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Yeary files for seat on Court of Appeals

By Glenn Evans
Oct. 28, 2013 at 10 p.m.


Kevin Yeary has been influenced by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals throughout his 22 years practicing law.

Now, he says he's ready to join the state's final stop for criminal cases.

"I've been involved with the work of the (Texas) Court of Criminal Appeals since I graduated law school in 1991," the 47-year-old said in Longview Monday.

As first chair of the Bexar County District Attorney's appellate division, Yeary carries the load for ensuring convictions in San Antonio district courts are upheld.

But, his experience with the state's highest criminal venue stretches to his first job out of St. Mary's School of Law, when he was a briefing attorney for Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Bill White.

Even during the three-year stint with a civil litigation firm that followed, Yeary found himself taking scattered cases arguing for defendants before the Austin-based court.

He has worked as an appellate prosecutor, in Dallas, Harris and now Bexar counties, since 1995, rising to senior prosecutor in San Antonio.

"I really enjoy the appellate work," Yeary told the Longview News-Journal editorial board Monday. "I feel like I have a unique background that makes me prepared for the Court of Criminal Appeals like few people in the state."

Yeary will face fellow Republican Jani Jo Wood of Harris County in seeking the March 2014 GOP nomination to the Place 4 seat being vacated by retiring Judge Paul Womack.

The job is one of three openings on the nine-member panel. Filing for the coming year's elections doesn't start until Nov. 9, but enough hopefuls have filed papers to raise money to create competitive races for all three seats.

No Democrats have announced intentions for the bench. Terms are for six years. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals takes up about 100 cases a year from people appealing criminal convictions in lower courts.

"And lately, I've been seeing a lot of reversals (of lower court decisions)," Yeary said. "And that was not the case all along. But it does seem like the state's having a harder time at that (district court) level than it has in the past."

Seeking his first elected office, Yeary promises a conservative approach to the law - interpreting but not creating statutes through rulings.

"The important thing for me is making sure the right thing happens," he said. "And you've got to work within the bounds that the law allows you to work in."

His opponent, Wood, is a Harris County public defender who also argues before the Court of Criminal Appeals and is a board member of the Texas Innocence Project.

"There is no question she's worked at the Court of Criminal Appeals just like I have," Yeary said. "She's been a defense attorney, and I've been a defense attorney, so I've got a more well-rounded perspective. I see all sides of this court and the cases that come before it."

He also hopes to bring stability to a court that's been consistently conservative but faces potential change with three of its nine judges retiring.

Yeary is married to Dr. Suzie Basey-Yeary, a pediatrician practicing in San Antonio. The couple has four daughters, ages 4-16.

"I would like to commute to Austin at least for that (first) term to not disrupt their life," he said. "But I do want to serve at least two terms."

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