INVESTITURE SPEECH: First I would like to thank you all for taking time out of your day to come celebrate this occasion with me and my family. I would like to thank the Commissioner’s Court for appointing me to this position. Especially the e orts of Commissioner Leslie Briones for working so diligently to help create this position. I would like to thank Judges Lawton-Evans, Kovach, Williams and Singh for entrusting me with this responsibility. I have been in awe of the countless congratulatory messages and expressions of support that you all have bestowed upon me since this appointment was announced. roughout my life, I have always viewed the personal and professional successes of my friends and family as my own, and your overwhelming response, including the turnout today, shows me that you all do as well, and for that I am truly grateful.
We are fortunate to live in the greatest place in the world. This city and county have been great to me. It is where I was born and raised, where I have been educated, where I have met and married my wife, where my kids were born and where I have been employed all of my life. I am honored to now be able to serve a place that has given so much to me.
In preparing my thoughts for today, I struggled at times to decide the direction to take, especially considering the vast diversity of this audience. But in deciding my approach, I have chosen the path that has always served me well: simply being true and genuine to who I am and those I love. To that end, if you came here today to hear about how I will pontificate from the bench as a jurist, although important, this will not be the speech for you. However, for those of you expecting that kind of speech, if you will step outside in the hall, someone will be waiting to refund you your full price for admission. For those of us remaining, please allow me a moment of personal privilege.
I was born to a teenage mother, I was her second child. My mother had her first child at 15 years old, me at 18 and four years later, my mother would have her third child. I have never had much of a relationship with my father. In fact, I don’t even know his last name, and if he were in this room right now, I wouldn’t be able to identify him. My only memory of spending time with my father was when he picked me up and took me to hang out with him at a bar, I was maybe 11 years old. For the longest time, I refused to drink alcohol because I didn’t want to be anything like him. I despised him, because he rejected me. I must confess, I never told my mother the truth about where he took me, because I knew my mom, and I was scared she would kill him for taking me to a bar. — No, I am serious! My mother was a woman with the spirit of Chad Butler, she spoke her mind, and “if you didn’t like it, a fight came with it”!
My mother was a strong and prideful woman, who did not have much, but would always share what little she did have with those she cared for. If my mother cared for you, you would not nd a better advocate. She had the ability to turn a little into a lot and make something from nothing. My mother did not graduate from high school, yet she always championed the need for an education and demanded academic achievement from me and my sisters. I think too o en we equate academic achievement, although important, with intelligence. I am reminded of a time early in my legal career when a wise man once told me, “I don’t have a college degree, but a lot of people that work for me do.” Although she lacked a formal education, my mother was highly intelligent. She taught us how to sacrifice for the family unit. I recall times when my mother refused to eat until she was certain that her kids were full, because there wasn’t enough food for us to eat seconds and for her to eat as well.
Some of my earliest memories are of attending the old Bastian Elementary School in Sunnyside, across the street from Wesley Square Apartments, while living in Jarmese Apartments a few blocks away. I later attended Hartman Middle School, Fondren Middle School (when we moved to that SouthWest), then went back to Attucks Middle School in Sunnyside, then again back to Fondren Middle School. Ironically, as you may be able to read between the lines, we weren’t moving so much because we wanted to. More often than not, we were being evicted. Often as a child, you don’t realize what you don’t have because so many of your peers are similarly situated. I recall many nights my sisters and I doing our homework by candlelight and that wasn’t because we were trying to set a mood! One day my youngest sister and I were walking home from school with our friends, when my cousin, who’d often come by our house after school came running towards us with a look of discernment on his face. He had apparently made it to the house before us. Before we had a chance to say anything to him, in front of all of our friends, he proclaimed “THE LIGHTS — ARE OFF — AGAIN!!!” We were so embarrassed! I still owe him for that one!
I attended Westbury High School all four years, unlike middle school, this time when we were evicted, we just moved into different apartments up and down West Bellfort (my recollection is at least 5 different apartments) fortunately, we were able to remain in the same school zone so we didn’t have to transfer. It was at Westbury that my passion for the study of African American Life and History developed. It is also where I got my first job, at 15 years old. It’s where I met my best friend. It was also there that I began to appreciate how little that we really had. I saw kids driving to school, when we didn’t even have a car at home. Hell, there were times when we didn’t have any furniture in our apartment. Because of that, coupled with my stubborn pride, I would never have any friends over. Until one day, for some reason or another, my best friend, Byron Myers, had to come into our apartment. He saw that we had no furniture, and it didn’t matter to him, he never told anybody at school that we had nothing and as often as he and I played the dozens, he never used that fact to chide me. We have been road dogs ever since!
I was a prideful young man. I resented being on food stamps (but hell, we needed them). When my mom would send me to the store with food stamps, if I had money, I would spend my cash instead of the food stamps and then go home and put the food stamps under my mattress. My mom eventually found my food stamp stash under my mattress. I believe her motherly instincts told her that I was too embarrassed to use food stamps. My mother never sent me to the store with food stamps again.
My first job was at a car wash in southwest Houston. I would go on to work there for 10 years until I finished my first year of law school. It was there I met El Hajji Mushtaq Muhammad Ali Orawali, a native of Pakistan, he was my first boss, he was my first mentor and simply, he was the kindest, most generous, hardest working, loyal and honorable man I have ever known. And I mean that! He taught me how to be a man. ere were times when Ali, as we called him, helped my family pay the rent or the light bill and he would never ask for the money back or for anything else in return, and I know I wasn’t the only one he did that for. After high school, I attended Texas Southern University. ere I studied Political Science with a minor in the Administration of Justice. ere I met my mentor, Prof. Marva Johnson. I know it is no surprise to you all, but I was her favorite student! She taught me the three keys to success: 1) preparation, 2) preparation and 3) preparation. While attending TSU, I applied for the Texas Legislative Internship Program. Started by Commissioner Ellis, the goal of TLIP was to provide opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students attending Texas colleges and universities to serve as interns in the Texas Legislature, in various state agencies, and in local government. TLIP provided me with an opportunity to serve as an intern for then State Representative Sylvester Turner during the 75th Legislative Session. The benefits to me from participating in the TLIP program have been immeasurable. I truly believe that the TLIP program has been a critical part of my professional success and achievement.
While at TSU, I also served as the President of the Political Science Club and as the Attorney General of the Student Government Association. It was also at TSU that I met my future wife Monique. She has been our family’s anchor, and she has allowed me to help her raise two of the best kids that a father could ask for in Taylor and Jermaine, Jr. After TSU, I attended South Texas College of Law in downtown Houston. There I met my next mentor, Prof. Shelby A.D. Moore. Again, as I know it is no surprise to you all, I was her favorite student! Prof. Moore opened my eyes to issues I had not contemplated like the Impact of Domestic Violence and the Issue of Prosecutorial Discretion in Capital Punishment cases. The knowledge I gained serving as her research assistance changed my opinion on the death penalty. While at South Texas, I served as President of the Black Law Students Association.
I am thankful for the e orts of people like Prof. Moore, Dean Singleton and Prof Jenkins for their help in assisting me and countless other similarly situated students. While at South Texas, let’s just say that I was part of the group that made the top 10% possible. It was there that I met my “lawless” crew, a band of friends that would be essential to each of us young lawyers becoming middleaged lawyers over the next 20 plus years, surviving personal and professional trials and tribulations. Near the end of my second year in law school, I began looking toward my job prospects. I knew I would not be part of the highly paid summer clerkship circuit. So, I decided to approach the only lawyer I knew, Rep. Sylvester Turner, to ask if I could volunteer at his law rm for free, just to have some work experience. Rep. Turner told me to go back and nish my semester at school and that when summer came, there would be a job waiting for me at the rm and that he was going to pay me because he “couldn’t let word get out on the street that he had people working for free”.
The law firm was established by Barry M. Barnes and Sylvester Turner in 1983. We believe it is the longest standing African American owned law rm in the state of Texas. Last year the rm celebrated its 40th anniversary. I began working at Barnes and Turner as a rising second year law student in the summer of 2000. At the completion of my summer clerkship, I continued to work at the rm during my 3rd year, and was eventually o ered a job. I sat for the bar the summer of 2001 and became a licensed attorney on November 3, 2001. Since that time and up until I accepted this Associate Judgeship, I have been an attorney at that law firm. I am thankful for the opportunity that Barry Barnes and Sylvester Turner gave me. I am thankful for my colleagues Catherine, Helen and Vanessa as well as the others who came and went. Over the years we have laughed, cried and been mad at each other, we’ve buried loved ones, yet through it all, we’ve known that we could always count on each other. It was not an easy decision for me to leave my law firm family.
I gained a great deal of experience in litigation and transactional matters. We represented Plaintiffs and Defendants and Landlords and Tenants. Clients we loved, and some we didn’t love as much. We celebrated victories and suffered losses. But through it all, I did my best to honor the profession. I never wanted a client to leave my o ce thinking they were worse off than when they came and in the process some clients became family, I am thankful for the trust that Ollie Hilliard, Roy Malonson, Sandra Smith and many others bestowed upon me.
On June 25, 2008, we lost our mother. We held her hand as she transitioned. We never let her side because she never led ours. Before she passed, the once pregnant teen, high school dropout, sent all of her kids to college and all of her grand kids to college, her daughter to the air force and her son to law school! WE BROKE GENERATIONAL CURSES! On December 10, 2021, I lost the man that raised me, Mushtaq Ali, he left behind 4 wonderful sons. Ali used to tell me that he hoped that his sons would grow to be men like me. What he didn’t know is that I was trying to be a Man like him!
I am a firm believer that we were put on this earth to help others. I chose the practice of law because I always wanted to give a voice to the voiceless. Now that I am no longer an advocate, the mission remains. Instead of advocating, my duty is to ensure that all receive a just and fair hearing and in my court they will. So Kayla Meyers, my trial coordinator, let’s get to the work of the people! To my 5th floor family, WE COMING!! It is with a discerning spirit, solemn honor, and passion for justice and fairness that I accept this privilege to serve. I accept this honor on behalf of every kid who just needed an opportunity to prove themselves. MOMMA, I PROVED MYSELF!
I accept this on behalf every kid who never complained about what they didn’t have, but instead, busted their ass to show the world they were worthy. MOMMA, I’M WORTHY! I accept this on behalf of every kid society counted out because the deck was stacked against them, but still they persevered and stayed the course. MOMMA, I STAYED THE COURSE. I accept this on behalf of every child who knew that good wasn’t good enough, and that when you fail, you HAVE to get back up. MOMMA, I GOT BACK UP! I accept this on behalf of every kid that knew that any victory they’d achieve wasn’t theirs’ alone, but rather the collective e ort of their will, others’ sacri ces and God’s PLAN. MOMMA WE DID IT!!!!