Appellate Judges

New Texas Appellate Justice April Farris Discusses Her Family, Career and “Imposter Syndrome”

One of the biggest barriers April Farris faced was a personal barrier: imposter syndrome after growing up in a small West Texas town.

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April Farris: Never underestimate yourself

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April Farris was recently appointed to the First Court of Appeals by Governor Greg Abbott—a moment she describes as her greatest accomplishment thus far. April applied for the appointed position not knowing whether she would be selected for an interview even though she was one of the most qualified candidates, saying “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” April shares this experience with the advice that young women should never underestimate themselves.

April was born in Nebraska while her father was stationed there as a dentist in the Air Force. Her family relocated to Big Spring, Texas—a small town in the Permian Basin with a population at the time of 25,000 people. She described the community she grew up in as diverse. With only one high school in the town at the time, she remembers attending school with everyone; it didn’t matter whether folks were rich or poor. Everyone was supportive of one another in April’s eyes. Neighbors were so supportive that some of the congratulatory messages she received after being appointed to office came from former teachers and leaders in Big Spring.

April sparked her interest in law when she was in high school. She interned for the Howard County attorney’s office where she filed misdemeanor charges into the computer database. She also drew a love of law from her first role model: her grandfather Raymond “Sonny” Hollis. He was a former superintendent of a small school district near Big Spring that served a predominantly low-income community. April remembers her grandfather purchasing winter coats and shoes for students in the district.

He also had a passion for justice that he shared with April.

While in college in the 1950s, he wrote an op-ed for his college newspaper challenging the college’s segregation policy. The op-ed sparked a debate that led to the college ending and apologizing for segregation.

He also had a distinct passion for the Constitution that transferred onto April, a guiding principle for her legal career.

April would go on to attend Harvard Law School.

One of the biggest barriers she faced was a personal barrier: imposter syndrome.

Heading to an ivy league law school after growing up in a small West Texas town pushed April outside of her comfort zone. A lot of the times, she felt like she didn’t belong or wasn’t qualified. When other classmates, especially men, would take advantage of office hours or speak up in class, April would shy away from these opportunities.

It wasn’t until April clerked in the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that Judge Jennifer Elrod convinced her otherwise.

Judge Elrod taught her that women should own their achievements and have confidence that they deserve a seat at the table. April took that lesson to heart.

April carried that confidence into the rest of her legal career, serving as an Assistant Solicitor General for the State of Texas and a partner at Yetter Coleman LLP. In both roles, April handled appellate litigation. She remembers times as a young lawyer when she wasn’t taken seriously by opposing counsel.

Other lawyers would call her “young lady” or dismiss her presence. Because of this, April made it a priority to be the most prepared attorney in the room, often reading the record of facts cover to cover. Her goal was to show the judges that she deserved to be in that space.

She encourages other young women—especially those interested in law—to go out there and prove others wrong.

In 2020, the application for appointment to the First Court of Appeals arose. April recalled having a mentor who told her his one regret in life was having the opportunity to become a judge and not taking it.

April knew that if she ever had the chance to apply or run for a judicial position, she would take it.

Receiving the call from the Governor’s office that she was selected for the appointment was the thrill of a lifetime.

April is excited to serve as a judge alongside other well-qualified women.

She is excited to continue encouraging other young, diverse women to become attorneys.

April closed with this advice:

“Don’t underestimate yourself. Put in the work, learn the material. When you know your stuff, know that you deserve to be there. The sky is the limit when you work hard and believe in yourself.”

About Justice April Farris

April Farris was appointed to the First Court of Appeals by Governor Abbott for a term beginning January 2021.

Before joining the Court, April was a partner at Yetter Coleman LLP where she handled complex appellate litigation for energy, technology, and government clients. In 2020, she was one of five lawyers in the nation to be named a Law360 Rising Star in appellate litigation, an honor reserved for attorneys under 40. She has also been recognized in appellate law by Best Lawyers in America, and Thompson Reuters’ Super Lawyers.

April previously served as an Assistant Solicitor General for the State of Texas, where she handled appeals for various Texas agencies. She recently completed a three-year term on the Council of the Texas State Bar Appellate Section, and she currently co-chairs its CLE Committee. April is a life fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation, and she is a member of the Houston Bar Association. She previously served as the president of the Federalist Society’s Houston Lawyers Chapter.

April clerked for Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. She graduated from Harvard Law School cum laude in 2009, and she earned her bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from Abilene Christian University in 2006.

April is married to Ben Farris, and they have two children.

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New Texas Appellate Justice April Farris Discusses Her Family, Career and “Imposter Syndrome”
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