James deAndaHouston Chronicle
Aristotle argues that all virtue can be summed up in dealing justly. By that measure, the late James deAnda was among the most virtuous of Texans.
DeAnda, who died Thursday at 81, worked quietly for half a century to extend justice to all Texans. As University of Houston law professor Michael Olivas told the Chronicle, deAnda was for Hispanics what Thurgood Marshall was for black Americans.
DeAnda's work was not directly related to but closely coincided with the famous Brown v. Board of Education that outlawed racial segregation in the public schools. DeAnda was a member of the team of lawyers that filed the appeal that ended the official and systematic exclusion of Hispanics from Texas juries. He filed lawsuits that ended the segregation of Hispanics in South Texas school districts and other disgraceful treatment that denied them equal opportunity to quality public education.
Appointed to the federal district bench in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter, deAnda was only the second Hispanic federal judge in Texas. He was also the last Hispanic judge appointed for the heavily Hispanic Southern District of Texas.
DeAnda's work, largely conducted out of the limelight, is not finished. In 1983 deAnda sentenced a former sheriff and two deputies to prison for torturing confessions out of prisoners. The nation finds itself embroiled today in a debate over whether terrorist suspects can be legally and morally mistreated and abused.
Michael Solar, deAnda's law partner when the latter left the judiciary, said the former judge was "never rancorous, but always demonstrated a great deal of understanding and desire to work for the common good."
Can there be a better role model in an age when justice and fortune still fall so unevenly in our society?