Feb. 19, 2020 – Veronica Rivas-Molloy, a 2001 graduate of the University of Houston Law Center, is serving area constituents after taking office this year on the First District Court of Appeals of Texas. She is the third Latina to serve on the First Court of Appeals in 129 years.
Rivas-Molloy was elected in November, and was sworn in by the Honorable Linda Yanez, the first Latina to serve on any court of appeals in Texas, in January.
Rivas-Molloy is a first-generation American and dreamed of going to law school from a young age, viewing the profession as an opportunity for justice and change. Growing up along the border of El Paso and Juárez, Mexico, she saw the vast differences in opportunity and culture as a personal directive for her to revamp and correct wrongs through law.
“I was an immigrant at a time when there was a lot of animosity toward the immigrant community,” she said. “As I grew older, I knew that having this profession would give me the ability to have a voice and advocate on behalf of others.
“I really appreciate the practical, hands-on experience I was able to get at the Law Center,” she said. “It was a combination of the rigor and the mentorship and the kindness and compassion that everybody had that really helped me through.”
Rivas-Molloy noticed disparity and a limited number of women, especially women of color, in the legal profession when she began to practice law and noted that diverse life experiences, perspectives and backgrounds of varied cultures enhance the legitimacy of the judicial system.
“I needed to get out of my comfort zone to open the door for others who look like me and wanted to follow suit,” she said. “I wanted to give back and serve my community.”
By gaining this position, she hopes to be a testament for other immigrants and young women of color that hard work pays off and you do not need to come from a wealthy background or know people who have done this before to succeed.
“Professor Sandra Guerra Thompson was always a champion for diverse students,” she said. “Coming to a new city and not knowing anyone, to know that somebody trusts you so much and puts so much faith in you gives you faith to believe in yourself as well.”
Rivas-Molloy has advocated for and represented clients on a diverse range of business disputes and appellate matters at Jones Walker LLP, and served pro bono as general counsel for Holy Trinity Episcopal School of Greater Houston.
“I have been very blessed in my professional career, and I attribute much of that to UH,” she said. “I just had a wonderful experience at the Law Center, with wonderful teachers who went from being professors to mentors, some still mentors and close friends today."
Rivas-Molloy said that mock trials, litigation and advocacy classes, and writing non-stop had aptly matured her for real courtroom experiences, and the rigorous professors who pressured and encouraged her the most while attending the Law Center fostered and inspired a desire to study and learn the law.
“The most important thing is to walk in the door and work very hard,” she said. “Over 1 million people have put their trust and faith in me to serve and make a difference in their community, and that is a very humbling position to be in.”