As your 13th Court of Appeals Justice, I don’t enforce the law, that’s the duty of your law enforcement; I don’t create the law, that’s up to your legislators; what I do is interpret the law according to the Constitution and the laws of the State; that’s my job.

There are 80 appellate court justices in the entire State of Texas, and I am one of them. Appellate justices do not argue cases like lawyers; rather, they review what happened in the trial court, research the law, and then with two other appellate justices, write an opinion with legal analysis and conclusions.

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The 13th Court of Appeals: (standing row, L to R) Justice Gina Benavides, Justice Greg Perkes, Justice Nora Longoria; (seated row, L to R) Justice Nelda Vidaurri-Rodriguez, Chief Justice Roy Valdez, Justice Dori Contreras-Garza

The 13th Court of Appeals is made up of six justices who hear both civil and criminal cases at two courthouses, one in Corpus Christi and one in Edinburg. My judicial district is very large, including some 20 counties, going as far north as Wharton and as far south as Brownsville, and covers more than 300 miles.

The appellate court is the middle court between the trial courts and the supreme court. When someone loses at the trial court, they can appeal to my court.  Like a professor, I read and grade the papers of the trial court to make sure that everyone received a fair trial and that they received a fair shake in the system.  

Although it may sound simple, it is definitely not. My job is to review the entire court record— all filings with the trial court, all testimony and evidence presented at trial, and all legal arguments presented by the parties – all to make sure that everyone received due process … a fair trial.

Unlike the trial court, I do not try the case. After I review what happened in the trial court and research the applicable law, I write an opinion with two other appellate justices containing my analysis and legal conclusions.  During the course of the year, I will write and review hundreds of legal opinions. Quite a job!

 

What I Do As Your Judge

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