First Latina Judge to Serve on Court of Appeals Honored

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EDINBURG – The first Latina to serve on the Texas Court of Appeals’ story started off as a farm worker to educating students turned lawyer.

Linda Yanez, the 13th Court of Appeals judge, is retired now but a celebration was recently held in her honor.

“I’m excited and I’m just moved by all my friends and family who are here to share this with me today,” she said.

A portrait of Judge Yanez was unveiled and will hang on the walls of the court. The court of appeals is on the fifth floor of the building in Edinburg, but so many people showed up they moved the celebration down to the first floor.

“Twenty four years ago, Justice Yanez was appointed by the governor to serve as justice of this court,” 13th Court of Appeals Chief Justice Rogelio Valdez said.

It was her work with the poor and migrants that caught the attention of the then-Texas Gov. Ann Richards.

“I was very much aware that we never had a Latina Court of Appeals judge in the history of this huge state. With so many Latinos,” Yanez said. “I went to school in a segregated system. So we had a huge dropout rate.”

Among her many accomplishments, she fought the state of Texas before the Supreme Court on a law that kept undocumented children from attending school and she won.

Yanez’s daughter shared how proud they were of their mother.

“And the children she represented in the U.S. Supreme Court, they lived with us. They stayed with us,” Regina Richardson said.

“I couldn’t be more proud. I couldn’t have a better role model. To have her as your mom is incredible,” Amparo Guerra said.

Her two daughters are also lawyers, and her granddaughter might be following those footsteps.

“I think she is an amazing person and that she is an inspiration to me,” her granddaughter, Xochitl Guerra, said.

Judge Dori Contreras expressed she enjoyed serving with Yanez from 2003 to 2010. “I want to thank you for your mentorship,” she said.

“We used to pick cotton there in the cotton fields in Cameron County. They’d pick us up before dawn; we wouldn’t get back till dusk. There were no regulations. We didn’t have bathrooms. We didn’t have water,” Yanez said.

After her retirement, she said her life now is focusing on family.

“Life now is grandma. And I also sit as a trial judge. Life is good. Here I am and I’m still going. There’s still some fuel in the engine,” she said.

Yanez may be retired but she made a long-lasting imprint on history. 

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