Candidate Linda Yañez hopes to become the first Latina in Texas history to win a seat on the state Supreme Court.
Elizabeth Pierson Hernandez | June 27, 2008 | Features
The teenager carried a long-handled hoe. Her bosses had left her unsupervised to work the vast, northern Illinois vegetable field. As the summer sun beat down, she moved up and down the rows clearing weeds. When it came time for the midday break, Linda Reyna Yañez sought refuge under a shade tree—to read. At that time the 16-year-old from the Rio Grande Valley was devouring books by Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Victor Hugo, and anything she could find by Thomas Hardy.
Yañez is a Harvard gradate and the first Hispanic female appellate judge in Texas history. Now she hopes to be the first Hispanic female on the Texas Supreme Court.
Yañez likes to say the current all-Republican Texas Supreme Court has a “groupthink” problem, that there is no true debate. She says the justices share similar backgrounds, and though she is careful to interpret the law as it is written, she says she knows life experiences can skew a court’s decision.
Those experiences too often lead to a pro-defendant bias, court critics say. A number of recent rulings illustrate the critique, but one of the most notorious is a ruling on behalf of homebuilder Bob Perry, whose family has given more than $250,000 to members of the court. A suburban Fort Worth couple sued Perry Homes for refusing to fix a faulty house in 2000. Two courts upheld the couple’s $800,000 award, but on May 2 of this year, the Supreme Court overturned the rulings. The decision attracted widespread media coverage and prompted a public shaming from pro-plaintiff groups.