Being an openly LGBT judge in Texas has its challenges, but also benefits.
At a panel discussion at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting in Houston, four LGBT judges—from municipal court to district court benches—talked about their pathways to the bench, how they can be role models and help other LGBT lawyers and litigants, and the personal challenges they’ve faced by breaking into the judiciary.
One good pathway for an LGBT lawyer to become a judge is to seek an appointment to a municipal court bench—that was the path for Houstonites Phyllis Frye, a transgender judge, and Steven Kirkland, a gay judge.
There’s no shortage of lawyers on Twitter trying to plug their legal services and drum up business. But a few have taken Twitter to a different level, skipping the business development angle altogether for a simpler goal.
To make people laugh.
Although it’s not an exhaustive list by far, here are a handful of lawyers and judges on Twitter who could bring a smile to your face. They tweet about everything from the law, to sports, their kids, their cars, or random daily life. But there’s one thing that holds them together: humor.
PDF: Just for Laughs_ These Tweeting Lawyers Yuck It Up _ Law
Most people already know about judicial Twitter sensation Don Willett, the Texas Supreme Court justice whom the U.S. Senate confirmed in mid-December for a spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
But here’s a lesser-known voice in the Twittersphere from the Lone Star State’s highest court: Justice Jeffrey Brown’s Camry. That’s right. His Toyota Camry @CamryofJustice.
The 14-year-old car with the Twitter handle “Camry of Justice” has belonged to Brown since he bought it at CarMax in Houston in 2012. Dubbed the “CoJ” for short, the XLE model “with a sweet V6” (according to its Twitter bio) could be the only car owned by a judge on Twitter. Tweeting from the Camry’s perspective since 2014, Brown writes about his journeys across Texas to meet with lawyers, to speak at legal education seminars or to appear at campaign events. The car, which just crested 212,000 miles, is so beloved on #appellatetwitter that lawyers on the road ask Brown about it first thing when they see him, and seem disappointed if he has flown to his destination rather than driven the Camry.
PDF: In the Persona of His Toyota, Texas High Court Judge Tweets Away _ Texas Lawyer
Part of the horror of what happened to Suzanne Wooten is the realization that if the justice system failed so miserably for her, it could happen to anyone.
Wooten lived a nightmare: Winning an election by a landslide to unseat an incumbent judge, only to be allegedly targeted by political rivals, wrongfully convicted of nine felonies, cast down from her district court bench and stripped of her license to practice law.
Finally after six years living the bad dream, Wooten this year found complete redemption in May when a court acquitted her of all charges, declared her actually innocent, and she got back her law license in June.
Some things, Wooten will never get back. She used to believe if she paid her taxes, followed the speed limit, refused to drink and drive, or followed election campaign laws, she would be safe and wouldn’t get in legal trouble.
“The biggest horror is taking away from me and my family the sense of security we have,” Wooten said. “When something like this happens to you, my sense of being safe even just walking down the street—it’s gone, it’s destroyed.”
Wrongful conviction stories always loom large in the public consciousness because of the deep-seated need to believe that the justice system will get it right—convict the guilty, exonerate the innocent. When things go terribly wrong, people struggle to find some reason, so that they won’t have to believe that a wrongful conviction could happen to them, too.
How did the system fail Suzanne Wooten?
PDF: How the Justice System Severely Failed One of its Own _ Texas Lawyer