Coffee with the Court

Location: The University of Texas School of Law, Eidman Courtroom

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Our CWIL intern-initiated program featured four distinguished judges who have dedicated their lives to justice and preside over state and federal courts. The event was a one-hour panel where the judges discussed their judicial journeys, the best part about being a judge, and clerkship expectations. After the panel discussion, there was coffee, refreshments, and networking with the judges. Each attendee received a CWIL t-shirt.

About the speakers:

Justice Marilyn Aboussie, Former Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals for the Third District of Texas

In 1983, Justice Marilyn Aboussie became the first judge of the newly created 240th District Court, sitting in Tom Green County.  In 1986, she was appointed by the Governor to the Court of Appeals for the Third District of Texas, sitting in Austin, the first woman justice of the Court since its creation in 1892.  In 1998,  Justice Aboussie was elected Chief Justice of the Court, the first woman to hold that office.  She retired from the Court in 2003; since then, she has continued sitting as a Senior Judge for the State of Texas on trial and appellate courts.  She is a 1974 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law.  In April, Justice Aboussie will be honored as the 2023 Distinguished Alumnae of the law school and is a member of the Champions Circle for the Center for Women in Law.


United States Magistrate Judge Susan Hightower

Susan Hightower began serving as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, on July 1, 2019. Previously, she served as a judge on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and was a member of Pirkey Barber PLLC, where her practice focused primarily on trademark litigation. Judge Hightower, an Austin native, received a BA from Austin College, an MA in journalism from The University of Texas at Austin, and a JD from Stanford Law School. She also served as a clerk for Judge Jacques L. Wiener, Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Before law school, Judge Hightower was a professional journalist, most notably working as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press for six years.


Judge Maya Guerra Gamble, 459th District Court

Judge Maya Guerra Gamble was elected to the 459th District Court bench in 2018. Her varied career prior to taking the bench included a solo practice representing children and parents in child protective services cases; representing whistleblowers at O’Connell & Soifer; prosecuting child pornography and child exploitation cases for the Texas Attorney General; suing companies committing fraud against the United States for the Department of Justice; and clerking for Judge Richard Cudahy on the 7th Circuit.

She serves as a Director to the Austin Bar Association Board and as Chair of the Equity Committee oversaw the inaugural Equity Summit presented by the Austin Bar. Over her career Judge Guerra Gamble has served on many boards and committees and received many awards but her most cherished “awards” are the good relationships she has with her colleagues, including attorneys and other judges.

Judge Guerra Gamble is a native Austinite, graduate of Austin High School, Yale College, and Yale Law School, and is married with two teen sons. She is a devoted Scouter, honored to recently receive the Capitol Area Council’s ¡Scouting … Vale La Pena! Service award.


Judge Aurora Martinez Jones, 126th State District Court

Aurora Martinez Jones is the 126th District Court judge in Travis County (Austin), Texas and is responsible for the oversight and administration of all Travis County Termination of Parental Rights lawsuits filed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Prior to that, she was the Associate Judge dedicated to the Travis County CPS Courts since January 2, 2015. Judge Martinez Jones is the presiding District Judge for the Travis County Family Drug Treatment Court: Parenting in Recovery specialty court and of the Crossover Program for Dual Status Youth.

Judge Martinez Jones has extensive experience advocating for parents and children in the child welfare system from her prior work as a litigator and currently runs a traumainformed court. Judge Martinez Jones cofounded the Child Welfare Race Equity Collaborative in Texas and is committed to equitable, progressive, antiracist, work and approaches to supporting the children and families who appear in her court. Currently, Judge Martinez Jones is leading a community effort in a local pilot to ReImagine the Child Welfare system and supports highlighting the voices of foster youth and people with lived experience to make this happen.

She is currently the Treasurer for the Child Protection Law Section of the State Bar of Texas, is on the Board for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), and is the Texas State Coordinator for the National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC), along with other professional and community leadership roles. Judge Martinez Jones and her husband, Mitchell Jones, are the proud parents of two precious little girls.