Featured: Justice Dori Contreras will be sworn in as Chief Justice of the Texas Thirteenth Court of Appeals at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, January 2, 2019, on the fifth floor of the Hidalgo County Administration Building, 100 E. Cano Street, Edinburg. She is the first woman to be elected as Chief Justice of the Texas Thirteenth Court of Appeals and only the second Latina statewide to hold the office of Chief Justice.
Photograph Courtesy TEXAS THIRTEENTH COURT OF APPEALS
Justice Dori Contreras to be sworn in as Chief Justice of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, January 2 in Edinburg
Justice Dori Contreras, a Rio Grande Valley native, will formally take her historic role as Chief Justice of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, January 2, 2019, as part of her investiture, with retired Chief Justice Rogelio Valdéz administering the oath of office to her.
The ceremony will take place at the Thirteenth Court of Appeals, located in the Hidalgo County Administration Building, 100 E. Cano Street, on the fifth floor, in Edinburg.
A reception to honor Contreras will take place immediately following the ceremony.
All the proceedings are free and open to the public.
In general, an investiture is the installation of individuals in institutions that usually have been in existence from feudal times. For example, the installation of heads of state and various other state functions with ceremonial roles are invested with office. Usually the investiture involves ceremonial transfer of the symbols of the particular office.
Contreras, who was elected on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, will serve a term of six years.
She is the first woman to be elected as Chief Justice of the Texas Thirteenth Court of Appeals and only the second Latina statewide to hold the office of Chief Justice, according to an announcement released on Friday, December 28, 2018 by Silvia Mata with the Thirteenth Court of Appeals.
“Currently, Justice Contreras is in her 17th year on the court,” Mata stated. “Throughout her career, Justice Contreras has worked hard to preserve the rule of law with integrity and dedication.”
Mata continued, “The 2018 elections represented a big step forward for women seeking higher office, with some records matched and others broken. Justice Contreras understands that there are still big strides to make for women in politics, and looks forward to serving as a role model for women across Texas who are seeking a career in politics.”
Given the size and span of the court’s 20-county district, an investiture will take place on Tuesday, January 1, 2019, at 2 p.m. in the Thirteenth Court of Appeals, Nueces County Courthouse, 901 Leopard Street. 10th floor, in Corpus Christi.
According to its website:
The Thirteenth Court of Appeals serves the Corpus Christi and Edinburg area.
The court consists of six Justices hearing cases out of 20 counties.
The Thirteenth Court of Appeals was created in 1963 by amendment to Article 1817, V.T.C.S., pursuant to authority granted by Article 5, Section 1, Texas Constitution. The Court is composed of a Chief Justice and five justices.
This Court has intermediate appellate jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases appealed from lower courts; in civil cases where the judgment exceeds $100, exclusive of costs, and in criminal cases, except in post-conviction writs of habeas corpus and where the death penalty has been imposed.
In Texas, there are 14 courts of appeals, and each court of appeals has jurisdiction in a specific geographical region of the state.
Counties which come under the jurisdiction of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals are:
Each court is presided over by a chief justice and has at least two other justices. The specific number of justices on each court is set by statute and ranges from three to 13.
Presently there are 80 justices authorized for these courts.
Appeals in the courts of appeals are usually heard by a panel of three justices, unless an en banc hearing is ordered in a particular case, in which instance all the justices of a court hear and consider the case.
Also according to the Thirteenth Court of Appeals:
Justice Dori Contreras, formerly known as Justice Dori Contreras Garza, was born in San Juan and was raised in Pharr, graduating from Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School in 1976.
After graduation, she moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas, from which she received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting in December of 1980.
In response to a job offer, Contreras moved to Houston, and worked as an accountant for several years before deciding to go to law school.
In 1987, as a mother of two daughters, she began law school in the night program at the University of Houston Law Center and continued working full-time. She continued with this rigorous schedule for a year and one-half before deciding to quit her job and borrow the needed funds to attend school full time.
A year and one-half later, in May of 1990, she received her Doctor of Jurisprudence degree. Justice Contreras was active in various organizations in law school and was recognized as one of six students to receive the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Houston Law Center.
She was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in November of 1990.
Contreras began her legal career in Houston working as an associate for Thomas N. Thurlow and Associates. In 1991, she moved to San Antonio and began employment with the Law Offices of Frank Herrera. After one year, she transferred to the McAllen branch office, which she managed until 1997. In that year, she became a partner in a civil trial firm that litigated and tried state and federal court cases.
Contreras also formed a mediation practice in 1997, which she ran concurrently with her law practice.
She was elected to the Thirteenth Court of Appeals in 2002 and was re-elected in 2008 and 2014.
In 2010, Contreras was one of three recommended by the Texas congressional delegation for nomination by the White House to a United States District Court seat in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Before joining the court, Contreras served as President of the Hidalgo County Bar Association; was a board member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association; and served on the board of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.
Contreras has served as a member and on boards of numerous legal and community organizations.
Throughout her legal career, Contreras has lectured at continuing legal education programs around the state and country. She enjoys speaking to students at local schools and serving as a role model to the young women in her community.
When she is not busy with her family or her job, she enjoys running, exercising, reading, watching movies, traveling and socializing with friends.
In 2016, Contreras received the Judge of the Year Award from the Hispanic Issues Section of the State Bar of Texas. In 2014, Contreras was recognized as a Woman of Distinction by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and received the Good Samaritan Award from Good Samaritan Community Services-RGV, a non-profit organization that provides an after-school and summer program for at-risk youth in the Pharr community.
Contreras has three children.
Lisette Marie Howard is a graduate of Texas A&M University and has a Master’s degree from the University of North Texas.
Vanessa Barry graduated summa cum laude from UT Pan American and is employed as the Director of Marketing and Communications for IDEA Public Schools in San Antonio.
Michael James Garza Jr. is an undergraduate student at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Contreras has three grandchildren: Aidan Scott Howard, Addison Marie Howard and Caroline Grace Barry.
Chris Ardis contributed to this article. For more this and other Texas legislative news stories which affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com)