Paul Green served as an appellate justice for more than 25 years, both at the San Antonio Court of Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court. On the eve of his retirement, Justice Paul Green joined Todd Smith and Jody Sanders to reflect on his past as a litigator in his family’s law practice, his time on the bench, and his future plans after leaving the Supreme Court. Justice Green offers a candid assessment of his career, the judiciary, and the future of judges in Texas. Learn about Justice Green’s many roles both on and off the bench, and his thoughts about advocacy, judging, and the judicial system as a whole.
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Ruminations on a Career in Appellate Judging | Justice Paul Green
We’re privileged to have with us Justice Paul Green from the Texas Supreme Court. Judge, welcome to the show.
Thank you. I’m delighted to be here. It should be fun.
Judge, you’ve been on the bench for quite some time. Between your time at the Fourth Court of Appeals and your many years at the Texas Supreme Court, I can’t think of too many judges that have had a longer tenure as a judge that many years. That’s fantastic. Congratulations.
Some of them get frustrated and quit. I get a lot of frustration, but I’ve tried to hang in there a little bit longer.
Before you took the bench though, you were a practicing lawyer for quite a number of years. Tell us about that.
My father and my grandfather were both lawyers. I grew up around my dad’s law practice, and I enjoyed going down to the office with him on weekends and watch him push paper around on his desk. I got the typewriter, copy machine, and stuff like that. Growing up, I wanted to be like him. He’s an excellent lawyer. I’m going to practice law with him like he did with his dad. After law school, I joined that practice of a small eight-person litigation firm and learned a lot from him as well as many others, and did that for seventeen years. These days, a lot of people don’t get to try cases because it’s difficult to get into the courtroom and all that. Back then, our law firm representative has self-insured the three major taxi cab companies in town. They were getting sued all the time and targets painted on their doors. We were in court all the time and I got to learn a lot about practicing law and trying cases.
That’s something you definitely don’t see as much as you did. That’s great experience that you got to do that.
I enjoyed the practice of law and got involved in bar activities, the young lawyers and the senior bar association there and enjoyed that a lot as well. After my year as the president of the bar, somebody approached me one day and said, “There’s going to be a whole lot of vacancies on the Fourth Court of Appeals. Five out of the seven spots were going to be open.” Would I be interested in running and I thought, “I like trying cases. I like going around the country with my golf clubs at destinations and playing golf, but I hated appeals.” When I got an appeal case that, happily, I’m feeling, I can’t imagine wanting to do that. When I thought about it and quite a bit talking to my dad about it a lot, it turned out to be good timing. Insofar as the firm was concerned, I thought, “Maybe this is an opportunity I shouldn’t pass up.” I ran for the position and was elected and it turned out I liked it. Who knew that? I stayed there and I was there for ten years before I went on the Supreme Court.
Had you done a lot of appeals before you went on the appellate bench?
Not too many. Probably 8 or 10 maybe or something like that.
There’s definitely a strength in bringing a trial lawyer’s perspective to the Court of Appeals though. There’s so much of the intellectual pursuit of it, but having the practical experience that gave you some insights that sometimes get lost on appeals.
Interestingly, back when I was on the Court of Appeals and running for election or reelection, people say, “You haven’t even been a trial judge. What gives you the right to go seeking a job on the appeals court?” I said, “Nobody wanted the job. All the judges didn’t want to run for it.” They sat there and I said, “I spent a lot of time in the courtroom. I guess I don’t need to be a trial judge to know how to do this.”
Who decided that you had to be a trial judge before you could become an appellate justice? I’ve never been a trial judge, but I’ve been practicing appellate law my whole career. I know if I were going to run for judge, I’d think I’d be fairly well-qualified.
People think of it as a natural progression and it doesn’t have to be that way. We know some good Supreme Court justices who’ve never been judge or appeals court judge. Know what you’re doing.
I’ve observed some of those Supreme Court Justices and in my experience, even though they didn’t have any judicial experience, they tend to grow into the job because they tend to take it seriously, study and learn. Many of them have been humble about, “I don’t know what I’m doing here and I’m going to listen to people like Justice Green who has been around the block a few times.”
You see some of that. Certainly on the Supreme Court, those have been appointed and have not been out of the court before. They do, they want to learn, they want us to know the process and how things are the way they are. They bring a perspective that is useful to the court anyway.
What made you decide that you wanted to go from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court?Focus on the important things. Click To Tweet
There are over 100,000 lawyers, only 9 of them on the Supreme Court. The odds are not good getting there. I had never played in and get involved in party politics. I knew I’d never get appointed to that position. Maybe it’s an unfair thing to say, but what happened was I was re-elected in 2000 to the Court of Appeals. In 2002, Phil Hardberger, who is the chief justice of the court, decided he was not going to run for re-election. I decided to run for chief justice of the court. I was challenged by one of my colleagues, Alma Lopez.
You may remember that was the year that Tony Sanchez ran for governor. He was from Webb County Laredo and so was Alma, and had a huge voter turnout in Webb County. I got beat and I told her later and others, that was a blessing in disguise because I wanted the job, but I would never run for the Supreme Court. Two two years later I had won that position. In 2004, some people approached me and said, “Evan Smith had beaten Xavier Rodriguez, who is Governor Perry’s appointee to the court.” The question was, do we think somebody ought to run against him in the primary?
The way party politics works is you don’t run against somebody who’s unaccompanied in the primary, typically. When I was encouraged by some people to do that. I thought, “Maybe this is what I can do.” I started calling around. My judge friends in Houston, Dallas, and others, people I thought might know or would be interested in running for the job. None of them were doing and it wasn’t on their radar. I called my good friend who was the general counsel to the governor at the time and asked him what they were going to do. They said, “We don’t have any plans. Do you want to run?” After thinking about it a while and talking to some people and getting some things lined up, by this time it was August or September of 2003 and the primary was in March of 2004.
I decided I’d need some help to do this. I asked other’s office, they would get behind me and I needed to be introduced to a lot of statewide people. I’ve never run statewide. They said, “We can’t get involved in the primary, it’s not done.” I got a call from the Governor’s political consultant one day and said, “We got out of a meeting and the governor was asking about this race.” We told them, “He wants your help, but you can’t get involved in it.” He said, “Why the hell not?” “This guy Smith ran against my appointee. Green’s a good guy. Let’s get behind him.” We went and we’ve traveled around all over the state and the governor ended up traveling with me some places and introducing me around a great campaign. I won the election and didn’t have a November opponent at that in 2004. I then got elected and stuck until now.
That is a unique way though. If you look at a lot of your colleagues both now and in the last few years, you were one of the unique ones to run, particularly against the sitting incumbent in a contested primary to get there.
You were on the receiving end of that as I recall in the last election cycle. To make it even better, I believe he had your same surname.
Yes. The whole Rick Green race in primary. That was quite an interesting time. Just a quick story, it was Republican primary that I was campaigning around in the state and got all these different women’s club, men’s club or something like that, where you’re talking to the Republican group. You want them to go vote for you in the primary. Rick and one of his surrogates were there talking at them and I had to tell them, “He never even practiced law. If you think that I’m qualified, I should be reelected. You need to vote Paul Green not Rick Green. You got to remember that. You tell your friends and your family vote for Paul Green not Rick Green.” Once they go into the voting, “Was it Rick or was it Paul?” “Here’s how you do it, remember there was a Saint Paul, but there was no Saint Rick.” He says, “Got that.”
That hits many notes. I can’t even begin to get into it.
Maybe that helped. I think what maybe helped more because he’s down about races or even at the Supreme Court level, not largely paid attention to me by a lot of the voters. I understand that because it turned out afterwards that at the top ten voting counties in the state, I drew number one on the ballot in eight of them. That could have made the difference, something like that. “Rick Green probably, I don’t care. He’s number one.” I’ve been blessed and fortunate. I enjoyed it.
How was it going from being on the intermediate Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court? Was there anything that surprised you about transitioning roles?
The big thing there is we get to field with the cases. The petition for review process and who’s going to take everything. 50% to 60% of the work on the court is deciding which cases we’re going to take. That was a big deal. You ended up taking some fantastic issue cases in that way. That’s been a good lawyer and good breaking. That made sense. Made it a lot of fun too.
Also, with your background as a civil lawyer, I’m sure it was some adjustment going to the Court of Appeals and having to deal with criminal cases and then going back to the Supreme Court and not having to deal with criminal matters anymore.
That was nice. No fourth amendment, 5th amendment cases anymore, arguing search and procedure law with my law clerks on the Fourth Court. Some of them are far out there. The Code of Criminal Procedure and I are not good friends.
What are some of the different administrative or different roles you’ve had at the Supreme Court outside of your job deciding cases?
I’ve been blessed again there too. In fact, one of the first things that I did, I came on the court with Wallace Jefferson, who I’ve known for years from back in the San Antonio practice days. He was the chief justice at that time. We were walking around the chambers in the court areas and looking around since this place is shabby, he said, “I want you to do what you have to do to put something together and start updating the spaces.” We did. We renovated the conference room, which looks terrific. We renovated the robing room, which was a real sad thing. A lot of times we have ceremonial matters in the courtroom, gathering and robing before we go to the courtroom with all the guests and special guests in town. We did some things like that.
I enjoyed that process. The court looks terrific now and get up there and see it, it’s good outcome about that. The other thing I’ve done is the liaison from the court to the Supreme Court Historical Society. That’s been lots of fun, great programs and raising money at the big dinners and Hemphill dinners and stuff like that. We’ll be back to the Hemphill on September 11, 2020. I will be doing a virtual and recorded Zoom swearing ceremony for Cynthia Timms who’s coming in as the new president, but that’s been great.
I’ve been the long-time liaison to the Texas Young Lawyers Association board of directors and our energy field group of people those folks are over the years, what the things that they’ve done, the programs they’ve come up with, the ideas they’ve had put in place to help not just lawyers, but to help the community, the people of the state that need the help, is fantastic work. Also, the liaison to the mitigation section, mitigation counsel and all the heavy-duty work that they do and litigation programs and so forth as main state bar, annual meetings, stuff that they do. All that has been high quality people. I’ve enjoyed that too. I’m going to miss all of that.
The Supreme Court space is beautiful. In fact, we were lucky enough to get to do our first episode up there right before COVID hit. That’s the last time we’ve done anything in person, but the courtroom is a fantastic space.
They have all the portraits in there, that’s great.
In 2007, I believe we put in the streaming video thanks to St. Mary’s Law School, my alma mater. They had state bars hanging over. It’s got high definition cameras in there and they do such a fantastic job producing, recording all of those arguments like that.
Anchor has been a leader in that area. We’ve talked about it a few times on the show, even when the US Supreme Court started having remote arguments and doing it by telephone, it didn’t do it justice. We’re spoiled to being able to plug in non-COVID times and watch any argument that we want to watch on any given argument day. It’s a fantastic thing that the court’s done and been able to continue to do and it’s wonderful.
This COVID situation has created an issue with me. Looking back, you think about, “I’m retiring from the court,” and looking ahead, I came in to retire on that date. I know when my last argument will be in the courtroom and I can soak it in and thinking, “This is my last time.” It’s the same thing with the last conference, sitting around the table in the conference room, looking at my colleagues and staff saying, “This is my last conference of my career.” I didn’t get to do that because all of a sudden, they said like, “Pull the plug and the courts are shut down. We’re not going back.” I can look back and see where my last argument was or what my last conference was. My last argument was Boback versus Escobedo case. That was the end of it for me. I didn’t know it at the time.
We haven’t talked about this yet, but you’ve got into it now. Why don’t we bring it out? You’ve announced your retirement from the court effective September 2020.
I’ve had my last conference with the court on Zoom. That was a hard conversation I have and said, “This is it.” I loved everybody at the court, the staff, history, tradition, institution and I feel sad about leaving, but my decision is timing. I think it’s right for me. It’s going to happen sometime. It’s on my terms and I look forward to the future. Now, the chapter is to do some things and have some fun, practice them all and that’s what it means.
What made you decide timing-wise to do it now? You’ve still got some time left in your term.
There were a lot of factors involved. I’ve been looking at it for 1 or 2 years and some personal matters I thought would be that are important for me and my family. My youngest son is senior year in high school and he’s going to be gone and we’ve done a lot of stuff together and wanting to do some more things. This is human relieves. It wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. It’s the timing-wise, August 30, 2020 was the end of the court term. I thought it would be great that my staff is leaving. New staff is coming in and the new judge would be coming in with the new staff and start off with everybody else. The clean slate on the docket, it seemed like a good time to do it.
You’re going to be practicing law. You made some plans for what you’re going to do in retirement?
I’ve accepted an offer with a law firm. It’s a great place and I have a lot of good friends there.
I know that’s an exciting change going from being a many-year of appellate judge back to being a practicing lawyer. I’m sure it will be an adjustment.
You’re not kidding. When I left the law practice into the courts and there wasn’t such thing as a discovery plan. The limitations on depositions and timing, and all you think of as long as you want. All that kind of stuff has changed for the better, but there’s some things I’d have to relearn. That’s going to be a fun process. I think I’m going to have some people that’ll help me.
You’ve been on an intermediate Court of Appeals, you’ve been on the Supreme Court. What are some things that you’ve learned sitting on your side of the bench that you’re going to take back to being an advocate on the other side?
I’m trying to focus on what are the important things. When I was trying cases, you set up a plan of your case, you try your case according to the way you’ve landed. Everything happens during the trial. At the end of the thing, you’re outraged because this didn’t happen the way it should have happened. Maybe the trial judge did make a ruling the right way or something, but on the Court of Appeals, in the appellate process, you realize from the other side of the bench, there is stuff that doesn’t matter. In general, we certainly understand that from what you do. I’ve got to focus on things that matter and forget about all the little things that went wrong, that aren’t going to affect the outcome of the case.
The jury didn’t care about that. Maybe it was wrong, but they didn’t know. I think being able to look at a case record, figuring out what’s what is important, what is not, I’ve learned a lot about that. I would tell practitioners and you all know this too, when you’re trying a case, if you think it’s going to be a Supreme Court worthy case, what’s your theme going to be? What’s the hook to get to the Supreme Court? What are you getting to develop in the record that the court understands? This is different than the run of the mill case and keep that theme in mind as you go through and try your case with going through the appeals process.
I wonder how many trial lawyers think when they’re filing their lawsuit, “This case could wind up at the Texas Supreme Court.”Understand who your audience is. Click To Tweet
I’m sure some do, depending on the kind of case it is. I was thinking a little while ago about the cases that we’ve seen on the court over the years, they brought in streaks. We had the healthcare liability cases. We’ve had the workers’ compensation cases, the tax case, though I hated the tax cases, TCPA cases, and so forth that had come along through there. Some of the insurance cases, you can tell when you’re filing a lawsuit over the same provision in an insurance policy, it’s a homeowner’s policy. Everybody that stayed has one saying, we know that’s an issue that affects everybody. This could end up in these frames and make sure you protect your record and all that kind of stuff.
Has the advent of eFiling changed the way that you look at briefs or you read briefs for the things you look at when a case comes to you?
A little bit, perhaps. It’s certainly a lot easier that you don’t drag around a fifty-pound box full of additions anymore. The briefings look the same. I think the advent of e-filing has been fantastic. It’s going to have huge ramifications down the road. At some point, the legislature is going to have to get busy and start restructuring the whole court system, in all these clerks anymore because it’s all electronically filed. Folks here that don’t like hearing that but not that anybody has to lose their job. He’s going to make it through attrition, but do you need fourteen Court of Appeals clerks? Do you need the district clerks, county clerks? All this electronic filing is changing all of that. Somebody in El Paso won’t see a document that was filed in Beaumont. I may pop it right up there. There’s going to be some changes about that over the next decade, but electronic filing has been right.
It’s certainly helped the court out during the ransomware attack.
Through this whole COVID thing too. The ransomware thing was awful. I got to figure out a way to stop that stuff from happening.
It was a real double whammy for everybody. You get started getting settled into the remote practice aspects of COVID and then all of a sudden everything and all the appellate courts gets locked up and nobody can do any business.
That was the most frustrated I felt as an appellate lawyer. I don’t want to say teased, but getting very used to being able to access almost any information I wanted instantaneously and then going from that to dropping off a cliff. It will get nothing. We’re still recovering as a practical matter from that. We’re not back to a 100% yet.
We had to put in all these additional security features, like double password things that would try to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. It will in some form or another happen again because he was making mistakes, but you got to figure out a way to get back up on her feet a little bit faster.
The advantage of all the eFiling is we got a little bit spoiled with how easy it was to access everything until you realize you can’t get to it. Now, it does. It was tough for everybody. Todd and I have had several episodes discussing, once you get reliant on being able to download the record and get into the portals and upload everything and find all the filings online, not having access to that does cripple your ability to practice.
At some point during this recovery process, I was looking for a letter that I’d written and I keep all this stuff on my computer at the office. Apparently, it’s all on my C-drive. I asked my executive assistant if she could find that letter for me, they get around as well as it could but got encrypted. I got the message back, “Everything on your C-drive is encrypted,” and I figured that I had a lot of stuff. It’s important but it’s annoying as all get out.
That got sucked up into the ransomware and it got locked down because of the attack.
Everything was hooked up together through the offices and so forth, everything wired together and all those computers are wired together in some form or another. They went in there and encrypted everything that’s on everybody’s computer.
That’s frustrating. Particularly for you, because knowing that you’re leaving and moving on to not be able to take some of that stuff with you.
You had been back to the chambers for the final time and had delivered your official letter to the governor. I always thought that when a justice retired and delivered a notice to the governor, that was it, but I’ve never heard of this other letter that you mentioned.
Essentially what I’m saying is, “I’m delivering the letter. Would you mind if I can get my resignation effective at the end of the day, August 31, 2020?” That formalizing, because we had talked to his office before and he said, “This is what I’m going to do. We need to send a letter.”
That’s the official notice of the vacancy coming up and then the appointment process.
Before I delivered the letter, I could have changed my mind. It was hard walking in there. I had walked out the door and, “I’ve got one more thing I got to do. I had to take my chamber key off my key ring and leave it on the other desk, walked out.” I have a keycard badge to get in and out. They’ll turn that off at some point. I can’t get in probably other than as a guest of someone.
It raises the question about what’s next for the court? Every time a justice leaves, it seems like some people get up in arms about, “We could have a tie vote,” but that never seems to be an issue. As you pointed out, the fiscal year is ending and the court’s decided all its cases for the last term. There isn’t anything coming out in terms of opinions or anything like that and won’t be for probably a while.
It’s November 2020.
We’re at this phase where once you’re officially departed, then it becomes a waiting game of what the governor’s going to do as far as appointing your successor. For those of us that are court watchers, we know that your successor fills out your unexpired term, which runs through the end of 2022, but it has to run after running the next general. It would be the November 2022 election.
They’d be running for a full-term.
The timing of that works out great for the successor because I’ve seen many times people having to run for a partial-term, like four years.
Run for two-year remainder of the term and then to do it again for the long-term. The timing was such that I would hope that somebody gets appointed to step right in and start the new term with the court. I don’t know what the governor’s plans are or has anybody in mind. They don’t ask my advice or clue me in on what they’re doing at this point or even, I don’t know if they even talked to the chief justice, I’m hopeful that they will appoint somebody that’s good, I bet he will. I hope sooner rather than later.
We’re both anxious to talk. We’ve had some appointments to the court with Justice Bland and Justice Busby. I know the governor interviewed a good number of people for those positions. We still have some people who are good judges who were defeated in the last election cycle who would be candidates for that position. That’s certainly how it worked out with Justice Busby. I know you can’t speculate on that, but hopefully there will not be a long period of time would pass before the appointment was made because there’ve been good people who’ve been lining up with their applications in hand ready to take the oath. Now you’ve run statewide races in addition to your broad geographic race, the races that you had to run for the San Antonio Court of Appeals. I bet you’ve developed some opinions about the judicial selection process in Texas. My hope is that now that you’re departing the bench, that you can speak freely about those opinions.
I’ve always been concerned about the process. Partisan, fundraising, advertising, election process leads to certain things. People act like politicians, and judges I don’t think should be. I can’t speak for anybody else, but for me, if you’re going to pick a party and I picked Republican, you run the party primary and you have to do all those things that you have to do in a party primary. I never waved the party flag, never got involved in party activities, particularly when the primary was over. I said, “I’m running it for the job, but I’m not going to get involved as a party activist.”
Once you’ve done that, you’ve got another half of the country that said, “You can’t be fair to me because you’re waving the Republican flag. What does that tell me?” I’ve tried to avoid all of that. It’s possible you can’t get all the party politics out of the employment system. To the extent that you can, you should, and the money needs to come out, too, and the money is a problem, survey after survey. There’s one going back many years ago that I can remember where 85% of the respondents said that they thought giving money to a judge or judicial candidate will affect judicial decision. They think it’s a corrupt system. You get that many people to think as a corrupt system. Why wouldn’t you change it? Politics is involved, that’s why change it. You say, “I go nonpartisan elections and so forth as well.”
I was talking to a judge from Kentucky. They have nonpartisan elections. I said, “That sounds much better than ours.” He said, “I wish we had something like that. It doesn’t make any differences.” I said, “What do you mean?” Here’s an example. I was out campaigning somewhere out of the countryside, came up on some people on John Smith, I’m running for judge. The guy said, “Whether you’re Republican or a Democrat, you don’t understand that in Kentucky, you don’t run under party labels.” The guy said, “I understand that, are you a Republican or Democrat?” They needed to know what kind of judge you’re like. There are as close that you can get for party affiliation as oppose, but a main thing is I would hope that we all take an oath, try to follow the law the best we can, and don’t make it up as you go along.
I had some disappointments in my time on two courts, even going back to the Court of Appeals where I’m not sure that the opinions quite followed as much as it should have been. Some circumstances, a lot of funny things happened with ex-party communications and so forth. It’s sad. In fact, here’s a story. I was sitting at my desk one time and I had a lot of friends still didn’t sit here in San Antonio. One of them was a personal injury lawyer. We’d play golf together all the time. He’s a good friend of mine. I thought I considered him a good friend.
One day, the phone rang and I was in my chambers and had a case. He was a lawyer, one of the cases that we had. I called up and I thought he’d be talking about playing golf, getting together to play golf, but what he wanted to know was whether he should settle his case, “How’s my case looking?” I said, “I can’t believe you’re asking me that.” We got off the phone. I haven’t talked to him in twenty years. I couldn’t believe that. Some people will take those calls and those are disappointing circumstances, but it’s a sad situation, at least in my relationship with him. You’ve got to get a lot of that stuff out of it, out of the money and politics as best you can. Let people decide cases based on lawyers.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens. It seems like there’s some momentum to change the system maybe more than we’ve seen in a while. It would be interesting to see in the next couple of years if anything shakes out of that process.
It starts with the legislature.
I heard that the governor is behind me doing something. I thought for a long-time, nothing’s going to happen unless the governor gets behind it, but I understand the lieutenant governor is not so hot on the idea. He’s got to get on board, too. The other problem is if you start making changes, “Why we’re going to go to this good system where judicial candidates are vetted, goes to an appointed process?” Whatever system like that, so forth, but they’re appointed and the person who doesn’t like that will tell the people out there, “They’re going to take away your right to vote and then it’s over.” They’re going to happen. I’ve been in favor of a change for many years and as much as it probably should.
There are a lot of your former colleagues, particularly the former chiefs that go up every session and speak out about it. There’s definitely a lot of voices out there asking for something different.There are good people who've been lining with their applications in hand, ready to just take the oath. Click To Tweet
Going back to Greenhill, John Hill and Tom Phillips. They were all of the former in favor of making changes. It hasn’t been the political will to do it.
I want to totally change course and ask you about something fun. I understand you’re a pilot.
I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve been doing it many years. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. There I will be in the afternoons, driving from Austin to San Antonio to stop off at New Braunfels and meet my flight instructor, get more hours in and I finally got it done. I had a ball flying where the court hears cases out of town. Some places are hard to get to driving. It’s easier to fly in Huntsville, for example, various place out in West Texas. I was applying, you can drive as you want.
I took Jeff Brown and Jeff Boyd with me, we flew over to Huntsville and back. We head out there to your cases, the young lawyers and the litigation council always have interesting places to go like at the Gage Hotel and Marathon and other places out in West Texas and we fly out there. I get a kick out of it. My son, a senior in high school, got his pilot’s license. He’s trying to get all kinds of things. He’s got his pilot’s license, his complex aircraft endorsement, his high-performance endorsement and his tail wheel endorsement IRA. He has an old biplane that can be recovered and he flew it all the way from San Antonio to Battle Creek, Michigan. You get it delivered up there for the inner recover space. He’s good.
I wouldn’t even know where to start on any of that.
It’s a lot of fun and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. My father was in the Army Air Corps and one of my grandfathers was a pilot too. I said, “I’m going to do this.”
Did you say that you picked it up within the last many years?
Many years ago is when I started flying.
Hopefully, you’ll have some time to enjoy it from the next a little bit, now that you’re stepping away from the court.
Particularly with anything needing to do smarter fly, we’re going to fly some this year while he’s in his senior year and get some more things accomplished for him when he goes off to college, wherever that’s going to be. Another reason I’m leaving the court is to make a little bit more money.
My oldest son started college, so I totally understand. That’s a different level of parental commitment as it is.
We want to be respectful of your time and this is where we usually wrap up. You’ve done some great stuff. We wondered if you had a tip or a war story that you’d like to share here as we close out our episode?
I’ll tell you a war story. What always comes to mind about war story goes back to the Fourth Court of Appeals. There is a prominent lawyer down there that we’d see all the time. I’m not going to mention his name because you would know him. Back then, the lawyers would come in and make their arguments and so forth, but nobody thought to have a pitcher of water and glasses out. This came time for this lawyer to make his argument. He stood up at the podium, reached into his jacket, pulled out one of the little airline whiskey bottles. It was empty and he said, “There’s water in it.” This is like a little Jack Daniels bottle. It had water and he said, “Sometimes, I get up here and get a dry mouth. I want you to know it’s not whiskey. It’s water.” We sat back and said, “Okay.” During his argument, he stopped holding up the cabin most likely. The next day of arguments, we had pitchers of water and glasses out there. Everybody felt bad for the guy.
That was what it took for it to make that change with somebody bringing into what had been a bottle of whiskey.
A tip to your readers who won’t need this tip anyway, but you’re in more than a couple of times where we had nervous lawyers talking to us. I remember we were sitting in a panel thing. He may have been an on-bunk panel in San Antonio. Back when I was there, this is another funny thing, I was the only man on the seven-judge court. Six women and me. The lawyer that was arguing was nervous about this situation and he kept talking to the panel as, “You guys, I didn’t go well with the ladies.” I understand how your audience is. There’s the other thing. When I left the court to come to the Supreme Court, it was 6 women and 1 man and the governor-appointed Rebecca Simmons replaced me making it an all-female court. They got a lot of prints over there. I never got any credit for leaving the court to allow that to happen. We paused them all the time about that. It wouldn’t have happened without me, ladies.
You can remind them the next time you see them all when you’re there in San Antonio because I imagine you’ll be seeing some of those judges. Justice Green, it’s been a pleasure to have you on the show. We are honored to have you and glad we could do it before you left the court. We wish you the best in your practice as you move ahead. We’ll look forward to the announcement of where you’re going to be landing because I have observed that when the Supreme Court justice leaves the court, it’s always tight-lipped as far as where they’re headed afterward and for good reasons. Thanks for spending the time with us.
I enjoyed it.
We did too. Good luck on all your new adventures coming up.
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About Justice Paul Green
Justice Paul Green recently retired from the Texas Supreme Court after sixteen years of service. Before joining the Supreme Court, he served for 10 years as a Justice on the Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio.
A native of San Antonio, Justice Green received his business degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1974 and his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law in 1977. After law school, Justice Green, a third-generation lawyer, joined his father in mid-sized litigation practice and remained there for 17 years until he was elected to the Court of Appeals in 1994.
During his career as a lawyer, Justice Green served as president of the San Antonio Bar Association, director of the State Bar of Texas, and as a member of the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association. He is a member of The American Law Institute and the American Judicature Society and is also a Life Fellow of the Austin, San Antonio, Texas and American Bar Foundations. Justice Green has been honored by St. Mary’s University Law School as a distinguished law graduate, and as a recipient of the Rosewood Gavel Award for achievement in the judiciary.