Thomas R. Phillips


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P: +1.512.322.2565 F: +1.512.322.8363

“brings sheer cerebral horsepower to the table”

Chambers USA, 2011

Thomas R. Phillips, retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, joined the Austin office of Baker Botts in September 2005, after nearly a quarter-century of judicial service.

After graduating from law school, Mr. Phillips clerked for Justice Ruel C. Walker of the Supreme Court of Texas and practiced law in the trial department of the Houston office of Baker Botts. From 1981 to 1988, he served as judge of the 280th District Court in Harris County, Texas, and from 1988 to 2004, he was chief justice. Initially appointed to both judicial offices by Governor William P. Clements, he was elected without opposition to the district bench in 1982 and 1986 and elected in contested races to the Supreme Court in 1988, 1990, 1996 and 2002.

Board Certification

  • Board Certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, 1981 to present

Neutral Panel Membership

  • CPR Panel of Distinguished Neutrals, Texas Arbitration Panel, 2005 to present

Academic Appointments

  • Spurgeon E. Bell Distinguished Visiting Professor at South Texas College of Law, Houston, 2004-2005 (Supreme Court Seminar, First Amendment, and State Constitutional Law)
  • Distinguished Visiting Professor, Dedman School of Law, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Fall 2004 (Supreme Court Seminar)
  • Visiting Lecturer, South Texas College of Law Summer Abroad Program, Durham, England, Summer 2003 (ADR, Recent Constitutional Issues)
  • Visiting Lecturer, South Texas College of Law Summer Abroad Program, Istanbul, Summer 2001 (Comparative Evidence)

International Judicial Exchanges

  • Visit of Members of the European Court of Justice to the Supreme Court of Texas, Austin and Dallas, April 20-23, 2000, Host
  • Visit of Members of the Supreme Court of the United States to European Courts and Institutions, July 5-15, 1998, Member of the Delegation
  • Visit of Justices of the Supreme Court of Texas to the Supreme Court of Veracruz, July 7-10, 1993, Leader of the Delegation
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Publications, Speeches and Presentations

Selected Publications

  • “The Enduring Legacies of Judge R.E.B. Baylor,” 3 Journal of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society No. 3 at 4 and No. at (Spring and Summer 2014)
  • “Justice in the New State Capital,” in “A History of Texas in 21 State Court Records,” 75 Texas Bar Journal 195 (2012)
  • “Free Speech for Judges and Fair Appeals for Litigants: Judicial Recusal in a Post-White World,” 55 Drake Law Review 691 (2007) (co-author, Karlene Dunn Poll)
  • Foreword to the Judge & Jury Symposium Issue, 47 South Texas Law Review 157 (2005)
  • “State Supreme Courts: Local Courts in a Global World,” 38 Texas International Law Journal 557 (2003)
  • “Electoral Accountability and Judicial Independence: Perspectives on Judicial Independence,” 64 Ohio State Law Journal 137 (2003)
  • “The Constitutional Right to a Remedy,” 78 New York University Law Review 1309 (2003)
  • “Response to Professor Paul D. Carrington,” 53 SMU Law Review 281 (2000)
  • Comment on “Judicial Independence and Democratic Accountability in Highest State Courts” by Paul D. Carrington, Law and Contemporary Problems, 61 Duke University School of Law 127 (1998)
  • Introduction to the W. Page Keeton Symposium on Tort Law, 75 Texas Law Review 1491 (1997)
  • Justice Franklin S. Spears: “Unsung Hero of Texas Justice,” 28 St. Mary’s Law Journal 341 (1997)
  • Foreword to the 75th Anniversary Issue, 75 Texas Law Review 1 (1996)
  • Foreword to The Texas State Constitution by Janice C. May, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, 1996
  • Introduction to the Symposium: National Mass Tort Conference, 73 Texas Law Review 1525 (1995)
  • Foreword to Expert Legal Writing by Terri LeClercq, The University of Texas Press, Austin, 1995
  • Foreword to Introduction to Muslim Laws by Judge Z.C. Valiani, Ahmed Brothers, Pakistan, 1991
  • “Disqualification, Death, Disability, and Resignation of Judges,” I Texas Civil Trial Handbook, State Bar of Texas, Austin, 1984

Opinion and Editorials

  • “John Hill: A Judicious Activist for the People of Texas,” Fort Worth Star Telegram, July 15, 2007
  • “When Money Talks, Justices Must Balk,” Washington Post, April 14, 2002; Austin American-Statesman, April 21, 2002; Houston Chronicle, April 21, 2002
  • “Don’t Fault Justices for a Flawed System,” Austin American-Statesman, November 14, 1998
  • “The Price of Justice: Judging Campaign Financing,” Amarillo Daily News, September 11, 1998
  • “Justice Is Not for Sale,” Austin American-Statesman, June 29, 1998
  • “GOP Sweep Shouldn’t Obscure Need for Texas Court Reform,” (with Hon. Bill Clements), Dallas Morning News, January 27, 1995
  • “Time to Change an Intolerable System,” Houston Chronicle, December 4, 1994
  • “Several Possibilities for Fixing How Judges Are Picked in Texas,” Houston Post, August 14, 1994
  • “Party, Money Shouldn’t Decide Judicial Races,” Houston Chronicle, March 4, 1993
  • “There’s Better Way to Finance Judicial Races Than the Way We Do in Texas,” Houston Chronicle, October 18, 1992; Austin American-Statesman, October 17, 1992
  • “Judicial Selection Reform,” Eye On Texas, October 1991

Selected Speeches

  • Keynote Address, “Independence, Competence and Accountability - Texans and Texas Judges,” 2013 Kenneth W. Street Law Symposium, Austin College, Sherman, February 26, 2013
  • “Lawyering 101,” Austin Bar Association and Austin Young Lawyers Association, Austin, November 30, 2012
  • Texas v. White: Its Background and Significance,” Texas Supreme Court Historical Society re-enactment at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting, Houston, June 15, 2012
  • “State Judicial Elections,” Clinton School of Public Service Distinguished Lecture Series, Little Rock, March 14, 2012
  • “Appellate Track: No Evidence After City of Keller,” 2008 Judicial Section Annual Conference, Dallas, September 16, 2008 (with Jennifer Kingaard on paper)
  • “Federal Preemption of State Law,” University of Texas Conference on State and Federal Appeals, Austin, May 29, 2008 (with Stephanie Coon and Trisha English on paper)
  • Keynote Address, Sandra Day O’Connor Project on the State of the Judiciary, 2007 Conference, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C., October 17, 2007
  • “Federalism and Judicial Independence,” National Governors Association, Traverse City, July 23, 2007
  • “Evolving Notions of ‘No Evidence,’” Practice Before the Texas Supreme Court, State Bar of Texas, Austin, April 27, 2007 (with Martha G. Newton on paper)
  • “Life Without Merit Selection: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” Judicial Excellence for Colorado Annual Dinner, Denver, November 15, 2006
  • “What Lawyers and Judges Expect From Legal Education,” Ataturk and Legal Education Reform, Bahçesehir University, Istanbul, November 10, 2006
  • “Why Does Judicial Election Reform Matter?” California Summit of Judicial Leaders, San Francisco, November 2-3, 2006
  • “Free Speech for Judges and Fair Appeals for Litigants: Appellate Recusal in a Post-White World,” University of Texas Conference on State and Federal Appeals, Austin, June 1, 2006 (with Karlene Dunn Poll on paper)
  • “Ways to Preserve and Foster Judicial Independence,” Second Annual Judicial Symposium, National Foundation For Judicial Excellence, Defense Research Institute, Chicago, July 8, 2006
  • Keynote Address, “Judicial Professionalism in a New Era of Judicial Selection,” Fifth Annual Georgia Symposium on Professionalism, Mercer University, Macon, October 21, 2004
  • “Judicial Selection Reform: The Essential Tort Reform,” Texas Public Policy Foundation Legislative Seminar, Austin, January 30, 2003
  • McDermott Leadership Lecture, University of Texas at Dallas, January 24, 2003
  • “State of the Judiciary,” Biennial Addresses to Joint Sessions of the Texas Legislature, March 4, 2003; February 23, 1993; February 1991, February 1989; and to Joint Meetings of Senate Jurisprudence, House Judiciary, and House Civil Practices Committees, February 13, 2001; March 29, 1999; February 24, 1997; February 7, 1995
  • Keynote Address, “Report of the Subcommittee on Judicial Selection,” Committee for Economic Development, Washington, D.C., August 9, 2002
  • Keynote Address, Leon Jaworski Award Ceremony, Houston Bar Association Auxiliary, Houston, March 7, 2000
  • “Texas Judicial Selection in the Next Millennium,” Ruth and Abraham Clearfield Millennium Lecture, Arts Council of Brazos Valley, College Station, June 29, 1999
  • Keynote Address, Fiftieth Annual Institute on Oil and Gas Law and Taxation, Southwestern Legal Foundation, Dallas, February 18, 1999
  • “Public Access to Court Records,” Freedom of Information Conference, Supreme Court of the Republic of Ireland, Dublin, April 24, 1998
  • “Judicial Selection Reform,” Texas Association of Business and Texas Chamber of Commerce, Austin, April 18, 1995
  • “Limitations on Judges’ Freedom of Speech,” Washington Judicial Conference, Tacoma, August 24, 1992
  • “Principled Development of State Constitutionalism,” A. Frank Smith Distinguished Lecture, Southwestern University, Georgetown, November 7, 1991
  • “Federalism and the Texas Constitution,” Symposium on the Texas Constitution, University of Texas School of Law, Austin, October 6, 1989
  • “Evaluation of Current Judiciary Problems in Texas,” Houston Philosophical Society, Houston, March 16, 1989

Commencement Addresses

  • University of Houston Law Center, 2009, 1994, 1989
  • University of Tulsa Law School, May 2006
  • South Texas College of Law, Houston 2004
  • University of Central Texas, Killeen, 1998
  • Texas Tech University, Lubbock, 1997
  • Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, 1997
  • Baylor Law School, Waco, 1995
  • St. Mary’s University School of Law, San Antonio, 1993
  • Lon Morris College, Jacksonville, 1992

Selected Panel Participation

  • “Elections, Politics and the Supreme Court of Texas: 1988-2004,” History of Supreme Court of Texas Jurisprudence, State Bar of Texas-Texas Supreme Court Historical Society Joint Program, Austin, April 11, 2013
  • “We’re Your Arbitration Panel and We’re Here to Help,” ABA Spring ADR Conference, Chicago, April 4, 2013
  • “What Tales Emerge from Judicial Election Stats, Facts and Tally Sheets,” Texas Supreme Court Historical Society- Texas State Historical Association Joint Session, 2013 TSHA Annual Meeting, Fort Worth, March 1, 2013
  • “Money and Judicial Elections: Rules to Rein in Pay to Play Justice?” Election Law Symposium, Money in Judicial Elections, William & Mary School of Law, Williamsburg, March 28, 2012
  • “The Legal Profession in the 21st Century,” 2013 Kenneth W. Street Law Symposium, Austin College, Sherman, February 26, 2013
  • “Comparing Democracies: Get to Know Europe,” Achieving Justice: Comparing Courts in the EU and the US, University of Denver - Sturm College of Law, Denver, April 15, 2011
  • “How Does Corporate America Evaluate Cases for Trial,”, Whither Goest the Jury Trial“, Product Liability Advisory Council, Williamsburg, Virginia, October 7, 2010
  • “When to Take Off the Robe: Judicial Ethics in Today’s World,” Southern Region High Court Conference, Nashville, October 9, 2009
  • “Problems and Challenges: State Courts - Appointments, Election and Retention,” 2008 AALS and Conference of Chief Justices, New York, January 3, 2008
  • “Judicial Selection and Oversight,” 2008 National Conference of State Legislatures Annual Legislative Summit, New Orleans, July 22, 2008
  • “Transparency and The Selection of Judges,” Tradeoffs of Candor: Does Judicial Transparency Erode Legitimacy, New York University School Law Review Symposium, New York, March 11, 2008
  • “Judicial Selection,” A Fair and Impartial Judiciary, Emory University Law School, Atlanta, October 19, 2007
  • “Selecting, Electing, and Educating a Better Judiciary,” Understanding and Addressing Threats to American Free Enterprise and Prosperity, Koch Industries Seminar Aspen, July 8, 2007
  • “Fair and Independent Courts: A Conference on Judicial Independence, Selection, and Accountability,” Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, Dallas, April 4, 2007
  • Facilitator, “Fair and Independent Courts: A Conference on the State of the Judiciary,” Georgetown Law School, Washington, D.C., September 27-29, 2006
  • “Who Should Choose? A Discussion of the Relative Merits of Electing Versus Selecting Judges,” State of the American Judiciary Conference, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, D.C., July 18, 2006
  • “No Court Is an Island,” National Conference on Appellate Justice, American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, Washington, D.C., November 4-5, 2005
  • “American Law at a Crossroads,” 150 Years of Legal Education in Texas, Austin College, Sherman, April 1, 2005
  • Moderator, “Judicial Campaign Finance Practices,” Judicial Independence and Accountability, Judicial Excellence Foundation and Tulane Law School, New Orleans, March 9, 2004
  • “Judicial Selection Methods” and “Judicial Ethics and Discipline,” National Colloquium on the 21st Century Judiciary, North Carolina Bar Center, Raleigh, March 17, 2003
  • “The Case for Judicial Reform,” Preserving Judicial Independence, North Carolina Center for Voter Education, Raleigh, July 2, 2002
  • “Performing Law,” From Text to Performance: Law and Other Performing Arts, University of Texas School of Law, Austin, March 8, 2002
  • “Relation Between National Courts and State Courts” (with members of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, Republic Courts of the Russian Federation, and the Supreme Court of Texas), Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, Dallas, January 12, 2001
  • “Multidisciplinary Practice,” Loyola University School of Law, Chicago, May 3, 2000
  • “Treaty Supremacy vs. Constitutional Supremacy,” Alfred P. Murrah Lecture on the Administration of Justice (with members of the United States Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals, European Court of Justice, and Supreme Court of Texas), Southern Methodist University, Dallas, April 2000
  • “Major Issues Before the European Court of Justice and U.S. Supreme Court” (with members of the United States Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals, and European Court of Justice), Cardozo Law School, New York, April 22, 2000
  • “Are Judicial Elections Good or Bad for Civil Justice?” Annual National Lawyers Convention, The Federalist Society, Washington, D.C., November 1999, published in Engage: The Journal of the Federalist Society’s Practice Groups, April 16, 2000
  • “The Judicial View of Judicial Selection,” Choosing Our Judges, American Judicature Society, Washington, D.C., March 3, 2000
  • “Election vs. Selection: Who Wins?” Civil Justice Reform Group Steering Committee, Washington, D.C., December 9, 1999
  • “Symposium on Judicial Independence,” Quinnipiac College School of Law, Hamden, October 15, 1999
  • “A Judicial Perspective on Judicial Selection,” Annual Legislative Conference, American Tort Reform Association, San Antonio, October 5, 1999
  • “Judicial Selection and Campaign Finance Reform,” American Bar Association Standing Committee on Judicial Independence, Austin, September 1, 1999
  • Moderator, “Judicial Independence Tempered,” Bulwarks of the Republic, American Bar Association Symposium, Philadelphia, December 5, 1998
  • “Alumni Panel on Discovery Reform,” Symposium Conference on Discovery Rules, Boston College Law School, Newton Centre, Massachusetts, September 5, 1997, published in 39 Boston College Law Review 809 (1998)
  • “The Independence of Judicial Conduct Organizations,” National College on Judicial Conduct and Ethics, American Judicature Society, Austin, October 17, 1996
  • “Media and the Judiciary: Prospects for Judicial Reform and the Media’s Role in Judicial Elections,” Houston Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Houston Bar Association, and the Press Club of Houston, Houston, March 18, 1995
  • Moderator, “Is There a Better Way? Pros and Cons of the Current Process,” Advice and Consent: The Selection of United States Supreme Court Justices, Texas Young Lawyers Association, Austin, April 16, 1992
  • “ADR in Action: A Multistate Judicial Perspective,” Annual Convention, State Bar of New Mexico, Santa Fe, October 6, 1990

Conferences and Seminars Chaired

  • Course Director, University of Houston Trial Seminar, Houston and Dallas, 2006
  • Chair, “Judge and Jury,” South Texas Law Review Symposium, Houston, April 2005
  • Co-Convener, Summit on Improving Judicial Selection, National Center for State Courts and others, Chicago, December 2000
  • Convenor, Supreme Court of Texas Self-Study, National Center for State Courts, Austin, 1995
  • Planning Committee Chair, National Mass Tort Conference, Cincinnati, November 1994
  • Course Director, 17th Advanced Civil Trial Course, State Bar of Texas, Dallas, Houston, and El Paso, 1994