Aug. 31, 2020 - When Margaret "Meg" Poissant ran for Place 8 on the Texas 14th District Court of Appeals, she saw it as an opportunity to bring more balance to the appellate court.
The 1984 alumna of the University of Houston Law Center was elected in November of 2018 and began her six-year term the following January.
"That was an important factor in seeking this position," Poissant said. "I was also drawn by the opportunity to review cases, the challenge of writing opinions and reviewing law in all the areas I worked in while in private practice.
"I did not enter the practice of law with the goal of becoming a justice, but was motivated to serve the public by becoming a judge after reviewing opinions that did not always seem fair."
The 14th Court of Appeals rules on appeals from 10 Texas counties, without limitation in subject matter. The appeals include appeals from court verdicts and orders, as well as jury verdicts, in all areas of the law, civil, criminal, family, probate and business. The 14th Court of Appeals also renders opinions in cases transferred from other courts of appeals in Texas. The justices sit in panels of three in reviewing and deciding cases, and although each justice has her own docket, each justice also reviews and opines on the cases assigned to other judges on her panel. In addition to the appeals, justices also rule on original proceedings, such as emergency motions and requests for mandamus.
“I review the court record, the appellate briefs and the relevant law,” Poissant said. “Based on the facts of the case, the record before our court and the relevant law, an opinion is drafted, reviewed, finalized and then signed and issued, together with any concurring or dissenting opinions.”
Poissant said the best way for students interested in a judicial career is to seek clerkships or internships at a court. For those with an interest in serving an appellate court, she emphasized the significance of focusing on legal writing.
“An internship is helpful, and after you pass the bar, working in public service, working with an appellate lawyer, working with a firm or in private practice writing appeals and representing parties in oral arguments before the court, or seeking a position as a chambers or staff attorney is helpful,” Poissant said.
“The appellate courts are very different from the trial courts. The appellate courts hear only attorney argument and are focused on reading and research. The trial courts hear motions and preside over trials, and are focused daily on those activities. An internship gives you experience, and will help you determine which type of judicial position you are interested in.”
Before becoming a judge, Poissant was the managing partner of the Poissant Law Firm for more than three decades, and was also a principal of the law firm of Pritchard, Poissant, and Nguyen. She represented clients on both side of the docket in a variety of cases, including wrongful death, personal injury, premises liability, chemical exposure, commercial litigation, fraud matters, breach of contract, criminal defense, collections, HOA and neighborhood associations, and family law. However, the pro bono work she performed for individual clients and associations are the cases that have motivated her personally and earned her recognition.
“I worked fulltime through college and law school which gave me many life lessons about people and their need for help in many circumstances,” Poissant said. “I was taught from an early age that you should always give back to others if you have the opportunity to do so. Public service, at a time when the justice system seems unfair to many people, is important to consider if you want to make positive change.”