Best Administrative Judge - 2000
Chief Justice Michael Schneider, First Court of Appeals
Even in the justice system, silence can be golden. While the 14th Court of Appeals has been in seemingly continual controversy in recent years -- justices even sued their chief justice at one point in a long-running dispute over administrative authority -- the First Court of Appeals has been a relative sea of calm jurisprudence. The reason is obvious: First Court leader Chief Justice Michael Schneider. He walked into potential pitfalls in early 1996, as a state district civil judge inheriting the appellate administrative duties after Alice Oliver-Parrott unexpectedly resigned midway through her term. But Schneider is a rare breed on the bench. His background -- that all-important life experience so essential to a quality judgeship -- is perhaps the most varied of anybody wearing a black robe in Harris County. He's a former high school teacher, a veteran prosecutor and the first consumer fraud chief ever for the D.A.'s office, a globe-traveling corporate specialist, a suburban muny court judge, and the jurist who oversaw the hectic high-stakes era of breast implant litigation. And don't forget his 12 years as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer. Schneider's operation of the appellate court reflects the kind of consensus-building efficiency and common sense that's a no-nonsense model for other officeholders, both inside and outside the justice system.