Since his election in 2008, The Honorable Eric V. Moyé has presided over the 14th Judicial District Court of Texas. Recently, the judge sat down with Attorney at Law Magazine to discuss his career and the judicial system.
AALM: Describe your style in the courtroom.
Moyé: The court is formal, befitting the import and impact of the proceedings. We have Rules of Civil Procedure and Evidence, the Civil Practice and Remedies Code and the Dallas Civil Court Rules which inform every decision made in the court; all followed strictly. Adherence with The Lawyers’ Creed is required for all members of the Bar.
AALM: Describe your relationship with your staff.
Moyé: The staff of the court is indispensible to the court’s smooth and efficient operation. The coordinator, deputy clerk, reporter and bailiff work seamlessly to see that all matters are set timely, heard promptly and decisions distributed to the counsel when rendered. Most importantly, the staff ensures that jurors have a positive experience.
AALM: Do you have any advice for attorneys trying a case before your bench?
Moyé: Compliance with all of the relevant rules is mandatory. Preparation is paramount. There is no substitute for knowing the facts and applicable law of one’s case, and being prepared to present it clearly and succinctly to the trier of fact. Lawyers are expected to reach agreement with regard to the preponderance of pretrial matters (admission of exhibits, motions in limine, deposition excerpts, etc., to devote time spent in court to the resolution of issues truly in controversy). Professionalism is required consistent with the Texas Lawyers’ Creed.
AALM: How did you decide to become an attorney?
Moyé: Other than a desire to play centerfield for the New York Yankees, I have never aspired to any other profession other than the law. As a youngster coming of age in the 1960s, I saw lawyers as the vanguard – vindicators and protectors of the civil rights of disenfranchised people in the one nation on Earth which called itself the land of the free. For me, there is no higher calling.
AALM: What do you love about your job?
Moyé: We have the opportunity positively impact the lives of citizens daily. Sometimes, it is by showing to individuals appearing for jury service how important their role in making ours a civilized society, which is determined by the manner in which we resolve our disputes. It may be seeing that an individual or business, which has been aggrieved or injured, is able to obtain recompense. In other circumstances it may be reaffirming that someone improperly accused of wrongdoing is vindicated by a judge and/or a jury.
AALM: What do you miss about being a lawyer?
Moyé: Missed most is the ability to be an advocate for someone who would otherwise be voiceless. Clients need someone to effectively raise their allegations or defenses. Being that voice – and having that voice heard was the greatest part of my career as an advocate.
AALM: Are there any challenges that you believe need to be corrected in the legal community?
Moyé: At the same time that we seen an ever increasing number of lawyers, we are also more individuals who are appearing in court without counsel. The rise in self-represented litigants has spread from the Domestic Relations Courts to the Civil District Courts. In the criminal process, individuals are constitutionally guaranteed representation, but there is no corresponding right to counsel in civil matters. This is an issue being addressed by the Texas Commission on Access to Justice (of which I am a member), but will certainly need more attention (and more resources) in the coming years.
AALM: How are you involved with the local community?
Moyé: Judicial and legal education are areas of particular interest to me. I serve on the board of the Texas Center for the Judiciary, which provides ongoing legal education to judges in the state. I have taught at the center’s College for New Judges, which assists in the transition of lawyers newly elected or appointed to the bench. I also established the J.L. Turner Legal Association Trial Advocacy Workshop eight years ago, which teaches young lawyers how to be more effective in the courtroom. I do the same for the D.A.Y.L. in its Trial Skills Boot Camp and have participated in Dallas chapter of A.B.O.T.A.’s trial advocacy series.
AALM: Do you have any mentors? What are some of the most important lessons they taught you?
Moyé: The Hon. David Nelson (U.S.D.C. -Mass.) and The Hon. William Wayne Justice (U.S.D.C. E.D. –Tex.) were two of the greatest trial judges in the history of the country, and I was honored to be taught by the former and guided by the latter. Judge Nelson taught precision in reason and judicial decision-making, strict adherence to the rules and above all, respect for the Rule of Law. Judge Justice displayed the ability of the civil justice system to address the most pressing needs of the least powerful members of our society, and the ability of the court to create and shape social justice in the face of intractable institutions and opposed cultural morés.
AALM: Are there any changes in the future that you’re looking forward to?
Moyé: U.N.T. School of Law, of which I am a member of the founding board of trustees, is going to change the way law school is taught, and the way lawyers shape our society. Chief Justice Hecht said it best at the school’s very first convocation:
In our time, on the first day of Law School, the Dean would say ‘Look to your right, then look to your left. One of you will not be here for graduation in three years.’ Here at U.N.T., I say: ‘Look to your right, then look to your left. One of the three of you is going to change our society.’
People who three years ago had no hope of going to law school in the largest city in America that did not have a public law school now attend law school. They are bringing a passion for justice and social change, and an intense desire to make our society a better place via the law. Part of the mandatory curriculum requires pro bono service from each student, and the clinical programs are producing graduates who have an understanding of courtroom advocacy. I cannot wait to see the benefits we will reap from their efforts!