Governor Abbott Appoints New Business Court Judges

June 24, 2024 by

In September of last year, Governor Abbott signed bills authorizing the creation of specialized business courts in Texas. With many companies starting in or relocating to Texas, the Governor and Legislature realized it was time to take decisive action to preserve Texas’ business friendly culture. Right now, complex business cases are heard by state court judges who also hear criminal trials and a slew of other civil and family law cases. An analysis released last year, by the Texas Legislature, found that Texas Courts have experienced at least a three-year backlog in criminal cases alone and a significant backlog of civil and child protection cases. In a separate report, the Texas Legislature found that as of 2021, 29 states were operating some form of business or complex litigation court. To keep Texas at the forefront of business innovation and lighten the load on the existing courts, Texas created specialized business courts. (For more information on the court and the types of cases it will hear, check out this previous article we wrote here.)

The Business Courts are divided geographically into eleven divisions following the existing judicial districts. The divisions will be established in two waves. The first five divisions, opening September 1, 2024, will serve the counties in and around Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. Each of these five divisions will have two judges. The remaining six divisions will serve more rural counties with one judge per division; however, these divisions will not open until July 1, 2026 (at the earliest) and require additional approvals from the legislature. With the Business Courts set to begin receiving cases on September 1, 2024, Governor Abbott recently appointed the initial group of Business Court Judges. These judges will serve two-year terms ending September 1, 2026. Taken from the press releases issued by the Governor’s office, the names and biographies of the initial judges are as follows:

First Business Court Division [Dallas] (Collin, Dallas, Ellis, Fannin, Grayson, Kaufman, and Rockwall counties)

Andrea Bouressa of Murphy is Judge of the 471st Judicial District Court and recently served a two-year term as Local Administrative District Judge for Collin County. She is a member of the State Bar of Texas, Collin County Bar Association, Curt B. Henderson American Inn of Court, and The Federalist Society. She received the 2022 Rising Aggie Lawyer Award from the Texas Aggie Bar Association and was recognized as the 2023 Outstanding Jurist by the Collin County Women Lawyers Association. Bouressa received a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Texas A&M University, a Master of Science in Sociology from the University of North Texas, and a Juris Doctor from the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Dedman School of Law.

William “Bill” Whitehill of Coppell is a member of Condon Tobin Sladek Thornton Nerenberg PLLC, where he is head of its appellate and special issues practice group, and is a former Justice of the Texas Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas. Before joining the Court of Appeals, he was a long-time trial and appellate partner at Gardere Wynne Sewell, LLP (n/k/a Foley & Lardner, LLP). He is the Chair of the Dallas Bar Association Appellate Section and former Chair of the State Bar of Texas Antitrust and Business Litigation Section and the Dallas Bar Association Antitrust & Trade Regulation Section. He is an adjunct trial advocacy instructor at the Robert H. Dedman, SMU Dedman School of Law; a National Institute for Trial Advocacy Deposition Skills Instructor; and a frequent continuing legal education speaker at State Bar of Texas, Dallas Bar Association, and other events. He is a Master of the Mac Taylor Inn of Court, sustaining life fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation, and fellow of the Dallas Bar Foundation. Additionally, he is a former member of the Center for International Legal Studies, International Bar Association, Fifth Circuit Bar Association, Rockwall Bar Association, Dallas Association of Young Lawyers, and the Texas Association of Bank Counsel. He served as a judge for the Coppell Teen Court, is a homeless kitchen volunteer for Cornerstone Baptist Church, and is a former co-teacher and mentor at Cornerstone Crossroads Academy. Whitehill received a Bachelor of Business Administration from The University of Texas at Austin and a Juris Doctor from the SMU Dedman School of Law.

Third Business Court Division [Austin] (Austin, Bell, Blanco, Bosque, Burnet, Caldwell, Colorado, Comal, Comanche, Coryell, Falls, Fayette, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Hamilton, Hays, Hill, Lampasas, Lavaca, Llano, McLennan, Milam, Navarro, Robertson, San Saba, Travis, and Williamson counties)

Melissa Andrews of Austin is an equity partner at Holland & Knight. Previously, she served as an attorney for Texas Supreme Court Justice Jeff Boyd and First Court of Appeals Justice Harvey Brown and was a law clerk for Judge Don R. Willett while he served on the Texas Supreme Court. She is board certified in Civil Appellate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS). She is a member of the State Bar of Texas, TBLS Civil Appellate Advisory Commission, and Lawyers for Civil Justice Expert Evidence Committee and the Civil Appellate Section Chair of the Austin Bar Association. She is a volunteer for the Third Court of Appeals Pro Bono Program and an annual volunteer for Adoption Day Austin, Salvation Army Austin, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Andrews received a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Business from Texas A&M University and a Juris Doctor from The University of Texas (UT) School of Law.

Patrick K. Sweeten of Austin is the Principal Deputy General Counsel for the Office of the Governor. He is a seasoned trial lawyer with over 25 years of experience litigating in federal and state court, both plaintiff and defense side, including as lead counsel in pharmaceutical, securities, multi-district litigation, and deceptive trade practices and common law fraud actions. Previously, he served as the Deputy Attorney General for Special Litigation for the Office of the Texas Attorney General. In that role, he built a new division from the ground up, oversaw more than a dozen large trial teams managing complex litigation impacting the State of Texas, and secured well over a quarter of a billion dollars in settlements and recoveries. He also served as the state’s lead counsel in defense of the 2014, 2017, and 2022 rounds of redistricting litigation, and in 2018 successfully defended the state against challenges to its century-old method of electing Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals judges statewide. Prior to his service with the Texas Attorney General, he was an associate and shareholder for close to a decade at Delano Law Offices, L.L.C. in Springfield, Illinois. Sweeten received a Bachelor of Arts from UT Austin and a Juris Doctor from St. Mary’s University School of Law.

Fourth Business Court Division [San Antonio] (Aransas, Atascosa, Bee, Bexar, Calhoun, DeWitt, Dimmit, Frio, Goliad, Jackson, Karnes, LaSalle, Live Oak, Maverick, McMullen, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria, Webb, Wilson, Zapata, and Zavala counties)

Marialyn Barnard of San Antonio is Judge of the 73rd Judicial District Court in Bexar County. Previously, she served as the Bexar County Commissioner for Precinct 3 and as a Justice on the Fourth Court of Appeals for 10 years. She is a member of the State Bar of Texas, American Law Institute, and San Antonio Bar Association and former Chair of its Litigation Section. Additionally, she is a former member of the State Bar of Texas Grievance Committee, Federal Bar Association (FBA), American Bar Association, and the Bexar County Women’s Bar Association. She is a member, former president, and former board member of the Rotary Club of San Antonio, former volunteer for San Antonio Metropolitan Ministries, and a former board member of Child Advocates San Antonio, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Firstmark Credit Union. Barnard received a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and English from Texas A&M University – Commerce and a Juris Doctor from St. Mary’s University School of Law.

Stacy Sharp of San Antonio is an attorney and owner of Sharp Appellate PLLC and an adjunct professor at The University of Texas (UT) at Austin. She is a member of the State Bar of Texas and is admitted to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas and to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. She is a member of the FBA, San Antonio and the former President of the FBA, Austin. Additionally, she serves in various volunteer capacities, including as President of the Alamo Heights Independent School District School Board of Trustees and member of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, National Charity League, and the Young Men’s Service League. Sharp received a Bachelor of Science in Math, Spanish, and Education from Vanderbilt University and a Juris Doctor from UT Austin School of Law.

Eighth Business Court Division [Fort Worth] (Archer, Clay, Cooke, Denton, Eastland, Erath, Hood, Jack, Johnson, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Somervell, Stephens, Tarrant, Wichita, Wise, and Young counties)

Jerry Bullard of Colleyville is a shareholder and attorney with Adams, Lynch & Loftin, P.C. and has over 30 years of experience in state and federal court litigation, including both trial and appellate law. He is board certified in civil appellate law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization; a member of the Texas Supreme Court Advisory Committee, State Bar of Texas and its Appellate, Litigation, and Legislative/Campaign Law Sections; and a gubernatorial appointee on the Texas Juvenile Justice Board. Additionally, he is a member of the Tarrant County Bar Association and Chair of its Appellate Section Pro Bono Committee, fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation and the Tarrant Bar Foundation, and volunteer for 6 Stones Mission Network (Night of Hope) and Cross Creek Student Ministry. Bullard received a Bachelor of Arts in Telecommunications from Baylor University and a Juris Doctor from The University of Texas at Austin School of Law.

Brian Stagner of Fort Worth is of counsel and a former partner at Kelly Hart & Hallman LLP and an adjunct professor at Texas Christian University teaching business law. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas and its Litigation Section and Appellate Section, a fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation, and a sustaining life fellow of the Tarrant County Bar Foundation. Additionally, he is a former member of the Texas Association of Defense Counsel and former barrister for the American Inns of Court. He is a former board member of the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Parker County and Lena Pope Home Charity Golf Committee and a former volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Texas. Stagner received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management from Angelo State University and a Juris Doctor from Texas Tech University School of Law.

Eleventh Business Court Division [Houston] (Brazoria, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Matagorda, and Wharton counties)

Sofia Adrogué of Houston is a partner with Diamond McCarthy LLP. She is Founder and Editor of the Texas Business Litigation Treatise (ALM 5th Edition). At the outset of her career, she clerked at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Having served on over 15 boards, she is currently a member of the Houston First Board of Directors and the City of Houston Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Board and fellow of the American Bar Foundation, Texas Bar Foundation, and Houston Bar Foundation (HBF). Her previous service includes serving as president and member of Houston Law Review (HLR) Alumni Association Board of Directors and member of the Hispanic Bar Association of Houston, Mexican-American Bar Association of Houston, Texas Women Lawyers, and the Texas Supreme Court Advisory Committee. She has received over 40 awards and has been recognized for her public service by the City of Houston with proclamations of ‘‘Sofia Adrogué Day.” Adrogué received a Bachelor of Arts in English and Legal Studies from Rice University, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, magna cum laude, both on full academic scholarships. Additionally, she is a graduate and alumna of the Harvard Business School Owner President Management Program, where she served as a U.S. keynote speaker and class representative.

Grant Dorfman of Bellaire is a Visiting Judge and former Deputy First Assistant Attorney General for the Office of the Texas Attorney General. Previously, he served as Judge of the 334th Judicial District and the 129th Judicial District both in Harris County, as a Visiting Judge for the State of Texas, as counsel for Sheehy, Ware, Pappas & Grubbs, P.C., and as Senior In-House Counsel to Nabors Industries. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas, The Federalist Society, Houston Bar Association (HBA), and the American Law Institute. He is a sustaining life fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation, an HBF life fellow, and a member of the HLR Board of Directors. Additionally, he is treasurer of the Texas Association of Retired, Senior and Former Judges, a member of the HSPVA Friends Board of Directors, former co-chair of the HBA Communities in Schools Committee, former member of the HBA Professionalism Committee, and former faculty member of the National Judicial College. Dorfman received an Artium Baccalaureus in Honors History from Brown University, a Master of Studies in History and Political Philosophy from Oxford University, and a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School.

Timothy Wells

Mr. Wells is a litigation associate, with a focus on business, construction, and commercial litigation. He served as a judicial intern for the Honorable Judge Brantley Starr of the Northern District of Texas prior to joining Brown Fox. Mr. Wells…Read More

Learn More

Founded in 2010, Brown Fox is a business boutique law firm focused on serving businesses, executives and entrepreneurs in practice areas most commonly needed to advance business growth, manage risk, and defend from attack. The firm’s representative clientele includes companies ranging from start-ups to publicly traded companies. The firm has offices in Dallas and Frisco.

Best Lawyers recently named Brown Fox a Tier 1 Best Law Firm for a third year in a row, Chambers & Partners has recognized the firm as a top small to midsize firm in both of its Regional Spotlights, and Inc. 5000 has twice recognized the firm as one of the Fastest Growing Private Companies in America. The firm’s attorneys have garnered over seventy Super Lawyers Rising Stars honors, several Best Lawyers honors from both D Magazine and Best Lawyers in America, among other honors.

Character Matters® is the firm’s foundational maxim; its core values of integrity, servant leadership, excellence, and impact are its roots. Brown Fox is committed to aggressively and creatively representing our clients, while staying true to the firm’s guiding principles. Learn more about Brown Fox by clicking here.

Integrity-Driven Advocates, Problem Solvers, and Counselors Ready to Serve.
Meet Brown Fox