Longtime Victoria County Court-at-Law judge retiring to accept nonprofit position
Jan. 16, 2013 at 11:02 a.m.
Updated Jan. 15, 2013 at 7:16 p.m.
Longtime Victoria County Court-at-Law No. 1 Judge Laura A. Weiser is retiring to accept a nonprofit position that she says will likely be the best of both worlds.
Weiser will soon be the judicial resource liaison for the Texas Center for the Judiciary in Austin, a continuing education organization that helps judges stay up to date on the latest changes in the law and fulfill their mandated 16 hours of training yearly.
"I actually started out as a fourth-grade teacher, and I never lost that love for teaching, no matter what age it is," she said. "That's why this position was so attractive to me."
She said serving as a liaison will be especially important now that changes to laws regarding impaired drivers may be on the horizon.
"With the Legislature meeting, it's quite possible, and you've got to get that information out to the judges almost immediately," she said.
Her retirement is effective Feb. 28. Then, the Victoria County Commissioners Court will appoint a replacement to complete her term, which ends Dec. 31, 2014. That replacement must have practiced law for four years in order to be eligible, Weiser said.
Weiser has served as the County Court-at-Law No. 1 judge since 1990. After surviving a contested primary in her first election, she has been re-elected every four years without opposition.
The County Court-at-Law No. 1 hears misdemeanor adult criminal cases, juvenile cases and civil cases in which the amount in controversy does not exceed $200,000, among other things.
Weiser said she's most proud of the work she's done in regard to lowering the recidivism rate of adults with substance abuse problems. She said a DWI court program, which will continue, has held those charged with offenses, such as driving while intoxicated, more accountable for their actions.
She said that's because the offenders check in with her, the police department, the district attorney's office and their probation officer every two weeks.
They are also monitored using tools such as ankle bracelets that record the alcohol content of the moisture coming off the wearer's skin and a device that requires a person to blow into a breathalyzer to ensure they don't get behind a wheel drunk.
"Usually, if I place somebody on probation, I don't see them until they mess up again," she said. "Research in the U.S. shows that focusing on the treatment of alcoholism rather than just punishment is much more effective."
Weiser has also seen the juvenile department grow under her tenure. She recommended the juvenile detention center at Foster Field be built in 1995. She, her husband, retired County Court-at-Law No. 2 Judge Juan Velasquez; and his successor, Judge Daniel Gilliam; have presided over cases at the facility ever since. She said before then, officials had to bus kids from Rockport for hearings in Victoria.
"It's made it a lot more convenient to take care of the kids," Weiser said. "We can also protect the public from kids that don't need to be out on the street."
Weiser graduated cum laude from Houston Baptist University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in elementary education, special education and guidance. She received her Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Houston Law Center. She is an alumnus of the Texas College for New Judges, the Texas College for Judicial Studies and the National Judicial College.
She moved to Victoria in 1985. She worked as a law clerk, a briefing attorney for the law firm of Cole, Cole and Easley, an attorney representing indigent at Coastal Bend Legal Services and as an assistant criminal district attorney in Victoria County.
She has two children, Jessica, 29, and Scott, 27.
Weiser thanked all the citizens and staff members Tuesday who have helped her along the way, whom she said she will undoubtedly miss.
"Victoria will always have a special place in my heart. For more than 15 years, I was able to share my work with my husband. He has always been my mentor and a wonderful example of what a good judge should be. I have missed coming to the courthouse with him each day since his retirement. I expect this new position to allow us to spend more time together," she said. "I'm ready for a new adventure."