An Interview with Chief Justice Richard Barajas
Chief Justice Richard Barajas (TX-Ret.) is a native of El Paso, Texas. The seventh child of Roberto Barajas and Carmen Gonzalez, he graduated from Cathedral High School in El Paso, Texas, a Christian Brothers institution. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Baylor University in Waco, Texas in 1974 and his Juris Doctor from the Baylor School of Law in 1977. He was admitted to the State Bar of Texas that same year. He additionally holds a Master’s in Education, Administration and Supervision. Upon completion of his law studies, he was commissioned and served on active duty in the United States Naval Judge Advocate General’s Corps as a trial and defense attorney in Norfolk, Virginia and as a staff attorney assigned to the Commander, United States Forces in the Azores, Portugal. His last assignment was as a legislative attorney with the Navy Office of Legislative Affairs in Washington, D.C. For his distinguished naval service, he was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and the Humanitarian Service Medal, among other awards. He has been admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Texas, the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and the United States Supreme Court. In 1983 he left active military service and returned to civilian life and the private practice of law in West Texas.
In 1987 he was in private practice in Fort Stockton, Pecos County, Texas. While in Pecos County, and in response to the murder of his brother Oscar in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he abandoned his practice of criminal law and successfully sought the office of District Attorney for the 83rd Judicial District of Texas elevating his advocacy for the rights of crime victims. In 1991 he was appointed a justice on the Eighth District Court of Appeals by Governor Ann W. Richards. In 1993 Governor Richards appointed him chief justice, at the time becoming the youngest chief justice in the United States. He retired from elected judicial service and took the non-elected status of senior justice in August 2006 when he moved into academia at his alma mater, Cathedral High School and served as the founding Director of the Center for Advanced Studies and as a mentor to 59 Gates Millennium Scholars, a national record from one secondary institution, plus three additional non-Cathedral students.
Chief Justice Barajas has made helping victims heal his life-long professional mission. He served on the board of the National Organization for Victims Assistance, a Washington D.C.-based organization which provides national advocacy for victims of crime, direct services for those crime victims when not otherwise available, and assistance to professional colleagues. For over thirty years, he served the organization as a life member, an elected board member, as an advisory board member and ultimately as its Executive Director. A nationally recognized lecturer on the proper balancing of the constitutional rights between the criminal defendant and the intended victim, Chief Justice Barajas was honored by the President of the United States at a White House ceremony as a national recipient of the Presidential Award for Victim Services.
Chief Justice Barajas is married to Cathy Jean Barajas, née Huddleston. His family includes his daughter Melanie, son Brian Robert, step-son Will Tyler Spurgin, and youngest son Richard Edward.
Baylor Educated | Naval JAGC Officer | District Attorney | West Texas Jurist | Victim Advocate | Educator |Christian Brothers Boy
Texas State Cemetery