Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Bankruptcy Judges of the Western District of Texas

The Western District of Texas crosses two time zones, has a population of 7.6 million and contains 93,000 square miles.  It is larger than the State of Oklahoma but smaller than the State of New Mexico. It contains the 7th, 11th and 24th largest cities in the United States (San Antonio, Austin and El Paso respectively). Since the Bankruptcy Code was adopted, the Western District has been served by 12 judges.  The judges of the Western District have come from San Antonio, Houston, Waco and El Paso. I have appeared in front of ten of them.

Bert W. Thompson

Bert W. Thompson was born in 1917. He served as a Bankruptcy Referee from 1971-1979 and a Bankruptcy Judge from 1979-1985. He commanded a PT Boat during World War II.  After the war, he returned to San Antonio where he was an Assistant Criminal District Attorney, secretary to the mayor, Manager of LaVillita, City Judge for Terrell Hills, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney and Enforcement Director of the Office of Price Administration. He passed away in 2001.

Joseph C. Elliott

Joe Elliott served as a Bankruptcy Referee from 1975-1979 and a Bankruptcy Judge from 1979-1986. He clerked for U.S. District Judge John Wood and worked for the San Antonio firm of Plunkett & Gibson, Incorporated. He became a Bankruptcy Referee in 1975 at age 33. The Elliott Cup is named in his honor. After stepping down from the bench, he was a staff attorney for Chapter 13 Trustee Marion "Al" Olson.

R. Glen Ayers

R. Glen Ayers was born in 1947. He served as a Bankruptcy Judge from 1985-1988. He was commissioned as an armor officer in the United States Army. He received his law degree from the University of South Carolina in 1975. He taught law at the University of Mississippi and St. Mary's University School of Law. You can find a tribute to Judge Ayers written by Bankruptcy Judge Craig Gargotta and Dick Davis here. My post about him can be found here. He passed away in 2017. 

Larry E. Kelly

Larry E. Kelly was born in 1946. He served as Bankruptcy Judge from 1986-2007. He served as a communications specialist in the Navy for three and a half years. He graduated from Baylor Law School in 1974 and practiced with Pakis, Cherry, Beard & Giotes until he was appointed to the bench in 1986. Two of his favorite expressions were "let me tell you where I'm at" and "in the twelve years I was practicing." He shepherded the implementation of CM/ECF in the Western District as one of the beta testing districts in the county. The Larry E. Kelly Inn of Court is named in his honor. I wrote remembrances of Judge Kelly which can be found here and here. He passed away in 2014 (but only after he finished grading his final exams for the semester).

Leif M. Clark

Leif M. Clark served as a Bankruptcy Judge from 1987-2012. He earned a M. Div. (with Honors) from Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary in 1972 and earned a law degree from the University of Houston Bates College of Law in 1980. He worked at Cox & Smith, Inc. in San Antonio before taking the bench. I wrote two posts discussing some of his 300 opinions here, and here While a sitting judge, he was a trainer and program designer for the USAID Judicial Training Program in Romania, Latvia, Poland and Ukraine. He also taught U.S. Constitutional Law to students in Austria.  Since retiring, he has served as a mediator, arbitrator and consultant.  

Ronald B. King

Ronald B. King was an active Bankruptcy Judge from 1988 to 2021. He graduated from UT Law School in 1977, then clerked for Justice James G. Denton of the Texas Supreme Court. Before taking the bench, he worked for Foster, Lewis, Langley, Gardner & Banack, Inc. He took the bench at age 35 which made it possible to serve for 33 years.  Since taking senior status, he has continued to hear cases and serve as a judicial mediator.  He was featured in the Bankruptcy Law Section Newsletter of the State Bar of Texas which can be found here. Two of his former law clerks, Craig Gargotta and Michael Parker, are now judges in the Western District. 

Frank R. Monroe

Frank R. Monroe served as a Bankruptcy Judge from 1989 to 2009. He graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1969. Prior to being appointed as a judge he was a partner with Sheinfeld, Maley & Kay in Houston, where he served as managing partner. During his tenure on the bench, he was the presiding judge over a multitude of cases including real estate related cases and golf courses to name a few. After retiring, he practiced with Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody in Austin.

Craig R. Gargotta

Craig R. Gargotta has served as a Bankruptcy Judge since 2007. He graduated from St. Mary's School of Law in 1989. Prior to taking the bench, he was a law clerk to Bankruptcy Judge Ronald B. King and was an Asst. U.S. Attorney from 1990-2007. He is currently the Chief Judge for the Western District of Texas and holds court in San Antonio. He taught at St. Mary's School of Law from 2002-2006.

H. Christopher Mott

H. Christopher Mott has served as a Bankruptcy Judge since 2010. He graduated from Texas Tech Law School in 1983. He practiced law with the firm now known as Gordon, Davis, Johnson and Shane in El Paso, Texas for 27 years. I wrote a profile of him here.  Judge Mott presides over cases in the Austin and El Paso divisions of the Western District of Texas. His chambers in El Paso include a holding cell left over from when the U.S. District Court occupied the premises. He refers to this as the "Pancho Villa Conference Room." 

Tony M. Davis

Tony M. Davis served as a Bankruptcy Judge from 2013-2023. He received his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1983. He spent much of his legal career as a partner at Baker Botts, LLP in Houston, Texas. I wrote a profile of him here which discusses his career prior to taking the bench.  Judge Davis's opinion in In re D'Avila, 498 B.R. 150 (Bankr. W.D. Tex. 2013) was later followed by the Fifth Circuit in Hawk v. Engelhart (In re Hawk), 871 F.3d 287 (5th Cir. 2017) and Lowe v. DeBerry (In re DeBerry), 884 F.3d 526 (5th Cir. 2018).

Michael Parker

Michael Parker has served as a Bankruptcy Judge since 2021.  Judge Parker holds four degrees: B.S. in engineering from the University of Colorado; M.S. in engineering, M.B.A., and J.D. from U.T. Austin. He graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1993. He clerked for Judge King from 1993-1995 and worked for Norton Rose Fulbright for the entire time from when he left his clerkship until he took the bench.  I wrote a profile of Judge Parker here.  Judge Parker holds Court in San Antonio and Waco.

Shad Robinson

Shad Robinson is the newest judge in the Western District of Texas, having taken the bench on February 21, 2023. He received his law degree from Baylor University Law School in 1999. From 1999 to 2000, he was a law clerk for the Honorable Leif M. Clark, retired United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Western District of Texas-San Antonio. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Baylor Law School for over 18 years.  He practiced with Haley & Olson in Waco, Texas and was General Counsel for Alliance Bank Central Texas. Judge Robinson holds court in the Austin and Midland divisions. I hope to have a profile for him soon. 


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