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Victoria District Judge Kelly will not seek re-election

By Sonny Long
Nov. 23, 2011 at 5:23 a.m.
Updated Nov. 24, 2011 at 5:24 a.m.

Kelly

Career TIMELINE

1957 - Graduated from St. Joseph High School

1961 - Graduated from the University of Notre Dame

1963 - Graduated from the University of Texas School of Law

1964-1967 - U.S. Marines active duty

1967-1973 - Marine reservist

1967-1993 - Private practice lawyer

1993 - Appointed judge, 24th Judicial District, by Gov. Ann Richards

2011 - Honored with Victoria Bar Association Legacy Award

Judge Joseph P. (Pat) Kelly will not seek re-election to the bench in the 24th Judicial District.

"I think it's been long enough," said Kelly, who earlier this year was a recipient of the Victoria County Bar Association Legacy Award.

Kelly, who practiced law for 30 years before becoming a judge, was appointed district judge in July 1993. He took the oath of office, administered by his father, Judge Joe E. Kelly, on Aug. 9, 1993, then was elected in 1994 and every subsequent election since.

Kelly's term will end Dec. 31, 2012.

For 12 years, Joe E. Kelly was the judge for the same district his son now serves. Before that, the father was regional judge from 1963-1977.

"My father trained me to be a judge," Kelly said Wednesday. "I looked over cases with him for more than 20 years. As a consequence, I really haven't seen anything I hadn't been exposed to before.

"It created a comfort zone," he said. "It was a blessing. Once I got on the bench, I appreciated that he had shared so much with me."

Kelly said the capital murder cases he has presided over stick out in his mind because they are so serious. Two in particular, both in Jackson County, stand out - the case of Ronald Ray Howard, convicted of the 1992 murder of a state trooper, and the conviction of LeJames Norman for a triple homicide in Edna in 2005.

Kelly, 71, said he will seek visiting judge status so he can continue his judicial work, though not as a full-time district judge.

District 24 includes Victoria, Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson and Refugio counties.

"I like the people in the district. I like my association with the attorneys. I hope I'll have plenty of work to do and continue those relationships," he said.

Michael Sheppard, the district attorney for DeWitt, Goliad and Refugio counties, said he appreciates Kelly's presence on the bench.

"I have practiced in Judge Kelly's courts in all six counties in the district. Pat Kelly has been an outstanding district judge," Sheppard said. "He is intellectual, scrupulous and fair. He has a great respect for the rule of law and for our profession.

"He is always a gentleman on the bench. I have tried dozens of cases in front of Judge Kelly, many of them hotly contested, and I have never seen him lose his composure or speak sharply to anyone," Sheppard said. "He is always gracious to all parties under all circumstances. He takes his responsibilities very seriously, but he never seems to get impatient or stressed.

"I believe he is one of those people who was just made to be a judge. It has been a great pleasure to practice in front of him."

The judge, a 1961 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, writes columns for the alumni newsletter. He received his law degree from the University of Texas in 1963. He and his wife of more than 45 years, Abbie Kelly, have 10 grandchildren.

"It wouldn't hurt to spend more time with them," Kelly said.

Filing for the March primary for all offices begins Monday.

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