As my term as Chief Justice on Texas’ Third Court of Appeals draws to an end, I’d like to give my heartfelt thanks to all of you for your support and the opportunity to serve the state of Texas these past ten years. I’m proud to have worked with so many great people and to have led our Court to be recognized as one of Texas’ most-productive, least-overturned courts of appeals.
To me, our courts’ most important functions are preserving the rule of law through consistent application and helping resolve disputes through hard work and efficient case management. I’ve had the chance to write opinions deciding over 1000 cases in my time on the court, and to decide as a panelist over 4100 cases. I pray that every person affected by those cases, win or lose, benefited from resolution and came away feeling their position was heard and respectfully considered by our court system.
Our court has a fantastic staff, and I’ve enjoyed the chance to empower them in their important role in our judicial system. Due to their hard work, we have navigated some of Texas’ most important issues, shortened the average time it takes to resolve cases by over 20%, and been able to increase their compensation and retention. As electoral forces have shuffled our judges, I am so thankful that our new judges have been willing to keep the excellent staff who serve as the backbone of the court. Hire good people who are smarter than you, give them the tools to do their jobs, then listen to them – that’s always been my motto.
I have also enjoyed serving outside the courtroom in many extra-judicial roles – chairing the Texas Council of Chief Justices, which works with the legislature to improve our courts; serving as a Board member and frequent speaker for the Texas Center for the Judiciary, which provides excellent training for judges across Texas; serving on Texas Bar Boards for Appellate and Administrative Law; and leading Austin Bar efforts to support minority law students and encourage lawyers to voluntarily handle appeals for people who can’t afford lawyers.
In campaigning for office through four elections, I have developed lifelong friedships with so many dedicated and entertaining Texans. While many judges dread election years, I’ve always tried to appreciate it as a chance to speak to thousands of people, from scout troops to business leaders to retirement homes, about our Constitutional system of government and the important role our courts must play in bringing consistency and maintaining the rule of law. Not enough people know or pay attention to the importance of consistent laws enforced by unbiased courts.
I’m thankful for my faith and family. My wife of nearly 25 years, Kim, has worked so hard to support my service on the Court, and on the District Bench and as a Deputy Attorney General before. Our kids, 2 of 3 now in college, barely recall my salad days of private practice or a time when I wasn’t a judge – but fortunately they never gave any judicial deference around the house anyway.
I am an eternal optimist – I believe in the American spirit and that the United States is and will continue to be the greatest country in the world. The Constitutional framework our founders engineered – enabling us to live together while preserving our own individual rights and freedoms – is a beautiful thing, when followed, and one the American people must always work to preserve. I hope I’ve been a part of that, and I promise to always continue to protect and defend those ideals.
Thanks to the many of you who have asked what I am going to do next. I’m blessed to have some great opportunities, and I will keep y’all posted when I decide on my next adventure. Here’s hoping the trials we have all faced in 2020 lead to great things and a return to health, freedom and normalcy in 2021 – Happy New Year!