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Helping the Court Decide Your Case | Justice April Farris

Transitioning from private practice to the bench is an adjustment even in the best of times. But First Court of Appeals Justice April Farris made the switch in the middle of a pandemic when court operations and proceedings were fully remote. In this week’s episode, Justice Farris joins Todd Smith and Jody Sanders to talk about her experiences in the Texas Solicitor General’s office, private practice, and as a new appellate justice. She shares insights on helping the court solve problems and ways attorneys can get oral-argument experience through government service or criminal appointments. She also provides useful tips on making briefs and oral arguments more persuasive.

Listen to the podcast here:

Helping the Court Decide Your Case | Justice April Farris

Our guest is Justice April Farris of Houston’s First Court of Appeals. Justice Farris, thank you for joining us.

Thank you for having me.

I know probably a lot of our readers in Texas are familiar with you already, but can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and where you have been?

Governor Abbott appointed me to the First Court of Appeals here in Houston on January 1, 2021, and it’s been a fantastic experience. Before that, I practiced for over ten years doing appellate litigation, mostly at Yetter Coleman, which is based in Houston, but I also worked for some time in the Texas Solicitor General’s office handling high-profile appeals for the State of Texas and that was a lot of fun. Before I went into private practice, I clerked for Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod on the Fifth Circuit here in Houston. That’s when I moved to Houston and came to love the area. Before that, I grew up in Big Spring, Texas and I went to college at Abilene Christian University, and then I went to Harvard for law school, also known as the UT of the North. I’ve been all over but I’m a Texas girl. I was excited to come back and practice and ultimately serve my state in the judiciary.

Todd and I wanted to have some people from the SG’s office. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience at the SG’s office and what that office does appellate-wise?

I would tell any young lawyers who were maybe 3 or 4 years out who were interested in having an appellate practice to consider trying to get a job in the Texas Solicitor General’s Office because it is the best training ground I have ever seen for young appellate lawyers. The reason why is the Texas SG’s office is structured so that the office has its pick of any appeals that are going through the state system. Screener memos will come up through the office that say what the appeal is about. It might be in the tax division, an election law case, or something with a habeas issue, but there’s such a broad array of cases that you can work on there.

The SG’s office has the option to take any appeal that it wants. For small appeals, if you are just getting your feet under you, you will be lead counsel. You go and run with the case. You do all of the briefings, you go and argue. At the end of the day, it’s your case. Also, the SG’s office handles some of the biggest and most high-profile appeals that the state has. Some cases are big team type of cases where you might have 5 or 6 lawyers and then the SG will ultimately argue it himself.

You also get a lot of experience working with more experienced appellate lawyers in those big team cases. You learn a lot. I was grateful for my time there. I ended up getting to work with a lot of people who you may recognize their names now. I worked with Judge Andy Oldham, Magistrate Judge Barker, and Solicitor General Keller at the time. I’ve got to learn from a lot of smart people who are further along in their careers than I was. I loved it. It was a lot of fun.

There were some incredible opportunities for advocacy. Not only in terms of preparing the briefs but oral argument. We see the Texas Supreme Court docket regularly and people from the SG’s office were making arguments there or even in some cases, splitting time with some of the private litigants because of their amicus positions that they are taking. Not only there, but of course at the Fifth Circuit and even more famously, at the US Supreme Court in certain cases. I will echo what you said. From an outsider’s viewpoint, it’s a great training ground for newer appellate lawyers. From what I have seen, aside from the actual SGs, people tend to go and stay there for quite some time. I have seen some people there for ten years or more.

There are few jobs where you get to do all appellate, true appeals, all the time. When I was in private practice, I had an appellate practice and I considered jury charge work and dispositive motions to be a part of appellate practice 100%. If you do a lot of time on those issues, you still have what you would call an appellate practice. The SG’s office is truly all briefs all the time in the Courts of Appeals. If you want to volunteer to go handle something in a trial stage, then you can probably do that.

I can’t think of any other comparable job where, if you love being in the appellate court, you can do that all day every day. In private practice, I had taken a Criminal Justice Act appointment case as my first oral argument, but after that my next oral arguments were all for the SG’s office. It was exciting to be a young lawyer and getting to argue in the Court of Appeals and in the Fifth Circuit. For an appellate lawyer, that’s a dream come true.

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What great experience going back into private practice from there. It would take a long time to build up that same level of experience if you had only been in private practice and hadn’t had the opportunity at the SG’s office.

It’s the appellate equivalent of the DA’s office for people that do criminal law. You go into the DA’s office and your feet to the fire, trying a lot of cases quickly that you wouldn’t get in civil. It sounds like the SG is the same thing on the appellate side almost.

That’s a great way to describe it because I’m sure you probably have older partners in your office who talk about the good old days of the 1970s when they got to try 40 insurance cases a week and they got to cut their teeth. From what I understand, opportunities to get into a trial court are even hard to come by these days. You have an even smaller number of appeals because many cases settle out between here and there. If you want to be an appellate lawyer, it’s important to try to get some oral arguments, whether in a government post or Criminal Justice Act appointment or maybe pro bono. However you can do it, it’s important.

I know one of the things that you wanted to talk about was why you wanted to become a judge. Can you tell us your reasons for wanting to be on the bench and how you got on that path?

I grew up interested in the legal profession. When I was in college, I took a job at the county attorney’s office in Howard County out in West Texas. I cataloged all of the misdemeanor card files and put them on the computer for a minimum wage all summer long. The county attorney let me come and watch him whenever he was in court and I loved it. My grandfather had been a U.S. history teacher, turned principal, and superintendent. He gave me books about the U.S. Constitution and the Founding Fathers from an early age. I remember being such a dork. I was probably the only third grader who had memorized the people to form a more perfect union.

I grew up going to Colonial Williamsburg and just trying to learn everything about American history that I could. I came to respect what an amazing product our U.S. Constitution was. That set me on the path to wanting to clerk. I clerked for Judge Elrod and I got a great experience with her. She was committed to equal justice and she took cases very seriously. If anybody didn’t have a lawyer, she was going to read those briefs maybe 2 or 3 times over. I knew if I ever had a chance to be on the bench that I wanted to serve my community in that way. When the opportunity arose, I put in an application and I was very excited to be selected. It’s the biggest honor I have ever had. I’m so happy that I get to serve the State of Texas in this way.

Welcome to the bench and political campaigning. I’m sure that has been an experience.

I never ran for public office before. The closest thing that maybe I ran for was pledge mom president back in the day at Abilene Christian. The thing that I love about it is it gives me an excuse to go out and meet people. I have always been an extrovert and I love appellate practice but it does tend to lock you in your room with a bunch of books. Now I have an excuse to go to chili cook-offs, CLEs, and go to everything I can go to and try to meet all the people in the ten counties that make up our area. It has been fun so far.

I bet you are learning some geography of the area that you probably didn’t know a lot about, being centered in Houston before.

An extrovert and appellate judge aren’t necessarily exclusive but an extrovert and appellate lawyer coming up, that’s a little rarer. Considering your current position, that’s probably the best personality type to have.

Lockdown was hard because, my poor introverted colleagues, I would always go down to people’s offices and say hello and chitchat at the watercooler like, “I read this interesting case. Have you read this interesting case yet?” Now I have to pick up the phone or email. My colleagues on the bench have been very welcoming and accommodating. If I have been bugging them, they haven’t told me that yet.

You are unique because you were in private practice in the pandemic and then you went on the bench in the pandemic. Have you been on the actual bench yet?

No. I have only been on the proverbial Zoom bench thus far. That also actually has had an interesting silver lining. In my years of going to appellate arguments, you might have ten people in the room, maybe 40 people for a huge case but very rarely are you going to pack the halls for an appellate court argument here in Texas — and we have had hundreds of people watch many of our Zoom arguments. I had my daughter’s Girl Scout troop for their Civics Day Badge watch part of an oral argument. They thought it was interesting and then we talked about the different roles like, “Do you want to be the litigant? Do you think it would be fun to go into court and argue somebody’s case? What do you think about being a judge? We have lots of amazing women judges on our Courts of Appeals and our Texas Supreme Court.” You could just see their eyes light up and get excited, thinking that could be them someday.

Helping the Court: Serving in a government post or taking a Criminal Justice Act appointment are good ways to gain oral argument experience.

There are downsides to Zoom oral arguments but one thing that I have loved about Zoom hearings and Zoom oral arguments is that I can, from my computer, peek in on what’s going on around the state in a way that was never feasible before. It is fun just because I’m a nerd like, “Let’s get on the YouTube page and see who’s having a hearing. It’s this person.” Just for interest because it is cool to be able to look, “What’s going on out in West Texas? What’s going on down in East Texas?” Especially on the appellate courts, unless I’m there to argue a case or go with somebody, I’m never in the Houston Court of Appeals to just watch oral arguments and now I can.

This has been a golden opportunity and everybody is excited to get back in the courtroom but I hope we can find a way to hang on to some of this because it’s good for everybody. It’s so useful to be able to pop in and see what’s going on in these courts across the state. I feel like it brings us closer together as a profession.

We had an argument in the Waco Court in my office and it was held live but the court still broadcast on YouTube.  They had some discussion off the record but on camera about the court continuing that practice in the future. The best possible outcome is to keep the courts open and broadcasting on YouTube but allow the litigants and the judges to come in live.

That would be a good solution going forward because I have always loved how the Texas Supreme Court records their arguments. If you’ve got somebody in your office who’s arguing that day but you’ve got too much on your plate where you can’t just drop everything and go to Austin, you can watch them in real time.

We are lucky that the Supreme Court has been leading from the front for the last decade on this stuff. Even the Fifth Circuit at least records their arguments so you can get them but it’s not quite the same as seeing it live. There’s something about watching the back and forth between the lawyers and judges on video or live on YouTube or whatever. That does bring a different experience than just listening to audio.

You have spent years at the SG’s office and spent years in private practice. What have you learned since you have been on that side of the bench, though? Has there been anything that’s surprised you or things that you have seen that you weren’t expecting?

The biggest surprise to me is the degree of preparation that goes into the argument and how that comes across when somebody is in an oral argument. Whenever we set a case for oral argument, I will have already read the briefs and the key record excerpts. I’ve maybe got 3 or 4 questions in my mind that I’d like answers to. When people are prepared, you can tell who knows the record cold. Sometimes they will even predict my questions before I asked them and say something like, “There’s this one part of the record that makes it clear why my client should win.”

Those are the types of things that are helpful even if you don’t have them memorized. Something I would advise litigants to do is, if you know there are sticky parts of the record that are going to come up that people are going to have questions about, maybe have a tabbed binder so that you can just flip to that part of the record because that’s where the oral argument becomes very useful where you can drill down into the one thing that may be giving you some questions about whether to rule for that party. You can tell who does a good job with preparation on those sorts of things.

Do you come in with a sense of where you are going on the issues before an oral argument or with a little bit of an open mind and see where the parties go?

I usually come in with an open mind. If it’s a case that we have set oral argument on, it’s because we don’t know what we are going to do yet. A lot of times, I will think like, “It looks like we should probably go this direction but I have a big question about this one thing.” Oral argument is very helpful for fleshing that out. That’s one piece of advice that I would give to parties is not to run away from a question. That question is the judge trying to sort things out and maybe trying to figure out how to go your way. Sometimes attorneys can be very jumpy and want to run away from that and go back to their outline. Usually, everybody has done a good job on the briefs. We know your story and the bigger picture but we’ve got one sticky issue that we’d like to sort out.

Never run away from a question even if you don’t have a good answer at the time. Submit a letter brief to follow up. The piece of advice that I got that was most helpful for me as a practicing lawyer is, you are there to be helpful to the court. You are not there to rehash your brief and sway the court with your overwhelming oration and persuasion. You are there to help the court solve the problem at the end of the day. If you can help the court with what the court was worried about, then you are going to be doing your client a big favor.

That’s one of the marks of a good appellate advocate, knowing that that’s the function of counsel, especially at oral argument. It’s to answer the court’s questions and be helpful because you don’t want to throw up roadblocks at that stage of the case. If you want the court to rule your way, you’ve got to be prepared to answer those tough questions. Even if it requires an answer like, “I haven’t thought of that exact issue but I would be glad to submit a post-submission letter to the court.”

How have you adjusted to seeing a regular influx of criminal cases come across your desk? You mentioned doing some pro bono work in criminal law but I suspect in your private practice you weren’t seeing that regularly.

I was not seeing it regularly. I did my first oral argument in the Sixth Circuit and it was a Criminal Justice Act appointment case on a habeas matter. I was so lucky because I had Judge Cam Barker as my mentor at the law firm and he had lots of criminal experience. He taught me so much about that area of criminal law to get ready for that case. I ended up winning. It was my very first argument, and I won. That was exciting for me and made me think that this appellate idea might have something to it.

I also did a little bit of criminal law when I went to the Fifth Circuit but in the Texas SG’s Office, there wasn’t a criminal case. I have done some criminal [work on the bench] but the thing that I have been doing the most is reading cases as they come out of the Court of Criminal Appeals. I have been getting to know some of our staff attorneys who are true experts in criminal law and also doing a lot of criminal CLE and self-study on different issues as well. The great thing is we’ve got a good Court of Criminal Appeals that has provided a lot of opinions that are very clear and easy to follow. I’m grateful for that. Whenever they issue new releases, I’m always glued to those when they come out and release.

How does your court do preparation and assignment? Do you all meet before you have an oral argument? Do you assign cases before or do you each prepare on your own and then come in and that’s the first time you have conferenced about it?

They are pre-assigned, and usually the judge who is going to be handling the majority will draft the memo and everything. Once you conference, you may find out that you may have been assigned the majority but now, all of a sudden, you are in dissent. Things can certainly change around but all the judges are still doing Zoom conferences. We will get together on Zoom and talk about our cases. A lot of times, they are clear and everybody agrees. Occasionally that won’t be the case but everybody is very respectful. The staff attorneys will usually join us in our conference, which can be very helpful because a lot of times they have read all the nuances of the record and it seems to work well.

Before you took the bench, you are one of a handful of people that I think of off the top of my head as having expertise in the TCPA. Is the number of TCPA cases you have seen so far on the bench about what you would have expected and has that expertise helped you in dealing with those?

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Yes. I have seen TCPA cases. Doing far too many CLEs on the TCPA has helped. The way that I got involved in doing TCPA is I had an older partner when I was at Yetter. His name was Charlie Parker. He came into my office one day and he said, “Something is going on with this TCPA. I’m seeing opinions that are surprising to me. I want you to learn everything you can about the statute and I want you to give an internal CLE presentation to our firm about the statute.”

I was like, “Okay, Charlie. I’m sure it’s very interesting.” I started looking at the cases and my mind was blown. I put together a CLE presentation for our firm but I had already done all the work. I thought, “Why not try to take the show on the road?” I have done more than a dozen TCPA presentations. I could probably go the rest of my life without doing another TCPA presentation but I’m an extrovert. It gives me an excuse to go out and be with people and get out of my office. There are probably a few more.

Hopefully, the new statute will make it not as impactful as it was. I feel like there was about a five-year period where it swallowed up the entire civil court system because there was not a case where, arguably, someone couldn’t try and fit it in some way or another. It felt like at least.

I read a lot of the new articles that said, at one point, the Dallas Court of Appeals’ docket was something like 40% TCPA cases which blows my mind. I don’t think we are anywhere near that level anymore.

I hope that was on the sweet spot side but it wouldn’t shock me if it was all cases.

What an interesting little unit in our state’s jurisprudential history.

If you ever want to teach a course on textual analysis, that is the statute to talk about because it’s such unintended consequences from the legislature based on what they wanted to do versus what they accomplished. It seems like there was a huge mismatch there.

In my CLEs, I tell people, “Go read Creative Oil. I find that case to be fascinating.” I enjoyed Justice Blacklock’s description of the dogs, cats and the stuffed animals. It was such an interesting way of explaining statutory interpretation. That goes to show that when you are a judge, you can break concepts down into easy-to-understand lessons. I hope that I’m able to do that as well because, as we all know, statutory interpretation can get very thorny. It’s something that if you don’t get a course on it in law school, you should try and learn it once you get out because if you can master statutory interpretation and get to the heart of things, then that’s going to make you a very good lawyer for your client.

I remember when the TCPA first came out, it was Judge Pemberton in Austin that wrote an opinion where he broke down and made these hypotheticals like, “If I wake up in the morning and I lean over and I talk to my wife, that’s a communication, and then I go and do….” He broke it down like that illustrating a little bit of the absurdity of some of the interpretations of how broadly it was written. That has always stuck with me as a great way to explain that. It’s a funny way but also making a pretty good point with it.

I recall that one well.

Was that your case?

No, it wasn’t my case.

I hope I’m not bringing up bad memories for you.

I believe it was a concurring opinion so I wouldn’t fault Justice Pemberton for that but it is one of the more creative concurrences that I recall seeing. Illustrating, arguably, the relative absurdity of the previous version of the TCPA.

Attorneys in courtroom

Helping the Court: At oral argument, you’re not there to rehash your brief. You’re there to help the court solve the problem your case presents.

We have talked a little bit about the oral argument but how has it been doing that on Zoom? Have you learned some things from the judge side that advocates should know in that medium?

I have to say one benefit to it is people are a little bit less formal or less nervous. I don’t know what it is. I can remember as a litigant, having a lot of nerves and seeing other advocates. When you get in that big gorgeous courtroom that makes you feel 2 feet tall and the judges are elevated, it gives you a sense of the perspective and the importance of our judicial system. A lot of times, it can also make you a little bit nervous and probably because people have been doing far too many Zoom meetings, that it feels like you are just having a conversation with the attorneys. Trying to flesh out the wrinkles to get to the decision that you need to make. I like that. It feels a little bit less formal and it feels easier to talk to people.

What about briefing? As an advocate, you wear one hat when you are writing your brief and then you are looking at the other side and responding to it. Are you looking at briefing differently now or seeing things in briefing that you hadn’t noticed or thought about when you were on the advocate side?

Yes. What I would say about briefing is we have such a large volume of briefing. I was always one to write up to the word limits because most of the cases I handled were pretty complex and justified it. If you’ve got a case where you can make it a little bit simpler, I appreciate brevity. Especially if your issues are simple, straightforward and you’ve got the winning precedent on your side, don’t belabor the point. Get straight to it and say, “This Texas Supreme Court case controls.” Get in and get out. It makes you appear stronger.

I have come to enjoy briefs where people use the table of contents as an advocacy tool because a lot of times, you don’t pay much attention to your headings but the headings can tell the story. The headings are a one-page summary of all of your arguments and I think that’s helpful. There are other tips I could give but go through your brief after you have written it and see what you can cut because a lot of times, you are saying repetitive things. Your good ideas can get lost when there’s too much repetition. It’s always harder to write a short letter than a long one.

On the advocacy side, you don’t want to give anything up. It’s so hard to feel like, “I’ve got this brilliant argument.” You don’t want to let go of any point. It’s always a lot harder.

Don’t cut your points but if you have already made the point twice, you don’t necessarily need to make it a third time.

Are you a fan of weaving the more important facts into the argument and keeping the statement of facts relatively short or do you prefer to see all the facts laid out upfront in the statement of facts section and simply referred back to in the argument?

It depends on the case. That is one of the things that I always found interesting when I was an advocate. I would write the statement of facts before I would start the argument and then sometimes, I would realize that I was repeating and duplicating. I would go back and maybe cut my statement of facts or cross-reference; but to me, you’ve got to see how it writes. There’s no hard-and-fast rule in every case.

It seems like that’s a place, though, where at least in the actual statement of facts section, judicious use of words is probably advisable. Especially if it’s the trial lawyers handling the briefing, they want to tell the whole story and not leave out any details and not really necessary to an appellate brief.

A lot of times, people use so many dates. I’m reading through the statement of facts. I will start zeroing in on these dates, thinking that there’s going to be maybe a problem with the notice of appeal deadline, statute of limitations, and then it turns out that the dates didn’t matter at all. If you are looking for words to cut, a lot of times, you don’t need those dates. Unless they are pertinent to some issue.

I know exactly what you are talking about when you start reading a brief and there are all these dates and then you get to the end of it, you were like, “Those are some dates.”

Were you surprised by the flow and volume of work that you have had as an appellate justice?

It has been pretty manageable. Coming out of private practice where you are working around the clock. It seems like there are plenty of hours in the day to get to all of our cases and everything. That has been a good feeling.

Do you have a sense of where the First Court’s docket and filings are right now relative to where they were pre-pandemic? I know some courts have gotten slower and others have not. Do you know where yours is?

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I can’t recall. I think we are pretty on par for the course.

It will be interesting to see when people start trying cases again what that’s going to look like because I bet all of us are going to see a completely different world.

We are ready for the upticks.

You’ve got probably 7 or 8 cases set for oral argument, going all the way into the end of June 2021 and it looks like they are largely criminal cases, somewhat surprisingly. Has there been a discussion, now that things have opened up a bit more, about coming back to the courtroom and doing some of these live?

I would be surprised to see any live arguments before summer is over but by the time we are into the fall of 2021, my guess iswe would be having oral arguments again. I don’t have any firm dates on anything but I would suspect it would be going back to the courtroom after summer 2021.

Have you been able to be in the courthouse much? It’s such a beautiful space and it’s a shame that you haven’t been able to go and be on the bench yet.

The reason I’m not in there is that I wasn’t sure how to necessarily set up my husband’s microphone with my equipment at the courthouse. My husband is also my tech guy. If I wanted to work from home, he would help me get everything set up so that has been great. I love going up to the courthouse. I tell everybody, I worked remotely before it was cool because I had a baby back in November of 2019. I was working from home a little bit before the baby came and then I had a couple of arguments set during my maternity leave. I took maternity leave with some interruptions and then made up for it on the other side. I was doing a lot of work from home. The actual day that I was supposed to come back to the office was the day that they closed my office for the pandemic. I have been working remotely since October 2019.

You were social distancing before it was cool.

I’m ready to see people. My poor husband is an introvert and I’m sure he’s also very ready for me to see people.

On the one hand, you were prepared very well for what was to come with the pandemic but, on the other hand, what an experience you have had with not only going through all that, with having your baby and dealing with oral arguments while on leave but then, lo and behold, you get appointed to the appellate bench and now you get to start a whole new job during this crazy time.

It has been a surreal last year and a half because I argued back in early March of 2020 in the Sixth Circuit and they closed the court and went to all remote the very next week. I flew on a real airplane and I shook hands with my opposing counsel. It was such a different world.

You are not going to know what normal is like when all this is over.

There will be some stories for sure.

Is there anything that maybe lawyers don’t know about the way that your court works that you wish they understood that would make it more helpful?

Men speaking and smiling

Helping the Court: If you can master statutory interpretation and get to the heart of things, then that’s going to help you do a better job representing your client.

To me, it seems like so many of the lawyers that we see are very good and very good at their jobs and they know how to serve their clients well. The biggest thing is candor to the court. If there’s a point that’s not great for you, go ahead and acknowledge it upfront. I’m not saying you need to concede something or do something like that but we all know where the weak points in our cases are. Otherwise, people wouldn’t hire you if it was an open shut case with no chance of winning. If you know where the hard places in your case are, just be forthright about that. A lot of times, you will win anyway. Honesty is great and we always appreciate it. Honesty and clear writing. Here in Texas, we are blessed with a high-quality bar. I have been impressed with the litigants that I have had the experience to read the writing or see their arguments.

When you hide your weak argument in a footnote, somebody is going to find it.

We appreciate you being here and taking the time to do this and working from home to have your tech set up. We always like to leave our guests the chance to offer maybe some tips, and you have given us some great ones, or a war story to close out. Do you have anything you would like to give?

Continue to check those Zoom filters. I don’t think we’ve gotten a cat yet but sometimes we will have somebody whose name isn’t quite right. People are doing a great job adjusting to this strange new normal. Watch for little tech glitches and hang-ups but everybody is doing a great job. From the bar to our litigants out there, thank you so much for being flexible as we work through all these new procedures and technologies. Thank you for serving your clients well.

Justice Farris, it has been so great to have you. We have certainly enjoyed hearing from you. You have given us some great advocacy tips, good things for people of all experience levels to keep in mind. Thank you so much for being with us.

Thank you for having me. I enjoyed your show and thank you so much for the service to our bar and the state. It has been great.

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April FarrisAbout Justice April Farris

April Farris was appointed to the First Court of Appeals by Governor Abbott for a term beginning January 2021.

Before joining the Court, April was a partner at Yetter Coleman LLP where she handled complex appellate litigation for energy, technology, and government clients. In 2020, she was one of five lawyers in the nation to be named a Law360 Rising Star in appellate litigation, an honor reserved for attorneys under 40. She has also been recognized in appellate law by  Best Lawyers in America and Thompson Reuters’ Super Lawyers.

April previously served as an Assistant Solicitor General for the State of Texas, where she handled appeals for various Texas agencies. She recently completed a three-year term on the Council of the Texas State Bar Appellate Section, and she currently co-chairs its CLE Committee. April is a life fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation, and she is a member of the Houston Bar Association. She previously served as the president of the Federalist Society’s Houston Lawyers Chapter.

April clerked for Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. She graduated from Harvard Law School cum laude in 2009, and she earned her bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from Abilene Christian University in 2006.

April is married to Ben Farris, and they have two children

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