Twelve McLennan County attorneys, including three with experience as judges, are vying to replace retiring County Court-at-Law Judge Mike Freeman.
Freeman, 71, announced in August he would retire midterm and said recently he plans to leave office at the end of January.
McLennan County commissioners, who will appoint Freeman’s successor, accepted applications for the job through Thursday evening. County Judge Scott Felton has said the court will review the applications and narrow the field before interviewing finalists.
Freeman, a former prosecutor who has been a judge for 10 years, will have about two years left on his four-year term. The position pays $157,000 a year.
There are two county courts-at-law in McLennan County, which handle criminal misdemeanor cases, civil cases with damages up to $200,000, probate matters, condemnations and guardianships. Judge Brad Cates presides over the second court.
Applicants for the job include:
Jason P. Darling
Darling has served for more than eight years as the local defense bar representative for the McLennan County DWI and Drug Court, a program Freeman established. He is partner in the Moody, Crow and Darling law firm and focuses his practice primarily on criminal law in state and federal court. Darling was a prosecutor in the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office for five years and graduated from St. Mary’s University School of Law in 2001.
Deivanayagam has served as associate judge for Woodway Municipal Court since 1997 and is a former associate judge for Lacy Lakeview Municipal Court. He is a partner in the law offices of Rod Goble and is an adjunct professor at the Baylor University Law School. He graduated from the University of Memphis in 1993 and Baylor Law School in 1996.
Edwards is a solo practitioner who specializes in family law. He has served on numerous committees for the State Bar of Texas, the McLennan County Bar Association, the McLennan County Young Lawyers Association and was named McLennan County Young Lawyer of the Year in 1986. He earned a law degree from Baylor in 1978.
Christi L. Hunting Horse
Hunting Horse is a prosecutor in the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office Crimes Against Children Unit and has worked in the DA’s office since October 2014. She is a former attorney-adviser for the FBI in Washington, D.C., staff attorney for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, and an assistant staff judge advocate for the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corp. She graduated from Baylor Law School in 1999.
Wesley D. Lloyd
Lloyd is an associate with Freeman Mills law firm and specializes in litigation involving upstream oil and gas and midstream pipeline companies, plus environmental, water, government relations and regulatory law. He worked 10 years at the Naman, Howell, Smith & Lee law firm and has been president of the McLennan County Republican Club since 2012. Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Lloyd to the Brazos River Authority Board, and he was named McLennan County Young Lawyer of the Year in 2011.
Since 2011, Patterson has been a senior judge, appointed to cases by the Texas Supreme Court and serves as justice in residence at the Baylor Law School. She served as justice on the Third Court of Appeals in Austin from 1999 to 2010 and is a former federal prosecutor in Texas and New York. She also served as adjunct professor at the University of Texas Law School, where she earned her law degree. Patterson is a former vice chairwoman of the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct and was a lecturer at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia.
Ragland served as McLennan County Court-at-Law judge from 2003 to 2006, when Freeman won the seat. During that time, Ragland said he concluded 11,775 criminal and civil cases while serving on the Juvenile Board, the Board of Judges and the Bail Bond Board. He served 21 years in the Army Reserve, retiring as a staff judge advocate. Ragland has practiced law in Waco for 37 years. He was one of the first lawyers in Texas to become certified in personal injury trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
Ramsay worked as a McLennan County assistant district attorney starting in 2011 and served as a chief prosecutor in Freeman’s court for a time. He prosecuted more than 50 jury trials in misdemeanor and felony courts, including murder and continuous sexual assault of a child trials. Ramsay left the DA’s office when he opened his own law practice in 2015. He volunteers with UnBound, a group that works against human trafficking. His father is a state district judge, and his brother is an elected district attorney in East Texas.
Ross B. Russell (disqualified)
Russell has been an arbitrator in more than 75 legal arbitrations and is also licensed to practice in North Dakota and Washington, D.C. He has been managing attorney for his own law firm in Waco since August and served as staff attorney for Lone Star Legal Aid for nine months. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and graduated from the Texas A&M University Law School.
Edward C. Vallejo
Vallejo served as a McLennan County prosecutor from 2002 to 2010 and was a prosecutor in Bell County for three years. He has been an associate general counsel for Texas State Technical College since May and has been a criminal defense attorney since November 2014. He has been an instructor for the Texas Police Chiefs Association, the Texas Association of Legal Professionals and the police academy at McLennan Community College. He graduated from Baylor Law School in 2002.
Gerald R. Villarrial
Villarrial had his own law firm from 1999 to 2007 and has operated it again since 2011, specializing in criminal, family, civil and juvenile law. He worked three years for the Zimmerman Law Firm and three years for the Reyna and Reyna Law Firm. He is on the board of the Dispute Resolution Center, the Waco-McLennan County Bar Association, the Waco ISD Adopt-A-School Advisory Board and the McLennan County Juvenile Justice Advisory Board.
Young earned his law degree from Baylor in 1996 and a doctorate in church history from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1981. He is board certified in personal injury trial law and has had his own firm since July 2009. He worked 11 years with the Zimmerman law firm in Waco and has practiced law with firms in Fort Worth, Bedford and Dallas. Young is a lecturer at Baylor’s Truett Seminary and has been an associate professor of church history at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.