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Justice profile: Green says sometimes surprising outcomes are surprising

By Staff Reports
Feb. 15, 2017 at 4 a.m.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Paul Green

Texas Supreme Court Place 5 Justice Paul Green likes the personal touch Texans experience when their highest civil court comes to town.

He added that’s a two-way street.

“The great thing about it is everybody treats us so well,” the San Antonio native said by phone. “They roll out the red carpet. And the students — it’s really fun and interesting for them.”

One of three justices who joined the high court via election rather than appointment, Green came to The Supreme Court of Texas in 2005 after a 10-year stint on the 4th Court of Appeals in San Antonio.

The 1974 University of Texas graduate, with a bachelor’s degree in business, achieved his law degree three years later from St. Mary’s University School of Law. The San Antonio university later named him a distinguished law graduate.

The third-generation lawyer is a past president of the San Antonio Bar Association and director for the State Bar of Texas.

He said expanding the high court’s exposure, via its traveling venue program, gives residents a chance to see that the justices are bound by the law rather than their personal ideologies.

“A lot of what we do is statutory construction,” he said, referring to the intimate act of following the letter of the law. “We try to hew very close to what the language is in the statute. Sometimes, we come out with an outcome and say, ‘I would’ve done it differently, but that’s the way the legislature wrote it.’ ”

Sometimes those lawmakers in Austin learn fully what they’ve done only when the court dissects it. That has led legislatures to go back to the drawing board in hopes of a different outcome.

“And I think that’s fine,” Green said. “They can rewrite the statute.”

Speaking of the sausage-making in the Capitol, isn’t it nice to get out of Austin while the 85th Legislative Session is underway?

“I think it’s coincidence this time,” Green said. “Austin’s crazy to begin with — all the students there, and the Legislature is there. It’s just insane.”

He’ll be happy to meet students who are making the journey to the Belcher Center — about 1,000 from as far away as Dallas by one count last week.

“That’s got to be one of the biggest (turnouts) we’ve had,” he said.

And he welcomed this latest opportunity for the public to take ownership of their judiciary by seeing it operating “up close and personal.”

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding of how the court works,” Green said. “There’s a lot of cynicism out there, and people think the courts are tied in with their own ideologies ... or their own special interest. Sometimes, we don’t know (an outcome) until we put it on paper.”

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