial skills. The UHLC Mock Trial Team, led by the Honorable Christine Weems, held confidence-boosting exercises. The student participants were in the final stages of preparing for their Regional Mock Trial competitions, and all of the presentations at the clinic were helpful.

If you are interested in helping with this committee or in hiring a CIS or Cristo Rey intern, contact Bonnie Simmons at

Anna Archer is a career clerk for a federal district court judge. She is a co-chair of the CIS Committee and hosts Behind the Lines: The Houston Lawyer Podcast , a companion to The Houston Lawyer magazine.


1. Barrett Reasoner, President’s Message: A Perfect Match, HOUS. LAW., Jul./Aug. 2009, at 6. Reasoner appointed Bill Kroger and Hon. Christina Bryan as the first co-chairs of the committee. Id

2. Diana Gomez, President’s Message: Serving the Legal Profession, Houston Community, and Young Minds in the Year Ahead, HOUS. LAW., Jul./Aug. 2023, at 6.

3. About: Unique School. Proven Results., CRISTO REY JESUIT, about (last visited Feb. 26, 2024).

4. CIS Committee Co-Chairs John Meredith and Ashley Brown, along with Misty Gasiorowski, are leading the subcommittee that is spearheading the new partnership with Cristo Rey.

5. 45TH ANNUAL TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL MOCK TRIAL COMPETITION, https://www. (last visited Feb. 26, 2024).

6. CIS Mock Trial Sub-Committee Co-Chairs Maria Pimienta and Christoper Agboli, in addition to James Phillips and Pete McDonald, were instrumental in planning this event.

Committee spotLight
42 March/April 2024
HBA CiS Committee Co-Chair John Meredith (right) posing after an interview with KPRC.

In Our Environmental Era!

The Houston Bar Association’s Environmental Law Section believes there has never been a more fascinating time to be practicing environmental law. As environmental lawyers, section members are no strangers to an obscure topic that is not interesting to many outside the profession (antidegradation, anyone?). At the same time, the section has a long history of hosting continuing education luncheons on emerging issues that are of keen interest to the broader world outside of typical environmental clients. The complex legal issues members focus on in their dayto-day environmental practices often appear as front page, abovethe-fold news. Whether this has happened with acid rain in the 1980s, the ozone layer in the 1990s, “fracking” in the 2010s or PFAS (Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances) today, each era seems to bring a mixture of public fascination (and sometimes panic) with a new environmental topic of the day.

and Ethics of Advised Emissions,” to “Clean Water Act and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Permitting” and speakers from environmental regulatory agencies, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

In recent years, however, the convergence of environmental legal issues and global attention seems to have taken on an unprecedented level, as climate change and “ESG” have brought increased attention to environmental, health, and safety issues not only in the media, but also in boardrooms and C-suites across the world. Never did the “air heads” among us (i.e., lawyers who focus primarily on air issues) think they would have to explain what “Scope 1, 2, 3 GHG emissions” are to so many different types of audiences.

The HBA Environmental Law Section has entered this era of increased attention on environmental issues with gusto. It has incorporated many emerging topics into monthly luncheons, while still maintaining more traditional educational programming on more “classic” environmental legal issues. For example, the section’s monthly continuing education luncheons have spanned from “Greenwashing for the Environmental Lawyer,” “Overview of Global Climate Change Litigation,” and “The Law

In addition to these continuing education luncheons, the Environmental Law Section has longstanding traditions it proudly continues. The section gives charitable donations each year to Houston Bar Association-sponsored charitable events, as well as external nonprofit organizations based on council voting. Past recipients have included the HBA and HBF Harvest Celebration, Habitat for Humanity, the Galveston Bay Foundation, and Trees for Houston. One of the section’s top priorities is to support and provide opportunities to foster the next generation of environmental lawyers, so the section offers reduced-cost educational luncheon opportunities to students and periodically hosts Houston-area law school environmental law clinics and classes. Finally, the section has historically coordinated with the State Bar of Texas Environmental and Natural Resources Law Section on an annual meeting.

In short, the Environmental Law Section is thriving, learning, and educating members and others, just as the section set out to do upon its founding five decades ago. And first and foremost, the section is excited to be practicing and learning alongside each other in such a vibrant and innovative city about issues that are so fascinating that the entire world seems to be taking notice!

Kim White is chair of the HBA Environmental Law Section. She has practiced environmental law since 2011, focusing on federal and state environmental regulatory compliance and sustainability reporting issues. She has worked in both private practice and in-house with a large crude oil and natural gas exploration and production company.

seCtion spotLight
L Aw SeCTioN :
eNviRoNMeNTAL March/April 2024 43
Members of the environmental Law Section attending a recent CL e luncheon.

Lawyers Behaving Badly

hosted by karen delaney and Jennifer Judge reviewed by nIkkI MorrIs

From the first note of the opening guitar riff, it is abundantly clear that this is not your typical legal podcast! Hosts Karen Delaney and Jennifer Judge take you on a wild ride through the stories of lawyers engaging in fraud, corporate malfeasance, or other misconduct, while also sharing their relatable experiences as working mothers and practicing attorneys. Episodes typically include their take on “hot toppies”—shorter discussions on developing legal stories, such as litigation among firms and their former

Office Space


associates, or attorneys who have been sanctioned for relying a little too heavily on AI—before delving into each episode’s main story.

The main stories often feature “Larry Lawyer,” and are based on well-researched, true tales of lawyers misbehaving. From corruption in the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, to a three-episode arc on the investigations into Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, to a story about an attorney with a mysteriously absent client, the hosts cover the gambit of attorney misdeeds. The self-described “mess enthusiasts” love to delve into these stories that serve as an ever-present reminder that someone else is probably doing a worse job than you are.

Fair warning, this podcast is not for the faint of heart. The hosts present


The main stories often feature “Larry Lawyer,” and are based on wellresearched, true tales of lawyers misbehaving.”

these stories in a no-holds-barred and uncensored format that provides little secret as to their political views. However, if you are looking for a fun way to gain a little self-study ethics CLE credit, new episodes usually drop on Thursdays and can be found wherever you get your podcasts.

Nikki Morris is a commercial litigation attorney, podcast enthusiast, and the associate editor for the Legal Trends column of The Houston Lawyer.

Private attorney-only office space conveniently located inside Houston’s 610 Loop at San Felipe. Staffed with a receptionist/ office manager, with access to amenities, including high-speed internet, telephones, kitchen, two conference rooms, and covered parking. Several offices are available with window views. Call Jerry at 713-237-0222.


Easily accessible to Galleria, Memorial, I-10 and I-45. Ten minutes from the Courthouse, around the corner from Municipal Courthouse. Beautiful office space. Great for Mediation. Numerous amenities, including free parking, coffee in each conference room. Paralegal greets visitors and informs attorney(s) of client’s arrival. Alice O’Neill, 713-523-5402,

The Houston Lawyer LITIGATION MARKETPLACE The Houston Lawyer video Mediations Available Professional Services classified ads: Mary chavoustie 281.955.2449 ext. 3 DEnnIS ClIFFORD Mediating Complex Employment Disputes media reVieWs
44 March/April 2024
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