First Court of Appeals
The Honorable Laura Carter Higley was elected as Justice of the First Court of Appeals in November 2002. She ran for an open seat and was unopposed in both the primary and general elections. In 2008, she received a Judge of the Year Award from P.O.L.I.C.E, Inc., an organization devoted to examining and promoting courtroom excellence. Also, in 2008 she was reelected for a second term to the Court. In 2014, she was reelected to a third term on the Court, again running unopposed.
Date and Place of Birth
Justice Higley, a fifth generation Texan, was born on November 27, 1946 in St. Mary's Hospital, Port Arthur, Texas. She attended public schools in Port Arthur and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1965.
Laura received her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University and her masters' degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas in Austin. In 1986, Laura returned to the University of Houston Law School receiving her Juris Doctorate in 1989.
Justice Higley graduated among the top of her class, having been selected as an associate editor of the Law Review, a member of the Order of the Barons and the Order of the Coif.
Justice Higley worked at Baker Botts L.L.P. from 1990 until 2002. Justice Higley was selected as Special Counsel in 1999. She practiced in the areas of pension law, health care law and executive compensation. She is a member of the Texas State Bar and a life member of the Houston Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation.
Justice Higley served as Development Chair and Chairperson of the Nehemiah Center, a faith-based community center initiated by First Presbyterian Church. Justice Higley also served on the Board of the Museum of Natural Science from 1978 through 2002 filling the position of Acting Interim Director of the Museum for a period during 1988 and 1989 and on the Boards of the Junior League of Houston and the Children's Assessment Center. In 1986, Justice Higley was one of five Houstonians to be awarded the Mayor's Award for Volunteer Service in recognition of her work in the community. In 1985 and then again in 1989 she was elected as a Council Member and Mayor Protem and then as Mayor of West University Place.
Laura serves as an elder of First Presbyterian Church, a director on the Advisory Board for the Houston Law Review, and a director on the Board of Directors of Presbyterian School and Brazos Presbytery Homes. She is also a member of the West University Rotary Club and in 2008 was made a Paul Harris Fellow in honor of her community service. In 2015, she was awarded the Public Sector Achievement Award by the University of Houston Law Alumni Association.
Justice Higley was a contributing editor to the Texas Association of Business and Chambers of Commerce Annual Employment Law Handbook and the Federal Bar Association Senior Citizen Handbook. In 1971, she authored The Texan: Man of Many Faces which was published for use in Title 7 of NDEA programs in the State of Texas.
Justice Higley was married in 1971 to Robert Allen Higley, an expert in wealth management and structured settlements. They have two sons, Garrett and Carter, and three granddaughters. Garrett, a graduate of South Texas College of Law works as a family law attorney in Austin. Carter, having received his MBA from the Acton MBAE program, is married to Jamil and works in Houston in private wealth management.
Justice Higley's mother, Laura Lee Hampshire Phillips was the first woman County Judge in the State of Texas, appointed to the judgeship at age 32 in Brazoria County.