Judicial Q&A: Cheri Thomas

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote in March. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Cheri Thomas

1. Who are you and what are you running for?

My name is Cheri Thomas. I am running to be the Democratic candidate for Justice of the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, Place 2. I am a 17-year lawyer with significant appellate and litigation experience. My husband, Lewis Thomas, is a criminal defense attorney. Together, we have three amazing daughters and one fuzzy Samoyed.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The Fourteenth Court of Appeals is an intermediate appellate court composed of nine justices who hear appeals and original proceedings. The Fourteenth Court has jurisdiction over both civil and criminal appeals from lower courts in ten counties: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Grimes, Harris, Waller, and Washington.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for this particular bench because I can make a positive impact in the position. I am committed to doing my part to make Texas a place our children are proud to call home, one that values equality, dignity, and compassion. I know what it takes to handle an appeal with fairness, respect, accuracy, and efficiency. I also love the work of the appellate court. I enjoy the study and analysis that goes into working on an appeal, and I am good at the work of the court. My career has focused on legal research and writing; this makes me particularly well-suited to become a Justice on the Fourteenth Court of Appeals as the court’s work is primarily research and writing.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have extensive civil appellate and trial experience. I practiced civil litigation at Baker Botts, LLP, working on a wide variety of civil trial matters, including contract, employment, securities, toxic tort, and personal injury matters in state and federal courts. I then joined Stuart PC, where I represented clients in civil litigation and appellate matters, in state and federal courts all over the country. In 2016, I became a Partner at Stuart PC. I have managed civil cases at all stages of litigation and appeal.

I also have experience working on criminal appeals. I worked as a staff attorney for the Fourteenth Court of Appeals—the same court for which I am now running, and in this role I worked on numerous criminal appeals in addition to civil appeals, reviewing the record, conducting legal research, and drafting recommendations on various legal matters for the court’s consideration. In 2019, when I initially decided to run for a position on the court, I left my attorney position on the court and joined my husband’s law firm so that I would have flexibility while campaigning. My practice now focuses on federal and state criminal appeals.

I also clerked for a federal judge. After graduating with honors from the University of Texas School of Law, I secured a federal clerkship working with the Honorable Jorge Solis of the
United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, where I had the opportunity to work on numerous civil cases involving various subject matters.

5. Why is this race important?

The Fourteenth Court hears a wide variety of cases: criminal matters as well as family, probate, business, and other civil matters. The decisions this court makes may impact your livelihood, your home, your family, and your liberty. Except for death-penalty cases, all cases appealed from district and county courts in ten counties are considered by the First or Fourteenth Courts of Appeals. Intermediate appellate courts like the Fourteenth Court are often the last courts to review these appeals. The Fourteenth Court reviews practically every appeal that comes before it whereas Texas’s highest appellate courts, the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals, consider a limited number of appeals. This is important because it means the Fourteenth Court is often the last court to consider a case, and thus, the last opportunity for justice.

6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?

Texans are entitled to qualified, fair, and impartial justices. If elected, I will serve honorably. I will work hard, make well-reasoned decisions, and I will treat everyone with fairness and respect.

My education and experience have given me the skills I will need to be an excellent Justice: good judgment and the ability to perform rigorous, meticulous legal analysis. Despite being the first member of my family to graduate from college and attend law school, I graduated with honors from a top-ranked law school. I worked as an associate at a leading international law firm and made partner at boutique law firm. In addition, as a former staff attorney, I have a thorough understanding of the responsibilities of a justice, and I will be able to get to work on my very first day on the job. I was named a “Rising Star” by the Texas Super Lawyers magazine five times, and in 2019, I was elected as a Fellow to the Texas Bar Foundation.

In addition, I understand that the court affects real people and real families. I am one of eleven children in a blended family. We have had our own unique set of struggles, and we have experienced struggles that most everyone has experienced: divorce, cancer, death. Voters can count on me to care.

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