TWU alumna Moses makes history twice as judge
She made history in 2001 when she became the first woman to be named a U.S. district judge in one of the nation’s largest and most active judicial districts. Then, in late 2022, Texas Woman’s alumna Alia Moses made history again when she became the first female chief judge in the district.
As chief, Moses oversees budgetary and administrative matters for the 68-county Western District of Texas, which covers 93,000 square miles including the cities of El Paso, San Antonio, Austin and Waco; as well as wide swaths of the Hill Country and West Texas.
The district has one of the country’s most active criminal dockets. Moses herself presides over an average of 1,000 criminal and civil cases a year. And in her more than 20 years as a federal judge, she has overseen more than 200 jury trials, closed more than 13,000 criminal cases and sentenced about 16,000 defendants.
Reaching the position of chief judge in a federal judicial district is an extraordinary feat, particularly when one considers her humble beginnings being raised in the tiny farming community of Quemado, Texas, near the city of Eagle Pass along the Texas-Mexico border. She was appointed to the bench by then-President George W. Bush.
But Moses’ greatest legacy may be defined more by the young legal careers she has helped mold. In her time on the federal bench, she has mentored several dozen law clerks, many of whom have gone on to successful careers in the legal profession.
“After 36 years in the legal field, I have a better understanding of the profession that I hope will help the next generation of attorneys,” Moses said. “It is very satisfying to think that I can maybe help one person get better, help them in a tough legal field, and help them build the confidence they need to succeed.”
The day after becoming chief judge, some 30 former or current law clerks and other staffers helped her celebrate 20 years of judicial service at a gathering in Southlake, Texas. Lawyers working from all corners of the country came to honor Moses.
Among them was Luke Rizzo, a Rutgers University graduate and former infantryman in the U.S. Army whose interest in criminal law helped draw him to Moses’ court. He now works as a federal prosecutor in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
“I didn’t understand the jackpot I was hitting until after I got to Judge Moses’ court,” Rizzo said of his 18-month clerkship. “I haven’t met many people stronger than Judge Moses – her confidence and command of the courtroom are inspiring. I take something I’ve learned from her and use it every day in my professional career.”
For Liliana Sánchez, who met Moses during a chance encounter while the judge was visiting the University of North Texas-Dallas College of Law a few years ago, meeting Moses turned out to be a fortuitous encounter. She later earned a clerkship with Moses after graduating with a law degree. She now works as a business litigator for a Dallas/Fort Worth-based law firm.
The clerkship turned out to be an invaluable experience, Sánchez said, noting: “Hearing what happens behind the scenes and learning what judges are thinking was extremely helpful.”
Moreover, Sánchez said, she gained a supportive friend and advocate.
“It’s like a mentorship for life,” she said.
Christopher Langston, who earned his law degree from Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law and now works at a law firm in Salt Lake City, has fond memories of lessons Moses imparted to him and other clerks.
“She really gives young lawyers a chance to develop,” Langston said. “She really cares about making us better.”
One by one, the lawyers at Moses’ celebration stood up and shared their favorite memories of clerking in her office.
“How many people would have 25 former employees come from all over the country to celebrate her accomplishment?” Rizzo asked, adding: “It’s a testament to her ability to be a great boss and mentor.”
Although Moses hasn’t hinted at how much longer she plans to remain on the bench – she could occupy the chief judge position for as long as a decade – she may one day turn to teaching.
“I have a huge passion for the law,” Moses said. “Trial advocacy is one of my favorite subjects. And teaching will allow me to impart what I have learned in life to the younger generations.”
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Page last updated 4:50 PM, March 24, 2023