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The Honorable Patrick E. Higginbotham

The name Patrick E. Higginbotham should not be unfamiliar.  Not only is he a world-renowned judge who took senior status on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Judge Higginbotham is a former President of the American Inns of Court Foundation.  Though he was once the front-runner for a vacant position on the United States Supreme Court, one could never tell by meeting him that he is anything but a down-to-earth, personally engaging and warm human being. A lifetime of service to the bench, bar and his beloved American Inns of Court only makes his stature all the grander—and makes yet one more accolade, the Fifth Circuit Professionalism Award, so richly deserved. 

Born in McCalla, Alabama, Judge Higginbotham attended public schools in Alabama before leaving for the University of Texas at Arlington and Austin. He received his B.A. (1960) and LL.B. (1961) from the University of Alabama.  He also holds the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws awarded by Southern Methodist University in 1989.  He attended law school with the aid of an athletic scholarship, playing varsity tennis and serving as the team captain.  Following graduation from law school he served for three years as a Judge Advocate in the United States Air Force.  In 1964 he entered private practice in Dallas, where his work was focused upon trials and appeals, with one stint as a special prosecutor.  In 1975 President Ford appointed him to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, making him the youngest sitting federal judge in the United States.  In 1982 he was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit by President Reagan.

Judge Higginbotham is a highly sought instructor, lecturer and writer on a wide variety of legal topics.  Currently maintaining a full workload at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, he also served for many years as a faculty member of the Federal Judicial Center and as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, teaching courses in federal practice and constitutional law, served as an advisor to the Southwestern Law Journal and as a member of the Board of Visitors. 

He is a member of the Bench and Bar Legal Honor Society; the Farrah Law Society; the Order of the Coif (Texas Tech and SMU); the American Law Institute (member of the Advisory Committee of the Complex Litigation Project); and a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.  Judge Higginbotham has served as a director of the Dallas Bar Association; a director of the Dallas Bar Foundation; a director of the American Judicature Society, where he is a Research Fellow; a member of the Maritime Law Association of the United States; and a trustee and chair of the Executive Committee of the Center for American and International Law.  Judge Higginbotham has been active in the American Bar Association, serving for eight years as a member of the Board of Editors of the American Bar Journal.  He is the past chairman of the Appellate Judges Conference of the Judicial Administration Division.  He was an advisor to the National Center for State Courts on its study of habeas corpus.  In 1992, as part of an American delegation, he worked with leaders of the Albanian government in their effort to draft a Constitution. 

Of course, his lasting contributions to the American Inns of Court are legion.  In 1988, Judge Higginbotham was a founder of American Inn of Court number 56 in Dallas, later renamed by its members as the Patrick E. Higginbotham American Inn of Court.  In 1993 he became a trustee of the American Inns of Court Foundation, and served as our President from 1996 – 2000.  Appropriately, Judge Higginbotham presented to the board of trustees a concept for a new American Inns of Court award in 1995, to be presented in each federal circuit to honor senior judges and lawyers for their enduring example of professionalism and ethical practice.  It was the beginning of the prestigious American Inns of Court Professionalism Awards, the honor he himself has been selected for, despite his professed desire not to be so recognized.  With accomplishments so numerous and qualities so rich and diverse, his role model status is exactly what this award was designed to hold up for all of us to emulate.