A Day in the Life Of: Judge Elisabeth Earle
Judge Elisabeth Earle lives just two blocks from where she grew up in northwest Austin. While at UT, she answered phones at the Texas Bar Association and later worked for Governor Ann Richards. After law school, Earle began her legal career as an Assistant Travis County Attorney where she was a prosecutor until being appointed Municipal Court Judge for the City of Austin. A year later, Earle was named the first Presiding Judge of the Downtown Austin Community Court, an innovative approach to criminal justice. In 2002, she was elected as the Travis County Court at Law Judge and later re-elected. She has presided over cases ranging from domestic violence to high profile alcohol-related cases including Jenna Bush’s underage drinking trial. Married to CPA Britt Leissner and with two daughters, Alexandra Claire and Avery Elise, Earle places a high value on family, career, volunteerism and community involvement.
I just started a new boot camp class that hopefully will prevent leftovers from becoming permanent attachments. A change from my usual spin class or Bikram yoga.
Back home to get the girls up and ready for school. My oldest is on safety patrol so I drop her off first. Later, I take the youngest with T-shirts for the school play, snacks and socks for Avery. I’m thrilled that my daughters attend the same elementary school I did.
Check email. Now I am frantically getting ready to leave for court. I feel like Wonder Woman because I can change clothes for different events and get ready in less than five minutes flat. I just wish I had some gold cuffs or a fancy phone booth.
Arrive at courthouse for a meeting with Sheriff’s Department. In addition to the regular docket, I have a jury trial starting. Jurors begin arriving at 9:30 and the trial will continue most of the day.
Today an Adoption Day event is being held at Gardner Betts Juvenile Center, something I look forward to every year. Next, I’m off to the Center for Public Policy Priorities Legacy Luncheon honoring Roy Spence, a dear friend for many years. I also have a Salvation Army board meeting to attend for a vote. Sometimes I wish I could multiply and be at three places at once.
I am back in court, finishing voir dire and returning emails regarding the National Association of Women Judges’ upcoming board meeting. I also have to write a speech/roast/thank you/introduction for an event honoring my father. It’s difficult to write something honoring someone and even harder when that person is related to you. He was in office for 32 years and everyone in Austin has a Ronnie Earle story.
One of the hardest struggles all women have is juggling their various roles. I am not just juggling but also meshing them all together. Being a mother is important. I want to be the best role model for my daughters. They see me in many ways: running a triathlon, working in the community or presiding in court. But I want the role that they cherish most to be mom the person who reads to them, cooks their dinner, brushes their hair and kisses them goodnight.
I release the jury but before taking the bench to preside over the Wednesday evening DWI court, I take a call from my grandmother Nana, Lolita Earl. “Elisabeth, I was watching Oprah and you need to scan the girls’ artwork and upload it to Snapfish for a photo album ...”She is filled with suggestions and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I met with the DWI court team earlier and now the DWI court participants arrive. I talk to each of them as the probation officer updates me on their week.Disappointed, I learn a participant’s breath sample reported alcohol. I order a device to monitor for alcohol use. This court is an important program, changing lives and hopefully preventing re-offending.
Attended Volunteer Legal Services and Austin Bar board meetings. Mom picked the girls up and reminded me to buy pink tights for their upcoming dance recitals. Britt is getting dinner ready. A wise person once said it takes a village to raise a child it takes more than that for me.I am extremely grateful to have the support system of family and friends.
While checking homework, Britt and I are discussing how we are going to host 18 people for dinner.I have become the “drill sergeant” with our nightly routine of dinner, piano, violin, reading, bath, teeth and sleep.
The weather is going to be colder than usual so I throw mittens in the girls’ backpacks. Grab the jury file and look over pre-trial testimony before turning out the lights. Another day of juggling and meshing. I wouldn’t change a thing.