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Some judges serve an entire career with little publicity. Yet during his first six months as a state district court judge, Ken Anderson faced what he describes as a judge’s once-in-a-career controversy. A 17-year-old girl requested permission to leave a juvenile home – where she was being held for a family violence conviction in Williamson County – to have an abortion. The facility required a court order to release the teen for the abortion. After a May 31 hearing, Anderson, judge of the 277th District Court in Georgetown, denied her request. The teenager, who was about 12 weeks pregnant, and her mother then sued the private facility in federal court in Houston alleging that an abortion delay was putting the teen’s life in jeopardy and violating her constitutional rights. The case was sealed, but on June 5 U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore granted the request for an abortion. The case, Jane Doe v. Minola’s Place of Texas Residential Treatment Center, drew the ire of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Texas Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and the attention of the Texas media. Anderson’s decision stunned abortion rights advocates who assumed the request, made by the minor and her parent, would be approved. But Anderson says the request was not in the minor’s “best interest.” “I knew all about her family and her situation,” Anderson says. “I had a decision to make. I made it.” Joseph Jacobson, an Austin solo who represented the teen and her mother, says there’s nothing in the law that speaks in terms of a judge denying someone an abortion because he thinks it’s not in the woman’s best interest. “Both of them, the mom and the kid, said they wanted the abortion,” says Jacobson. “Do you make a young girl, who has a recently troubled past, a mother? Who are you kidding? In her best interest, my eye.” When discussing the case, Anderson recalls the advice he received from his predecessor, Judge John Carter. In accordance with that advice, Anderson says he’s not worried about any decisions he’s made on the bench during the past 11 months. “Judge Carter said to give each case undivided attention while on the bench, make the best decision and then forget about it,” Anderson says. “It was sound advice and fits my personality.” Nearing his one-year anniversary as judge of a general jurisdiction trial court serving Williamson County, Anderson says a judge’s function is surprisingly different from that of an advocate in an attorney’s role. “I’m no longer a lawyer,” he says. “That’s been probably the biggest shock to me. I had been a lawyer for 27 years, and I’m not a lawyer anymore.” Anderson says the new job is relatively relaxing, and he’s glad he took the opportunity offered him when Carter decided to step down. “I knew there was a chance to do something different,” Anderson says. ” I probably had five more years of DA in me. And after I had made the decision, I realized that being the DA the way I was, and being judge, there’s a difference in the stress level of a factor of about 10.” Gone are the days when Anderson, at 4:30 a.m. with a coffee cup in hand, polished a closing statement on the back porch. Now he says he sleeps until 6:30 a.m. or 7 a.m. and has time to read the paper before heading to court. “My wife says, ‘You smile now.’ “ Taxing Job Had he taken the path he previously considered, his job would be taxing – in a different sense. Anderson, 50, almost became a tax attorney. While a student, he considered specializing in tax law because he didn’t think he could speak in public. Since then, he’s made hundreds of public appearances, particularly at schools, where he estimates he addressed more than 85,000 students during his tenure as district attorney of Williamson County. Despite that experience, Anderson says he’s still “more comfortable writing in solitude.” He has written three biographies for young-adult readers. Eakin Press recently released the third book, “George Bush: A Lifetime of Service.” The lives of former Texas Gov. Dan Moody and baseball legend and Texan Nolan Ryan were covered in Anderson’s first two biographies. Anderson says his work with youngsters drove him to pursue the youth book market. Moody was his first biography, and Anderson says he had planned to write a standard adult-market book. But an incident in the Williamson County courthouse changed his mind. Anderson had supervised a moot court for fifth-graders. The student bus was late, so he had time to tell the kids the story of how Moody, while Williamson County DA, had prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan in the courtroom where the children were waiting. “It was a blast,” Anderson says. “It was a real cool story to tell fifth-graders.” So Anderson decided to write Moody’s life story for young people. Anderson is also the author of two law books, “Crime in Texas” and the “Texas Crime Victims Handbook,” and co-author of two reference books, “Texas Sentencing” and the “Predicate Questions Manual.” Writing has become an avocation for the graduate of Houston’s Westchester High School. Anderson earned a bachelor of science degree in education from the University of Texas at Austin and a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law. He served as a research assistant at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and was a staff attorney for the Texas Department of Corrections before accepting, in 1980, a position as an assistant district attorney in Williamson County. In 1985, he was appointed district attorney by then-Gov. Mark White. Anderson was elected DA in 1986 thereafter won re-election for three consecutive terms. In 1994, the former Democrat switched parties and became a Republican, as Williamson County became a predominantly Republican region. He served as DA until taking the bench in January 2002, when Gov. Rick Perry appointed Anderson to replace retiring Judge John Carter. Anderson had no opponents when he ran for the bench in the November general election. Family law cases have dominated the court’s docket this year, with some juvenile cases and, more recently, felonies. Anderson says he assumes that all participants come before him with good and noble intentions. That attitude is apparent, three lawyers say. “He is respectful of the attorney,” says Betsy Lambeth, a solo practitioner in Round Rock. “He takes a great deal of interest in each case, especially in juvenile cases. I know he’s going to listen to the facts of the case and listen to what’s presented to him before he makes a decision.” Ed Walsh, a former Williamson County district attorney who hired Anderson in the DA’s office, says Anderson is well versed in criminal law. But in areas that are not criminal, Walsh says Anderson needs an explanation of applicable law and the rules involved – an assessment with which Anderson agrees. Walsh, a solo practitioner in Round Rock, says, “I’ve had one contested divorce, in a family law case, and I thought he handled that well. He made a reasonable and fair ruling to both sides.” Walsh says he has no concerns that the former prosecutor might lean toward the state. “He understood his role as DA and understands his role as a judge, and will act accordingly,” Walsh says. In the family law arena, lawyers say it’s important to show Anderson all the statutory provisions that support an argument. “You can’t go in and assume he understands what you’re asking for and why you have a right to do it,” says Laurie Nowlin, a partner in Georgetown’s Akins & Nowlin. “You need to go in with support for anything you want to discuss with him.” Anderson concurs: “When a judge is from one particular area of law and trying a case in another, that’s a reasonably good idea,” he says. “Never assume I know anything.” For Anderson, the most difficult part of the transition from DA to judge involved giving up his position as board president of the Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center, a center he founded for child victims. Anderson continues to meet with student groups to talk about not using drugs and alcohol, and educate them about the justice system. He also is a volunteer for the Boy Scouts of America. The judge has two sons: one is a freshman in high school, the other is a freshman in college. He and his wife of 25 years, Martha, teach a Sunday school class at Palm Valley Lutheran Church in Round Rock. “There are few things I’m proud of,” Anderson says. “Being married and faithful to my wife for 25 years is one of them.” In retrospect, Anderson says his move to the bench was the right decision. “I always thought that 50 was a good age for a judge.” Do keep all parties involved in a juvenile case – the judge, opposing counsel and the juvenile probation officer – apprised of the juvenile’s status. Do realize Anderson is knowledgeable about criminal cases but requires an explanation of applicable laws and rules involved in noncriminal areas. Don’t use adjectives in court; let the facts speak for themselves. Do propose solutions that maximize the benefits to all the parties. Don’t attack an individual or get personal. Source: Three attorneys who have practiced in his court.

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