RESCHEDULED - The HisBA Forums Presents: What It Takes To Become A Judge

March 02, 2021
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Virtual Meeting

 

Featuring:

Lesley Briones

Judge Lesley Briones was born and raised on the U.S.-Mexico border in Laredo, Texas.  After graduating with honors from Harvard University, Lesley returned to the border to teach 8th and 10th grade at two of the lowest income public schools in the nation. Lesley then attended Yale Law School, where she led the Latino Law Students’ public service initiatives and provided pro-bono legal assistance to domestic abuse victims and criminal defendants.

Upon graduating from Yale Law School, Lesley practiced at Vinson & Elkins LLP in Houston, Texas. Lesley then joined the Laura & John Arnold Foundation, a national nonprofit organization, where she served as General Counsel, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Talent Officer, and Executive Vice President. During her tenure, the Foundation gave over a billion dollars to grantees across the U.S. to improve education, health care, and the criminal justice system.

Since April 2019, Lesley has been the presiding judge of Harris County Civil Court at Law No 4. Judge Briones manages a docket of over 3,000 active civil matters, including cases involving eminent domain, breach of contract, employment, fraud, and personal injury.  Judge Briones received the highest overall rating among all Harris County Civil Court at Law judges in the annual Houston Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Poll. Lesley is also an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Law Center, a regional co-chair for the National Association of Women Judges, a certified executive coach, a wife, and a mother of three daughters.


Veronica Rivas-Molloy

Justice Veronica Rivas-Molly has been practicing law for almost 20 years handling a wide-variety of cases throughout Texas, and other jurisdictions in the United States and abroad. During the span of her long career, she has represented numerous clients in state and federal courts, including county courts at law, district courts, appellate courts, and before domestic and international arbitral tribunals. She represent individuals, small businesses, and multinational corporations in disputes involving oil and gas operations, real estate, healthcare, construction, personal injury, employment matters, trade secrets, non-compete and restrictive covenants, and a diverse range of complex contractual and business-related matters.

She also donates her legal services to help those less fortunate. She has provided pro bono legal services to underprivileged clients in different types of cases, and has worked directly with Kids in Need of Defense (K.I.N.D.) providing pro bono representation to unaccompanied minors in immigration and asylum proceedings. She has also served as outside counsel for Holy Trinity Episcopal School of Greater Houston, providing pro bono legal advice and representation to the school.

Veronica is a first-generation immigrant to the United States. Although she now calls Houston home, She was born in Mexico and grew up in the El Paso-Juarez border area. From an early age, her parents instilled the value of hard work, dedication, integrity, and education. They taught her the value of believing in herself and taking pride in everything she does. They sacrificed so that she could reach goals and dreams beyond their own.

With their support and encouragement, Veronica graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and Spanish, becoming the first person in her family to graduate from a 4-year college. While at UTEP, she held a full-time job and attended college part-time her last two years to help support her family after the sudden passing of her father. Her mother, then only 46 and a stay-at-home mom, started working full-time at a restaurant kitchen during the day and cleaning offices at night to provide for her four young daughters. Her strength, dedication, and unconditional love were inspiring and allowed Veronica to continue pursuing her education and dream of becoming a lawyer one day. Even though her father passed while she was still in college, the memory of her father’s sacrifice and his constant encouragement continues to drive Veronica each day.

After graduating from UTEP, Veronica moved to Houston to attend the University of Houston Law Center. There, she served as an Articles Editor for the Houston Law Review and graduated with honors, becoming the first person in her family to obtain an advanced degree and to become an attorney. While attending law school, she also had the privilege of becoming a United States citizen.

After law school, she worked as a law clerk for the Honorable Ewing Werlein, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, where she had the opportunity to work on a variety of civil and criminal matters, gaining invaluable experience as a young attorney. Veronica was exposed to many areas of the law, and more importantly, to rigorous legal analysis, extensive brief writing, and the ability to understand the inner workings of a courtroom and the importance of the rule of law to our democracy.

Following her clerkship, she worked at the law firm of Baker Botts, LLP, where she continued to work on various litigation matters helping further refine her analytical, oral, and written advocacy skills. Her practice was varied and had the opportunity to work with individuals, and domestic and international clients across different industries handling small to large-scale matters. During her time at Baker Botts, she also served as a volunteer prosecutor for the City of Houston, where she tried numerous administrative and criminal misdemeanor cases to the jury on a first-chair basis.

For the last 10 years, Veronica has worked at the law firm of Jones Walker, LLP advocating for her clients and representing them in litigation and appellate matters across various industries. Her experience is extensive, and it has prepared her well for the judicial position she now seeks.

In addition to her legal title, and more importantly, she is also a proud wife and mother. Veronica met her husband David in law school, and have been married for 17 years. David has a successful legal career and he supports her unconditionally. They have three young sons who keep them grounded and reminds them each day what is truly important in life. Her favorite sound is their laughter and loves watching them play sports. She volunteers extensively at their schools as a member of the parent-teacher organization, serving on various school committees and helping with special projects. She was also their volunteer catechism instructor at our church.


Amparo Guerra

Judge Amparo Guerra is a lawyer with a mission. Her legal career has been one of applying her exceptional analytical skills to the handling of complex litigation in state and federal courts across Texas, as well as other states throughout America--successfully representing a variety of clients, from individuals to sole proprietorships and large multi-national companies. Amparo is a leader in our community. She has worked tirelessly with several law groups and other volunteer associations to help make the community a better place to live. Public service is important to Amparo. She has been involved in community activities since high school. Her passion to serve others continued through college, law school, and well into her professional career when she served as a Municipal Judge in Houston. Her mission remains steadfast—advance equality and justice for all Texans.

After law school, Amparo served as a law clerk for the late U.S. District Court Judge Filemon Vela in Brownsville, Texas. In 2005, Amparo was nominated by former Houston Mayor Bill White and confirmed by Houston City Council as an Associate Municipal Judge for the City of Houston. During her tenure from 2005 through 2010, she was the youngest judge on the Houston Municipal Court.

Amparo attended St. George’s School in Newport, Rhode Island as a scholarship student, graduating with distinction as one of very few Latinas in a school that attracts students from countries around the globe. The experience of being immersed in a world of mostly privileged students juxtaposed against her experiences witnessing the extreme poverty on the U.S.-Mexico border imbued Amparo with a strong passion for public service to battle social and geographic inequity.

That passion led to volunteer work with Mano A Mano—a March of Dimes project geared towards fighting the epidemic of encephalitic births on the border, largely attributed to industrial pollution. Amparo worked to provide education on prenatal health, and to help deliver sorely needed healthcare to coloniason the U.S. border, and to similarly ill-equipped areas in Mexico that did not have electricity nor running water. Witnessing such disparities inspired Amparo to seek social and economic justice through the law, developing a philosophy that the law should serve all people.

In addition, Amparo learned from her pioneering mother the Honorable Linda Reyna Yáñez, the first Hispanic woman to serve on a Texas appeals court, the value to serve those without a voice.

Amparo graduated from Rice University and earned the President’s Honor Roll while a work-study student. She graduated with a double major in Sociology and Latin American Studies. Amparo then attended the University of Houston Law Center and earned the Dean’s Merit Scholarship. During law school, Amparo furthered her goals of public service through Public Interest Fellowships in both her 1L and 2L summers working with Texas Rural Legal Aid in South Texas, and Farmworker Legal Services in Michigan, respectively.

Amparo interned with, and following law school, clerked for U.S. District Judge Filemon Vela who further sparked her interest in the judicial system and the role judges have in enforcing the rule of law. Through that work, Amparo gained an appreciation for litigation. Those experiences inspired Amparo to seek public service. In 2005 she was appointed as an Associate Municipal Judge for the City of Houston Municipal Court. Amparo took on that role in addition to her full-time litigation practice, thereby working two challenging and fulfilling jobs.

Throughout her career, Amparo has been passionate about diversity in the private and public sectors, that passion drives her candidacy today.

Family is also supremely important to Amparo. She and her husband, Cesar, are doting parents to three children—two daughters and a son.


Mike Gomez

Michael Gomez has served as judge of the 129th Civil District Court in Harris County, Texas, since his election in 2008. Judge Gomez is a lifelong resident of Houston and a graduate of Rice University and the University of Houston Law Center, where he served as an articles editor for the Houston Law Review.

During his time on the bench, Judge Gomez has tried over 180 jury and bench trials and disposed of over 10,000 cases. In 2016, Judge Gomez received the Hispanic Bar Association's Judge of the Year award.

Prior to taking the bench, Judge Gomez practiced corporate and securities law at a large law firm and commercial litigation at a small litigation boutique. Judge Gomez also served as a pro bono legal advisor for numerous non-profit organizations in the Houston area.

Judge Gomez is a highly rated judge who currently serves on various committees of the Houston Bar Association. He is also a fellow of the Houston Bar Foundation, Texas Bar Foundation and the American Bar Foundation. Judge Gomez is a frequent continuing legal education speaker addressing topics of importance to the bar and a frequent speaker at public schools regarding the importance of higher education and careers in the legal profession.

Judge Gomez is happily married to Diana Perez Gomez, a partner with Chamberlain Hrdlicka, where she specializes in labor and employment matters. They have two children, Matthew and Elina, and are members of St. Patrick's Catholic Church.

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