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Keynote Address, Class of 2015

Nathan L. Hecht

Nathan L. Hecht, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas

Nathan L. Hecht is the 27th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas and the longest-serving member of that Court in Texas history. He is also the senior Texas appellate judge in active service. Hecht has been elected to the Texas Supreme Court six times, first in 1988, and most recently in 2014 as its Chief Justice. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry appointed Hecht as Chief Justice Oct. 1, 2013.

The Texas Supreme Court has broad constitutional and statutory authority to adopt rules of administration, practice and procedure for the Texas Judiciary and legal system. Throughout his service of the Court, Chief Justice Hecht has overseen the rules process. For six years, he also served on the advisory committee for the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by appointment of the Chief Justice of the United States.

Since 2010, Chief Justice Hecht has also led the Court's efforts to assure Texans living below the poverty level, as well as others with limited means, have access to basic civil legal services. In each of the last three biennial state budget cycles, Chief Justice Hecht helped persuade the Legislature to support legal aid programs with more than $17 million while interest paid on lawyers' client trust accounts, a traditional source of funding, has plunged with interest rates. He has also led in efforts to encourage the U.S. Congress to support the funding and work of the Legal Services Corp. To assist self-represented litigants, Chief Justice Hecht has worked to adopt forms and simplify court procedures.

Hecht was raised on a farm outside Clovis, New Mexico. He attended Yale University, where he graduated with honors in philosophy. He earned his juris doctorate cum laude from the Southern Methodist University School of Law, where he was a Hatton W. Sumners Scholar. He then clerked for Judge Roger Robb on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit before joining the Dallas law firm of Locke Purnell Boren Laney & Neely (now Locke Lord), rising to partner. There he handled trials and appeals of complex antitrust and business cases. In 1981, he was appointed to the state district court in Dallas County, where he served until his election to the Dallas Court of Appeals in 1986.

Chief Justice Hecht served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve Judge Advocate General Corps. During his active duty, he represented defendants in courts-martial.

He is a life member of the American Law Institute and a member of the Texas Philosophical Society.