Attorney at Law Magazine Dallas publisher P.J. Hines had the opportunity to talk to Judge Ashley Wysocki about her career in the law and her time on the bench.
AALM: Describe your background and legal career.
Wysocki: After receiving a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Texas, I graduated with honors from Texas Tech University School of Law in January 2008 with my law degree and a Master of Business Administration. After graduation I joined a highly respected law firm in Lubbock, Texas, where I practiced primarily civil litigation. I was able to work with lawyers who were willing to give me first chair trial experience, and challenged me to be confident in my abilities.
Shortly, after welcoming our first daughter, my husband, who I met and married in law school, and I moved to Dallas. When we moved in 2010, I joined the firm of David & Goodman, PC, which has since been acquired by Fox Rothschild, LLP. While at Fox Rothschild, I practiced primarily family law, but always maintained a civil litigation practice, which gave me a breadth of experience in numerous practice areas. Because family law requires knowledge and integration of so many different areas of law, this experience has been vital to my growth as a family lawyer. In February 2019, I was appointed by Governor Abbott as the presiding judge of the 254th Judicial District Court, a family court bench. I am up for election in November 2020.
AALM: What do you love about being a judge?
Wysocki: I love the feeling that I can make a difference in the people’s lives who come before me. I am not hampered by a clock or a party’s ability to pay. I can spend as much time as I need to make the best decision I can. I know it may sound cliché, but a day does not go by that I do not contemplate the magnitude of the task before me and pray for the serenity, strength, and wisdom in my decision-making. In divorce cases, I get to close a chapter for two parties, hopefully in a manner that gives dignity to the covenant they shared and allows them to move forward with their lives. In cases involving children, I have the unique position of being able to craft an outcome that gives the child a “win,” and that is an amazing gift.
AALM: Describe your style in the courtroom.
Wysocki: My style is welcoming and approachable, while being dignified and professional. It is extremely important to maintain respect and decorum in the courtroom. The decisions that I make affect people’s lives and that is not lost on me. I want the litigants to understand that as well. I expect everyone in my courtroom to respect the solemnity of the issues that are before me. I believe respect for the judicial system is integral to the preservation of our system of justice.
AALM: What do you miss and not miss about being a lawyer?
Wysocki: I miss the camaraderie of law firm practice. I was blessed to be a part of law firms that also felt like family. I had worked with the same people for close to 10 years. Someone once told me that being a judge was like being on an island of your own, and that has turned out to be very true. It can feel isolating to not have the constant flow of colleagues (even just for small talk) or the ability to analyze issues as a team.
I do not miss working on a billable hour quota. When you work on a billable hour, even your free time never quite feels free, because that time has to be made up elsewhere.
AALM: What do you do in your spare time? Hobbies?
Wysocki: I am blessed to be a wife and mother to three amazing children, ages 10, 7, and 11 months, and nothing is more important to me. Most of my free time is spent with my family doing the things that make them happy. I love to paint, do crafts, and cook (although, I’m not very good!). I am also known to binge watch British miniseries, especially historical fiction.
As a family, we enjoy going to the country on the weekends, where our children have a chance to run free and climb trees. I love to sit on the back porch with a cup of coffee and listen to the birds, or under the stars in front of the campfire roasting S’mores. I grew up in the countryside of South Texas and on the Gulf Cost, and being outdoors is almost second nature to me. Now, if only we could get some salt water in North Texas!
AALM: Do you have any advice for attorneys trying a case in your courtroom?
Wysocki: Be respectful. It can be easy to become emotional and frustrated when dealing with a difficult opposing party or attorney. Being rude to the other attorney, the other party, or the court, is a mistake that takes away from your client’s case.
Be prepared. Almost every attorney I see is prepared to argue the facts- the most effective lawyers know the elements of each part of their case and tie those facts to the elements of their case. If you can anticipate a novel issue coming up, then be prepared to cite the statute or bring me case law. If you quote a legal “rule,” then I expect you to be able to point me to the authority. I am known to turn to the rules or review a case from the bench. It also helps if you provide the court with a paper copy of your brief and relevant case law before the hearing.