2022 Judicial Awards
The following award recipients were nominated by their peers and recognized for their contribution to the fair and impartial administration of justice at the 2022 Annual Meeting.
Judge Michael Acuña, TMCA President, & Judge Bonnie Townsend, Annual Meeting Committee Chair, presented the Outstanding Judge of the Year Award to Judge Robert "Bobby" Garcia from the Harlingen Municipal Court.
The Honorable Robert "Bobby" Garcia with the Harlingen Municipal Court was selected by the Texas Municipal Courts Association to receive the Association’s Jurist of the Year Award. Here are a few reasons why as submitted by his peers.
While serving as the Justice of the Peace in Nueces County, Precinct 1, he worked side by side with children and parents cleaning graffiti in local parks. The children were students who had truancy violations. Judge Garcia found a positive way to not only hold them accountable but to also mentor both and students and parents.
After being appointed to the Harlingen Municipal Court, he took the initiative to create and implement probable cause forms that are currently used during magistration hearings. He also ordered hearings to commence early each morning which substantially reduced the time that inmates remained incarcerated.
In order to provide the community with transparency, Judge Garcia broadcasts his hearings live on Facebook and YouTube. He balances enforcement with common sense to get a just result.
The most significant impact has been in the schools within his community. He noticed that many young kids were being arrested for misdemeanors and felonies and they seemed unaware of the laws or consequences of their actions. Judge Garcia reached out to the schools and initiated a community service program that incorporated mentorship with service. He holds presentations at the schools and educates students about the criminal justice system. Many students are given the option to perform their community service by assisting Judge Garcia with his presentations. The program was such a success that he held 17 presentations this year because students repeatedly requested his return for more presentations.
He is always looking for ways to help improve the quality of life for his community.
Judge Michael Acuña, TMCA President, presented the Outstanding Clerk of the Year Award to Pat Riffel from the Friendswood Municipal Court.
Pat Riffel was selected by the Texas Municipal Courts Association to receive the Association’s Clerk of the Year Award. Here are a few reasons why as submitted by her peers.
She is passionate about the education of court clerks and making education available to court clerks across the state. Through TMCEC, she has brought training to rural areas of the state where clerks may have not had the opportunity for professional development.
She is constantly helping clerks on their journey to becoming certified. She administers practice tests, proctors exam sites and speaks at clerk conferences and TMCEC events.
I would challenge you to find another court clerk who has had a bigger impact on her profession through the educational advancement of others.
She is currently the chair of the Texas Court Clerks Association Education Committee and in that capacity also serves on the TMCA Education Committee.
Ms. Riffel completed the Certified Court Manager Program through the National Center for State Courts and now facilitates CCMP courses for TMCEC. She also volunteers her time to teach TMCEC Regional Clerk Seminars and New Clerks Seminars bringing a great deal of energy, enthusiasm and knowledge to her audience.
Pat took the Clerks Certification Program to a new level during the pandemic. Even though she prefers in-person learning and teaching, she was willing to teach sessions virtually and started the Level III Book Club. The Book Club has been a huge success with clerks taking advantage of the opportunity.
She has answered hundred of calls and emails to assist clerks with questions about maintaining certification during this unprecedented time. She took the time to reach out to each and every clerk that had not completed their required hours to maintain their certification and gave them information on upcoming training opportunities.
She has worked tirelessly to assist and mentor clerks on their journey in the Certification Program. She takes every opportunity to travel the state teaching and mentoring every clerk she meets, contributing to their development and grown as a court professional.
Enrique Juarez was unable to attend the Annual Meeting. His award was presented to Judge Robert "Bobby" Garcia during the awards dinner and later presented Mr. Juarez.
Enrique C. Juarez with the Harlingen Municipal Court was selected by the Texas Municipal Courts Association to receive the Association’s Prosecutor of the Year Award. Here are a few reasons why as submitted by his peers.
He grew up in Brownsville doing farm labor as a child. He eventually became a police officer before deciding to become a lawyer. He has a strong sense of justice and fairness. He believes in being fair and listening to people.
He lives by the motto "not to convict, but that justice be done".
He is efficient and treats every defendant with respect from the moment they walk into the courtroom.
He makes sure that ever defendant understand the process by speaking to all defendants in the courtroom as a group prior to speaking to them individually.
He has always cared about people.
He has a long history of service: serving as the President of the Police Officer's Association, a board member of the Texas Combined Law Enforcement Association, a Major Crimes Investigator, and a labor relations manager.
Judge Michael Acuña, TMCA President, presented the Distinguished Service Award to Judge Robert C. Richter, Jr.
The Honorable Judge Robert C. Richter, Jr., attended his last quarterly meeting as a member of the TMCA Board of Directors on July 14, 2022. Judge Richter has been a member of TMCA since the 70's. TMCA President Elinor Walters of Seabrook asked Bob to serve as Treasurer when the organization received the first $100,000 grant from the Governor's Office to train judges. Bob has served as Treasurer ever since.
One of the most notable acts of TMCA was to establish the Municipal Courts Training Center in 1983 when TMCA was selected by the Texas Supreme Court to receive and administer a grant to provide continuing education to Municipal Court personnel. In 1994, the name was changed to the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center. Bob was there when all that happened. He was there when the Recorder commenced publication. He was there when the organization bought the building and TMCEC moved from Shoal Creek Boulevard to Hancock Drive. He was there when Hope Lochridge was hired as TMCEC Executive Director and he was there on the interview panel when Ryan Turner was hired as general counsel. He was there when we hired our first lobbyist. He has been there for virtually every major development and accomplishment of TMCA.
Judge Acuña presented this award on behalf of TMCA for sharing his wisdom, experience, counsel, insight, concerns and devotion to TMCA and TMCEC. We are grateful for over 40 years of his leadership, contributions, dedication, commitment, loyalty and outstanding service.
"To consider Bob's history with TMCA is to contemplate the history of the organization itself". (Judge Michael Acuña).
Judge Michael Acuña, TMCA President, presented the President's Award to Shona Bohon, TMCA Coordinator.
Shona Bohon, TMCA Coordinator, was selected by TMCA President Michael Acuῇa to receive the President’s Award. Here are a few reasons why she was selected:
We have been blessed to have acquired the talents of Shona Bohon for the last 7 years. Shona has been one of the main reasons the board could accomplish its goals this term. For example, the board had an ambitious agenda of significantly revising our Bylaws and conducting elections electronically. Shona played a significant role in all facets of that project.
She is basically our website administrator. She has been responsible for creating and placing the overwhelming majority of content on the website.
She studied the website platform and made several recommendations to the committees and the board regarding the best options to do things.
That would be enough to merit recognition, but there is much more.
Shona has presented us all with great ideas to facilitate successful realization of the Board’s agenda. She has been a tremendous resource for all of us and has been responsive to every board member.
Shona has significantly assisted me this term. She reminded me of important deadlines, sent me proposed agendas for our business meetings and distributed them once the final agendas were approved. She has also been responsible for distributing the messages I have drafted to the entire membership and placing them on the website.
Whatever has been requested of her, Shona has always discharged her responsibilities with professionalism.
To list all of her contributions to TMCA would require much more time. Suffice it to say Shona played such an integral part in TMCA’s success this term, it is difficult to imagine where we would be without her.
To paraphrase a quote attributed to President Abraham Lincoln:
"Commitment [and dedication are] what transform a promise into a reality… Commitment [and dedication] is the stuff character is made of; the power to change the face of things. ”
Thank you, Shona, for your commitment and dedication to transforming the promise of TMCA’s agenda into a reality this year. Your commitment and dedication surely show your exemplary character. Thank you for helping us change the face of things this term.