by Allison Standish Miller, Shepherd, Scott, Clawater & Houston, L.L.P.
On November 19, 1992, when then-Justice Adele Hedges was sworn in to the First Court of Appeals, the world was a different, albeit rapidly-changing, place. The Cold War had recently been declared over. European leaders approved the formation of what would become the European Union. Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas defeated President George H.W. Bush in the presidential election, and the Church of England approved the ordination of female priests.
Nearly twenty-one years later, as now-Chief Justice Hedges prepares to leave her post, the Houston Courts of Appeals have changed drastically as well, both in form and in function. The Courts are now housed in the beautifully- and painstakingly-restored 1910 courthouse. Electronic filing is not only available, it is required. And the Courts enjoy electronic circulation of and voting on opinions. All of these improvements resulted at least in part from the efforts and leadership of Chief Justice Hedges, who worked with others to improve the beauty, efficiency, and accessibility of Houston’s Courts of Appeals. Reflecting on her time on the bench, Judge Hedges considers two words that could best sum up her years of service to be “efficiency and dedication.” Perhaps “innovation” should be included as well.
More specifically, Judge Hedges endeavored to secure funding for TAMES, the Texas Appellate Management E-Filing System, and permitted the Fourteenth Court to serve as the beta test court for the program. With respect to the courts’ internal case management, Judge Hedges assisted in securing funding for and participating in the development of the case circulation software that all of the Texas Courts of Appeals now utilize. “We had to invent [the software]. . .” she recalled. “There was nothing on the shelf.” Last, but certainly not least, Judge Hedges was instrumental in the Houston courts’ move to the new courthouse, as she participated in the design and restoration of the old district courthouse, which was left vacant once the courts moved to their new facility at 201 Caroline.
Marie Jamison, an attorney with Wright & Close, LLP who served for several years as Judge Hedges’s briefing attorney, believes that Judge Hedges was an “essential part to updating” TAMES, going on to remark that Judge Hedges’s efforts “gave the appellate bar a more efficient and transparent TAMES. Without her, e-filing as we know it today would likely still be a work in progress.”
Born and raised in Orange, Texas, Judge Hedges earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Houston in 1968. She then went on to attend Rice University, where she earned both a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. in French. Not yet satisfied, she attended the University of Houston Law Center, from which she graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1974. During her time at the Law Center, she served as Articles Editor of the Houston Law Review; won the Best Brief Award in 1973, and participated in the State Moot Court Team. After law school, Judge Hedges went to work as an associate at Fulbright & Jaworski, LLP, where her practice included litigation, real estate, business, and banking matters. Over the intervening years, Judge Hedges worked in private practice and as in-house counsel—and also briefly took on the role of Professor of French at Rice University.
In 1992, Judge Hedges commenced her years as public service when she took office as Justice, Place 2 of the First Court of Appeals, following previous Place 2 justices such as Ewing Werlein and Frank Price. During her multiple terms on the First Court, the Texas Association of Civil Trial and Appellate Specialists honored Judge Hedges as 1998’s Appellate Judge of the Year. In late 2003, following the appointment of then-Chief Justice Scott Brister’s appointment to the Texas Supreme Court, Governor Rick Perry appointed Judge Hedges as Chief of the Fourteenth.
In addition to her work helping to modernize and streamline the courts, Judge Hedges also served as member and in 2007 as the Chief of Texas’s Council of Chief Justices. During her time on the council, Judge Hedges worked with the other justices to secure pay raises for the Texas judiciary amidst fiscally-difficult times. Judge Hedges is married to Dan Hedges, who himself is a well-respected trial lawyer and a name partner at Houston’s Porter & Hedges, LLP. Together they make innovation a family affair; in collaboration with their team of architects, the couple garnered accolades and press attention in 2009 for what at the time was referred to as “Houston’s greenest residence.” Almost entirely off the power grid, the Hedges residence boasts solar power, rainwater collection and treatment capabilities, and geothermal air conditioning. Judge Hedges is also a devoted mother to the couple’s grown son, Clinton, and their two beloved dogs.
Judge Hedges’s commitment to improving the world around her extends not just to the legal community, but to the arts community as well, where she has donated her time and efforts to work as a Director of the Houston Symphony and of the Alley Theater. Interestingly enough, the arts and legal communities recently intersected when the Houston Grand Opera performed Gilbert & Sullivan’s Trial By Jury at the new courthouse. Judge Hedges herself is a talented musician and artist—her pursuits include the classical flute, jewelry-making, and knitting.
Throughout her years of practice, Judge Hedges has also found time to act as a Director of the Texas Center for the Judiciary; as the editor and co-author of the Pre-Trial, Trial, and Appellate Practice Guides published by the West Group; as Vice President and Director of the Council of the Appellate Practice Section; as Editor of this publication; and as Chair of the Governance Committee of TAMES.
Judge Hedges considers clarity and directness to be essential elements of parties’ briefing and the Courts’ opinions, and she intends to take those lessons, as well as the others she learned and refined on the bench, into her new private practice. She is proud of the efficiency that she helped bring to the Court, recognizing that ruling with efficiency and effectiveness is an ongoing challenge all courts face. She is also proud of the fact that, during her tenure, the Court heard oral arguments in almost every county in its district.
Texas jurisprudence is fortunate to have benefited from the service of Judge Hedges. As a jurist, a leader, and an innovator, she created positive changes in her community that will most certainly endure as they benefit generations of Texans for many years to come.