By Jordan Long, Historian, Pre-Law Society
For our last meeting of the semester, we had a guest speaker, Judge Tracy Sorensen from Walker County Court at Law. In addition to presenting, Judge Sorensen also provided all of our graduating students with their stoles, and was our official lottery master for various prizes.
To start the conversation, Judge Sorensen spoke about the 10th court of appeals trials that were held here at Sam Houston last week. People were able to ask her questions about the cases and her thoughts on them, and she gave her honest, thoughtful opinion.
Judge Tracy went to South Texas College of Law, and she talked of when she began her practice. She knew she wanted to come back to Huntsville after law school. She was particularly interested in family law, so that is what she focused on. Her first contested hearing, which was in family law, made her pretty nervous, primarily because her opposing counsel was a veteran attorney who was about 6’6″, more than a foot taller than Judge Sorensen! That attorney, Don Kramer, however, ended up mentoring her and being a great friend and, later, a District Judge.
Professor Yawn served as moderator asked, “How do you have the conversation with your clients on how to dress in court?”
She tells her clients to wear their “Sunday Best,” but that does not always work… She told a story about how in a jury trial her client wore a Houston Rockets outfit and said that was what he wears to church. The court coordinator continued the case because he just could not be seen before the judge in shorts. She started telling her clients to bring what they are going to wear a week before the trial to combat this issue.
Professor Yawn then inquired, “Tell us about the times when your client has lied to you and how you dealt with it.”
This is a major problem for defense attorneys, and she has dealt with it on matters of child custody, divorce, as well as criminal matters. In some cases, you just have to have a backup plan to prepare for the worst in case they aren’t fully honest.
Richard Tran, following up on Judge Sorensen’s admission that she hadn’t been the best student, asked: “How did you move from ‘not the greatest student’ to a judge”?
Her response was a lesson in not digging a hole for yourself. She had a poor first semester, got some bad advising, and then spent the rest of her time in education digging herself out. Despite this rough start, she was offered a great job with an energy company when she graduated, but then the energy market collapsed (following the Enron debacle), and the job offer was withdrawn. And this, as it turns out, was what led her to law school.
Following her wonderful presentation, Judge Sorensen did something we’ve never done before: she “hooded” our graduates.
And this included our President, Heather Barodi, who very successfully led the organization her final year.
Another thing we haven’t done–at least not recently–is take a group photo. So, we did, and got our first photo since 2016!