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Yvonne Ho named Magistrate Judge, discusses new career tasks and paying it forward

Alison Chen

Yvonne Ho 

July 25, 2022 – Recently appointed as Magistrate Judge to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, University of Houston Law Center alumna Yvonne Ho ’06 reflects on the responsibilities and duties of the new position and her vision for the future.

“This really feels like a dream job in some respects. It just felt like the stars had aligned, and I needed to take the shot and apply for the job,” Ho explained, expressing her gratitude for “the opportunity to actually serve as a Magistrate Judge in the United States Courthouse.”

Sworn in by Senior District Judge Ewing Werlein, Jr., for whom she previously worked as a law clerk, Ho stated that she is excited to take part in making significant decisions that require her to broaden her focus beyond her prior practice as a partner practicing civil appeals at Bracewell LLP law.

“One of the greatest challenges you have [with] this job is that you never really know what is going to come through the door,” Ho said. “I am now having to learn a lot of new substantive law in areas I have never touched professionally. It is a heavy responsibility, but it keeps me engaged.”

Ho sees a variety of civil and criminal cases daily. The civil matters include pretrial motions in a wide range of commercial and personal injury disputes and appeals from social security decisions. Ho also reviews habeas petitions by prisoners challenging their convictions and sentences. During her rotations on criminal duty, Ho conducts initial appearances and detention hearings and reviews applications for warrants and criminal complaints. 

“It’s rapid-fire when you are on criminal duty,” Ho said. “You are seeing people being brought into court for the first time to answer for charges, making determinations about whether they qualify for court-appointed counsel and then making really impactful decisions about detainment.”

In addition to providing fair, accessible and timely resolution of criminal and civil matters within her jurisdiction, Ho is also working to pay it forward, speaking at law school and bar-related events about various aspects of the legal field, hiring a UHLC intern for the summer and mentoring her law clerks. 

“I loved every minute of law school, and UH was so good to me,” Ho said. “I felt like I got a topflight legal education, and I hope that I can impart the knowledge that I gained while being a professional and now a judge … to the next generation.”

Summa cum laude graduate and valedictorian of her class, Ho is the first lawyer in her immediate family. She continues to serve on the University of Houston Law Alumni Association Board of Directors and as co-chair of the Houston Bar Association’s Gender Fairness Committee. Before taking the bench, she served on the Houston Bar Association Board of Directors and the Houston Law Review Board.