Near the beginning of her third year as a KoonsFuller associate, Jessica Janicek argued a case before the Texas Supreme Court pro bono. The high court held that an ex-spouse who missed child support payments must pay all that he owes — not just the amount listed in court pleadings — to avoid contempt of court.
Judge Bill Harris of the 233rd District Court heard the case at the trial level; he says he listened to a recording of Janicek’s oral argument. Janicek wasn’t involved until the case went to the high court.
"It impressed the hell out of me for a young kid to have that kind of poise and that kind of ability to argue a very, very important case to the Texas Supreme Court," Harris says.
It’s a "big deal" for such a young lawyer just to argue before the high court, let alone achieve a "significant and meaningful" ruling, says KoonsFuller shareholder Heather King, who supervises Janicek in the firm’s Southlake office.
"She is where most of us are in 10 years," noting that Janicek excels in trying cases, conducting research, and interacting with clients and judges, King says.
"It’s just this ability she has to get things done and do a damn good job," she says. King explains that Janicek authored the high court briefs and presented the oral argument in In Re The Office of the Attorney General.The case involves the interpretation of Texas Family Code §157.162(d), which allows those who miss child-support payments to avoid a finding of contempt if they become current on payments.
The opinion gives the background: In the trial court, the Tarrant County Domestic Relations Office filed a motion to enforce. The motion alleged that relator’s Njideke Lawreta Ezukanma’s husband owed her $23,044.78. He paid that amount but missed paying another $28,656.56 that had become due in the interim between the filing of the motion and the February 2009 hearing. The trial court found him in contempt.
He filed for mandamus with the 2nd Court of Appeals and won, arguing against the contempt finding because he had paid the amount listed in the motion to enforce.
On mandamus to the Supreme Court, Ezukanma argued that to avoid contempt, her husband should have made "all payments when they became due."
Among other things, the Supreme Court adopted the argument of the OAG, also a relator. To avoid a contempt finding, "[A]n obligor must be current on all child support obligations as of the date of the hearing," wrote Justice Debra Lehrman.
Harris notes that Janicek has tried several other cases before him. The 18-year veteran of the trial court bench adds that, if he ever needed a family law attorney, "I would hire Jessica to represent me. I have that much confidence in her."
Janicek earned a business degree from Baylor University in 2006 and a law degree from Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in 2009. She joined KoonsFuller in 2010.
"Family law is great because it’s not just family law. You do all kinds of law," she explains.