Thirteenth Court of Appeals

Chief Justice Dori Contreras 
Photo of Chief Justice Dori Contreras

Place 1

Chief Justice Dori Contreras was first elected as a Justice to the 13th Court of Appeals in 2002.  She began her first term on January 1, 2003 and was re-elected in 2008 and 2014.  She was elected Chief Justice in 2018. She will serve in this position through 2024.

Chief Justice Dori Contreras was born in San Juan, Texas.  She was raised in Pharr, Texas and graduated from PSJA High School in 1976.  After graduation, she attended the University of Texas at Austin from which she received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting in December of 1980.  In response to a job offer, Chief Justice Contreras moved to Houston, Texas and worked as an accountant for several years before deciding to go to law school.  In 1987, as a mother of two daughters, she began law school in the night program at the University of Houston Law Center and continued working full-time.  She continued with this rigorous schedule for a year and one-half before deciding to borrow the needed funds to attend school full time.  A year and one-half later, in May of 1990, she received her Doctor of Jurisprudence degree.  Chief Justice Contreras was active in various organizations in law school and was recognized as one of six students to receive the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Houston Law Center. She was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in November of 1990.

Chief Justice Contreras began her legal career in Houston working as an associate for Thomas N. Thurlow and Associates. In 1991, she moved to San Antonio and began employment with the Law Offices of Frank Herrera. After one year, she transferred to the McAllen branch office which she managed until 1997. In that year, she became a partner in a civil trial firm that litigated and tried state and federal court cases. Chief Justice Contreras also formed a mediation practice in 1997 which she ran concurrently with her law practice. In 2010, Chief Justice Contreras was one of three recommended by the Texas congressional delegation for nomination by the White House to a United States District Court seat in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Before joining the court, Chief Justice Contreras served as a member and on boards of numerous legal and community organizations including President of the Hidalgo County Bar Association; as a board member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association; and, on the Board of Governors for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.  She currently serves as a Council Member for the Hispanic Issues Section of the State Bar of Texas. Throughout her legal career, Chief Justice Contreras has lectured at continuing legal education programs around the state and country.  She enjoys speaking to students at local schools and serving as a role model to the young women in her community.

In 2016, Chief Justice Contreras received the Judge of the Year Award from the Hispanic Issues Section of the State Bar of Texas. In 2014, Chief Justice Contreras was recognized as a Woman of Distinction by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and received the Good Samaritan Award from Good Samaritan Community Services-RGV, a non-profit organization that provides an after-school and summer program for at-risk youth in the Pharr community.

Chief Justice Contreras has three children. Lisette Marie Howard is a graduate of Texas A&M University and has a Master’s degree from the University of North Texas. Vanessa Barry graduated summa cum laude from UT Pan American and is employed as the Director of Marketing and Communications for IDEA Public Schools in San Antonio, Texas.  Michael James Garza, Jr. is attending South Texas College. Chief Justice Contreras is the proud grandmother of Aidan Scott Howard, Addison Marie Howard, Caroline Grace Barry and Jack Ryan Barry.