James accepts a full range of criminal defense cases, including first-degree felonies, and has particular interests in complex litigation, sex crimes, and appeals. He has brought to jury trial all manner of cases—from driving while intoxicated to drug possession to assaults and sexual assaults and more. Over and over again, he has been thrilled to hear those two sweetest words read back to him from a jury: “Not Guilty.”
James grew up in Dallas and graduated from Cistercian Prep School. He then attended Davidson College in North Carolina on full academic scholarship. While at Davidson, he worked to support himself, was involved in theater and film, and earned honors in English. It was there that he first discovered his public voice and began to explore how he could use that voice to help others.
After college, James moved to California with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. He worked first in Sacramento with people who were homeless and mentally ill. During that time, he experienced firsthand the difficulties that those with serious mental illness have in navigating our society and being understood. He built on that experience in Los Angeles, where he worked on Skid Row helping the poorest create stability and opportunity in their lives by finding work. These years, and those that followed in Houston as a fundraiser and administrator in the nonprofit world, helped James see the need for strong advocacy for those accused of crimes when they face the powerful government systems that prosecute people.
In 2000, James then went to law school at the University of Texas. He earned membership on the prestigious Texas Law Review, worked in the School’s criminal defense clinic, and ultimately graduated with honors. After law school, he served as a briefing attorney to the Hon. W. Kenneth Law at the Texas Third Court of Appeals. He was then honored by Justice Robert Pemberton’s request to serve as his staff attorney at the Third Court, which he gladly accepted. During that time, he also benefitted tremendously from the mentorships of Justices Bea Ann Smith, Mack Kidd, and David Puryear.
After three years at the court of appeals, James immersed himself in the world of criminal defense. He moved to Del Rio, TX, on the border 150 miles west of San Antonio, to help Texas RioGrande Legal Aid start Texas’s first rural, multi-county public defender office. After almost four years, he moved to Dallas to work in the appellate division of the Dallas County Public Defender. A very short year later, he returned to Texas RioGrande Legal Aid to head its Public Defender Division.
James is now happy to be in private practice with three of the lawyers—and people—he admires most.
James spends much of his free time at Richard Lord’s Boxing Gym here in Austin, where he trains regularly and is an instructor for beginning boxers. He also enjoys his dog and cats. He is very involved in helping his brother raise his niece and nephew, who are all in Fort Worth. James loves to visit and hike Enchanted Rock, Lost Maples, and Big Bend country. He doesn’t mind so much that his sister lives on the North Shore of O‘ahu, Hawai‘i, because it has enabled him to visit the islands frequently and to learn to surf.