December 17, 2014

Austin Bar President’s Column

By Judge Elisabeth Earle

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” — Albert Schweitzer

As we begin the holiday season and its celebrations and festivities, it is a time to thank those that have worked tirelessly for the betterment of the Austin Bar Association. We also are honoring three very special people who have mentored my colleagues and me throughout their careers.

Chief Justice Woodie Jones, Judge John Dietz, and Judge David Phillips are retiring this month after distinguished careers in law and public service. Together, these renowned judges have combined nearly 80 years of service on the bench and have unselfishly provided leadership and mentorship to so many lawyers and judges in our community.

Justice J. Woodfin “Woodie” Jones was elected to the Third Court of Appeals in 1988 and then again in 2008 as Chief Justice of the Third Court of Appeals. Serving as President of the Austin Bar Association from 1987-1988, Justice Jones worked hard representing and giving back to our legal profession. Justice Jones is one of those individuals who his peers describe as friendly, energetic and intelligent, and always has a smile on his face.

Justice Jeff Rose shared, “The Third Court of Appeals has thrived under Woodie Jones, a great colleague and chief justice. He has set a fine example of how we should respect others, consider all viewpoints, and collaborate to reach the right result. Woodie also has a sneaky-good golf game.”

Justice Jones will be receiving the Larry F. York Mentoring Award on Jan. 31 at the Austin Bar Foundation Gala. Please calendar this fabulous event and opportunity to honor such a distinguished jurist.

Judge John Dietz has 26 years serving on the Travis County District Court with over 10 years serving as Local Administrative Judge. Judge Dietz’ reputation and rulings have touched people in Travis County and the entire State of Texas, his ruling in the school finance case has been followed nationally. Judge Dietz has given countless hours serving on the Judicial Affairs Committee and advising on the need for a new civil courthouse. He is known to be no-nonsense, direct and to the point, truthful and honest with his thoughts, and not known to waste words to smooth feelings.

Newly-elected Travis County District Judge Karin Crump shared, “Judge John Dietz has been and always will be an irreplaceable member of the Texas judiciary. He will leave a lasting legacy of dedication to the law and to Texas children. He has certainly inspired me to work hard every single day to ensure that he leaves the 250th District Court in good hands.”

Judge David Phillips leads the total number of years, representing Travis County as a County Court at Law Judge and the City of Austin as a Municipal Court Judge, serving on the bench for a combined number of 35 years. Judge Phillips, along with Justice Jones, are founding directors of the Justice Mack Kidd Fund, serving since 2006. Judge Phillips was one of the first judges I appeared in front of as a young prosecutor with the Travis County Attorney’s Office. Judge Phillips is known for his sense of humor, often sharing stories from the bench that have lead me from laughter to tears.

Newly-elected Travis County Court-at-Law Judge Todd Wong shared, “Judge Phillips’ quick wit and charm have always made walking into his courtroom one of the best experiences that a lawyer can experience — and, of course, he is most practical and efficient in running his docket. It is truly an honor for me to follow him — I wish I could sing like him, too. In any event, his years of public service have been such a blessing to our community, and I look forward to continuing his tradition of making the court a welcoming place for lawyers, clients, and witnesses, alike.”

Thank you Justice Jones, Judge Dietz, and Judge Phillips for your decades of service to our state and community, for your work in the Austin Bar Association, and for sharing your leadership, mentorship, patience, intelligence, and especially your sense of humor.

And, thank you to all the Austin Bar Association and Austin Young Lawyers Association members who have provided countless number of hours, serving the greater Austin area with the holiday programs our communities rely upon and treasure.

Seeing the children we serve when they open their holiday baskets or when food is delivered to make a holiday meal complete bring joy to every participant and is one of the best ways we can visibly give back to our community, supporting those in need during this special time of year and being truly thankful for all that we have to share.