Texas Supreme Court makes first-ever visit to UTPA, Valley
Contact: Julie Dolores Villarreal 316-7996
Posted: 10/04/2001
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As part of its first-ever visit to the Rio Grande Valley, the Texas Supreme Court heard two civil cases Wednesday, Oct. 3 at The University of Texas-Pan American.

"The Supreme Court has existed since 1886, but this is the first time we've visited Edinburg and Hidalgo County," said Chief Justice Thomas R. Phillips, whose father attended UTPA when it was Edinburg Junior College in 1932.

"This has been a very educational trip for us. We have greatly enjoyed this visit, and the hospitality of the Rio Grande Valley is like no other."

The Texas Supreme Court recently made its first-ever visit to UTPA and the Rio Grande Valley. From left, Justice Wallace B. Jefferson, Justice Deborah G. Hankinson, Justice Priscilla Owen, Justice Nathan L. Hecht, Chief Justice Thomas R. Phillips, Justice Craig T. Enoch, Justice James A. Baker, Justice Harriet O'Neill and Justice Xavier Rodriguez.

The Court heard at UTPA two civil cases that originated in the Valley. "Cameron County vs. Charlene Mills Brown" is to determine whether the county and the Texas Department of Transportation waived their governmental immunity in a lawsuit claiming non-functioning streetlights along the Queen Isabella Causeway led to a fatal accident. "Texas State Bank vs. Rutilo Vargas Amaro" regards whether a district court with supervisory authority over a trust can absolve the trustee by a declaratory judgment of all liability in handling the trust.

Among the attendees at the Student Union auditorium sessions were 60-80 area school students, including Marine Military Academy cadets.

Afterward, the Court attended separate receptions with students and the Hidalgo County Bar Association. UTPA President Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez said the justices' visit to the campus was a great honor for the University.

"I want to thank the members of the Texas Supreme Court for allowing us to meet with them and visit with our students," Nevárez said. "It is important for our students to learn the way the Supreme Court works and see the human side of the court. I hope it is not the last time they visit."

Justices James A. Baker and Xavier Rodriguez also met with about 70 business law students and visitors in the afternoon, providing insight into themselves and the Court and answering questions.

The Texas Supreme Court is composed of a chief justice and eight justices. It has statewide, final appellate jurisdiction in all civil and juvenile cases. Most of the cases heard by this court are appeals from an appellate ruling by one of the 14 intermediate Courts of Appeals in Texas.

Besides Phillips, Rodriguez and Baker, the other justices are Wallace Jefferson, Harriet O'Neill, Deborah G. Hankinson, Priscilla R. Owen, Craig T. Enoch and Nathan L. Hecht.

Until Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1997, the Court was prohibited from holding sessions outside Austin. The Valley trip is the seventh time it has conducted sessions away from Austin.