Strength Through Adversity: Tough Economic Times Set Judge on Career Path

March 9, 2012

This article features one of the Council's judge members, Camile DuBose, originally published in Texas Lawyer. Click here to view the article on their site.

By: Angela Morris

A frightening and humbling experience as a young mother set Judge Camile DuBose on a path that led her to preside over the 38th District Court in Uvalde.

"It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me," she says.

It was 1992, and Texas' economy was not strong. Attorneys felt the squeeze as companies cut back on spending. It was especially hard on lawyers such as DuBose, then an insurance defense litigator.

She had begun her law career after earning an undergraduate degree in English from Texas A&M University in College Station and a law degree from St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio. She had not planned to be a lawyer, but she took the LSAT and applied to law schools on a whim, then learned she loved studying the law.

"The neat thing about the law is that there's so many different facets to it; it's very interesting. It does so many good things," says DuBose.

From 1988 to 1990 she did insurance defense work as an associate with Beckmann, Quirk & Fulton in San Antonio. Then from 1990 to 1992, during the slow economy, she was an associate with Brock & Mathis in San Antonio.

The firm dissolved, and DuBose lost her job at a rough time for her family. She and her husband had been married only three years, and the new couple had an 8-month-old daughter at home.

"You're in a panic," she says, remembering the "humbling experience" of standing in line to apply for unemployment compensation. Luckily, she found a job quickly and began following a drastically different career path.

"You hear: 'When God closes a door, he opens a window.' He did that in my circumstance," explains DuBose.

She became an assistant district attorney in the Bexar County District Attorney's Office, prosecuting child abuse and neglect cases from 1992 to 1993. The job "opened my eyes" because of the trial experience prosecuting "cases I really cared about," she says.

DuBose continued the line of work when she and her husband moved to rural Uvalde to raise their children in the same type of small-town setting where the two of them had grown up. Dubose was regional attorney for the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services in Uvalde from 1993 to 1995. She litigated child abuse and neglect cases and oversaw the department's legal affairs, among other things.

In 1995, DuBose's judicial career began when the presiding judges of the 4th and 6th Administrative Judicial Regions appointed her associate judge for five district courts surrounding the Uvalde area. She was responsible for the entire child-abuse and neglect caseload for those courts.

"Those cases are probably some of the most difficult and emotionally draining cases, but they're also the most rewarding," DuBose says. She held the position from 1995 to 2008, when the 38th District Court judge retired.

By that time, DuBose had done child abuse work for 12 years, and she says she needed a change. She won election for her general-jurisdiction court in 2008 and assumed the bench in 2009.

Aside from her work, DuBose says she spends a lot of time on "mom stuff," such as attending sporting events for her two boys, a freshman and a senior in high school. Her oldest daughter is a junior in college. She and her family love their small-town life and the tight-knit community in Uvalde.

"When any family in a community experiences a difficulty, the community rallies together," explains DuBose. "They rally around things that will improve their community and the lives of people that are in it."

Texas Lawyer reporter Angela Morris emailed DuBose some questions about practicing in her court. Her answers are below, edited for length and style.

Judge Camile DuBose
38th District Court
Uvalde
Elected to the bench: 2008
Age: 50

Texas Lawyer: After being a judge, if you were to become a practicing attorney again, what would you change?

Judge Camile DuBose, 38th District Court, Uvalde: I would be concise and organized in my case presentation, letting the judge know what the case is about and what the issues are. If the case involved questions of law, I would have cases on point to present to the judge.

TL: What are the most effective techniques you've seen from attorneys with cases before your court?

DuBose: Being thoroughly prepared is the most effective technique an attorney can utilize. In addition to being prepared, attorneys who have their exhibits well organized and who have well-thought-out visual aids are able to further enhance their case.

TL: What behavior from attorneys in the courtroom irritates you the most?

DuBose: I have found that most attorneys are courteous and well behaved. Lack of preparation and/or organization can be irritating not only to the court but to the client.

TL: You've probably learned many things from talking with juries after trials. What is the most important lesson for lawyers to know?

DuBose: Juries appreciate attorneys who appreciate their time. They like it when the attorneys treat each other and the court with respect, are on time, and demonstrate that they are prepared and familiar with the facts of their case.

TL: What advice would you give lawyers just starting out in their careers?

DuBose: Don't be afraid to ask questions or seek advice. I would recommend seeking out an experienced attorney to guide them through the many questions that come up when entering the legal profession.

TL: Do you believe a rapport with other judges is important? If so, why?

DuBose: Absolutely. Just as it is important for new attorneys to build relationships with their peers, it is equally important for judges to do that as well. I have been blessed to have judicial colleagues who have served as mentors to me, and I hope to be able to do the same for others.

TL: What's the most rewarding thing about being a judge?

DuBose: The ability to do what I love every day and the ability to serve the public. Being a judge is an awesome responsibility. I take each case seriously and strive to make the best decision possible based on a careful review of the information presented. Looking forward to going to work every day is a blessing that I don't take lightly.

TL: What's the single most amazing thing about the Uvalde community that made you move back to raise your family there?

DuBose: The people. The people of not only Uvalde, but the entire 38th Judicial District are amazing, down-to-earth people who value their country, community, family and faith.

"Approach the Bench" is a periodic column in Texas Lawyer