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Why district judges are so important (and not just to us)


I recently sent out an email to friends and family touting the accomplishments of the Honorable Renée Yanta, who is running for reelection as the 150th District Court Judge. That might surprise some people, who might not realize that lawyers would endorse judges for races in the first place.

Lawyers endorse judges because judges are so vital to what we do as family lawyers, and indeed, in the decisions they make on all sorts of important matters. And second, to the Republican matter-judges have to run under a party banner regardless of whether or not they're staunchly Republican or Democrat. Though Judge Yanta runs as a Republican, I think of her first and foremost as a judge, and a tremendous one at that.

She started the PEARLS program in 2015 to support girls 14 and older in foster care. As the San Antonio Express-News noted, in its excellent article nine months after the launch of PEARLS, "The fate of children who grow up in foster care can be grim indeed. Statistics show they're at heightened risk to drop out of school, become teen parents or get ensnared in the juvenile justice system."

The article goes on to note that Judge Yanta, seeing the need to intervene, created PEARLS as a mentoring program designed to break a cycle where, in some extreme instances, foster children give birth to children who eventually end up as foster children themselves.

Yenta sees her mentoring program as providing a pathway to "lives of self-sufficiency . . . to college, to jobs, to becom[ing] successful women with high self-esteem."

Her good works aren't just limited to PEARLS, of course. As her campaign website notes, she "stays focused on community service. She has been president / chair of numerous organizations, including the University of Incarnate Word Development Board, the St. Mary's Law Alumni Association, the San Antonio Bar Foundation and the Bexar County Women's Bar. She currently serves on the Bexar County Juvenile Board and the University Health Foundation Board. She is also a hands-on volunteer, helping at SA THREADS (a boutique for foster children), serving meals at SAMM Ministries, and having started a teenage pregnancy prevention program in the Harlandale ISD."

And in my opinion, she's as exemplary in the courtroom as she is in the community. She is an effective, fair, and efficient judge, and her campaign slogan epitomizes the philosophy that guides her-"Do Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly." I have proudly raised money for her and will continue to encourage everyone I know to re-elect her.

In Bexar County, we have 14 district judges who are up for election every four years. Some, like Judge Yanta, were elected in 2014 and face re-election this year. Others were elected in 2016 and will face re-election in 2020. That system ensures that Bexar County will always have at least some judges familiar with their posts.

In family law cases, judges make vital decisions. In divorce, their determinations of where children live, on child support issues, and on parenting time shape the post-divorce futures of families changed by the decision to divorce. In post-divorce modification cases, they're asked to make determinations of fairness, often initiated by a parent who feels he or she is struggling with the constraints of a divorce decree that may not reflect current realities.

As a family lawyer in Bexar County, I get to know the District Court judges extremely well. Endorsing a judge is a responsibility I take seriously, and I don't do so without experiencing a candidate's wisdom, knowledge, and capacity for even greater development first-hand. I would like to see more judges in Bexar County (and elsewhere) who follow her example.

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