Chief Justice Dori Contreras

Chief Justice Dori Contreras

Chief Justice Dori Contreras was first elected as a justice to the 13th Court of Appeals of Texas in 2002 and was reelected in 2008 and 2014. She was elected chief justice in 2018 and will serve in this position through December 2024. It is her honor to be the first woman chief justice of the 13th Court of Appeals and, at the time of her election, only the second Latina chief justice to serve statewide.

Contreras was raised in Pharr by her parents, both first-generation Mexican Americans. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and received a Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting. In 1987, as a wife and mother of two daughters, she began law school in the night program at the University of Houston Law Center while continuing to work full time. A year and a half later, she borrowed the needed funds to attend law school full time. In 1990, she received her J.D. and was admitted to the Texas Bar.

Contreras began her legal career in Houston working as an associate for Thomas N. Thurlow and Associates. In 1991, she moved to San Antonio and began employment with the Law Offices of Frank Herrera. After one year, she transferred to the McAllen branch office, which she managed until 1997. In that year, Contreras became a partner in a civil trial firm that litigated and tried state and federal court cases. She also formed a mediation practice in 1997 that she ran concurrently with her law practice. In 2010, Contreras was one of three recommended by the Texas congressional delegation for nomination by the White House to a U.S. district court seat in Corpus Christi.

Before joining the court, she served as a member and on boards of numerous legal and community organizations, including president of the Hidalgo County Bar Association, board member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, and member of the board of governors for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. Contreras currently serves on the Executive Committee and as vice-chair of the Finance Committee and co-chair of the Membership Committee for the Council of Chief Judges of the State Courts of Appeal, as a member of the Council of Chief Justices of Texas, as president-elect of Texas Latinx Judges, and as a council member of the State Bar of Texas Hispanic Issues Section. Throughout her legal career, Contreras has lectured at continuing legal education programs around the state and country. She enjoys speaking to students at local schools and serving as a role model to the young women in her community.

She has received numerous awards, including the 2021 Hispanic Women Making History Award by the Hispanic Women’s Network Rio Grande Valley chapter, the 2019 Latina Trailblazer by the Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas, and the 2016 Judge of the Year by the State Bar of Texas Hispanic Issues Section. 

Contreras is married to Roger Perez. She has three children—Lisette Marie Howard, Vanessa Barry, and Michael James Garza Jr.—and five grandchildren.

Guest Appearances
July 1, 2024

Remembering Hernandez v. Texas (State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting 2024)

The 1954 case Hernandez v. Texas was the first and only Mexican-American civil rights case heard and decided by the United States Supreme Court. In 1951, a criminal case that arose from...