A judge whose Mexican immigrant mother earned only a third grade education and worked as a cleaning woman was named to the Texas Supreme Court on Thursday, becoming the first Latina to serve on the state's highest court.
Justice Eva Guzman of the 14th Texas Court of Appeals will succeed Scott Brister, Gov. Rick Perry said during an event at Austin High School, a predominantly Latino school from which Guzman graduated.
"This is a special day and this is a special place," Guzman said while surrounded by family and friends. "We chose this location because this is where my journey began. It is a strong reminder of the power of big dreams, hard work and good choices."
Perry, who praised Guzman as a principled conservative with an "unmatched work ethic," said her name kept coming up after he asked his staff to "find the best, most principled Texas jurist out there and get him or her on the bench."
Guzman's story of rising from immigrant roots to judicial success exemplifies "a dream I'm proud to say is still possible in the state," Perry said.
The governor is tough re-election Republican primary against U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and both are working to woo Hispanics, who account for a third of Texas' population and a quarter of the state's electorate.
In 2001, Guzman became the first Hispanic woman appointed to the 14th Court of Appeals and only the second Hispanic to serve on that bench. She was subsequently elects to the appeals court in 2002 and 2004.
Guzman grew up in Houston but was born in Chicago, one of seven children of Mexican immigrant parents. After earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Houston, she graduated from South Texas College of Law.
Before her appointment to the appellate bench, Guzman served two years as a Harris County family court judge and had a ten-year career as a private practice lawyer specializing in family and civil law.
Guzman, an adjunct faculty member at the University of Houston Law Center, is married to Houston police sergeant and has a 17-year-old daughter. Earlier this year, the Hispanic National Bar Association named Guzman the "Latina Judge of the Year."
Brister announced on Aug. 17 that he was stepping down to join the law firm of Andrews Kurth LLP, effective Sept. 7.