May 13, 2021 - Nearly three years into his role as a magistrate judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Sam Sheldon, a 1997 graduate of the University of Houston Law Center, said he still pauses to reflect on the trajectory of his legal career.
“It is incredibly satisfying to help the parties settle a case where nobody believed it would be possible before the settlement conference began,” he said. “Twenty-five years ago, when I took an ADR course while at the Law Center, I never believed that one day I would be a federal judge conducting settlement conferences.”
Sheldon relocated to Houston in July of last year. He first served as a magistrate judge in Laredo, where presiding over naturalization ceremonies was among his duties.
“It was an incredible honor to administer the Oath of Allegiance and then congratulate individually each new United States citizen,” Sheldon said. “One woman was 96 years old upon becoming a citizen.”
His interest in pursuing a legal education stemmed from his early years. Sheldon was 12 years old when he first saw the film “The Verdict”starring Paul Newman. In the movie, Newman played a personal injury lawyer that dramatically wins a medical malpractice trial against all odds.
“I walked out of the movie and wanted to be a trial lawyer because I wanted to make a difference in other peoples’ lives,” said Sheldon.
Sheldon was able to get the practical skills he needed to serve as a judge at the Law Center.
“At the Law Center, my favorite course was Criminal Procedure taught by an Adjunct Professor George “Mac” Secrest,” he said. “Mac was straight out of central casting for depicting a criminal defense attorney. He was great at simultaneously teaching you the law while showing you how to effectively defend a client. My second favorite course was Federal Jurisdiction taught by the late Professor Yale Rosenberg. Professor Rosenberg inspired you to want to practice in federal court.”