Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson will retire from the bench on Oct. 1, leaving behind a legacy of efficiency, transparency and access to justice on the state's highest civil court.
Jefferson says he has not yet determined his future employment plans.
"I'm sorry to go. It's just been a wonderful 12 years," Jefferson says of his decision. "And I know there are many aspects about leaving that I'll regret."
Gov. Rick Perry first appointed Jefferson to the court in 2001, after Jefferson had made his name in appellate law as a partner in San Antonio's Crofts, Callaway & Jefferson, successfully arguing two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Perry elevated Jefferson to chief justice in September 2004 after then-Chief Justice Tom Phillips' retirement.
A humorous episode that occurred in 2003 right after Perry announced Jefferson as his choice to lead the high court would foreshadow Jefferson's later decision to leave the court. After a press conference, Jefferson's then 7-year-old son Sam, beaming from his father's accomplishment, gave a humorous interview with a television reporter in which he said he was glad his dad got the appointment because it would mean more money for their family. Sam is now a 17-year-old high school senior; he has a 19-year-old brother who's a sophomore at Southern Methodist University and a younger brother who's 14-years-old, Jefferson says.
"I don't want to overemphasize the salary question. I think the Legislature has done what they can to improve the salaries for judges," says Jefferson. The outgoing chief justice advocated and helped win a pay raise for state judges from the Legislature recently, as well as the creation of a commission that will study judicial salary compensation.
"The bigger question comes in any family's life: What is best for your family? And it seems to me that this was the best for my family," Jefferson says of his decision to leave the court. "The potential for greater compensation exists, and the court had accomplished a lot of what it set out to do over the course of 12 years. And now it's time for someone else to put their stamp on the court."
Jefferson says he has no idea where he's going to land after leaving the court.
"I haven't attempted to pursue any opportunities yet. Private practice is certainly an option. But I don't want to limit myself. Anything that's challenging or meaningful" is a possibility, he says.
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