Tonya Parker

Judge | Dallas County Civil District Courts

Tonya ParkerTell us about your background. What are the experiences, including education, that make up the person you currently are?

I grew-up in a suburb of Dallas that, like many places in America, represented two worlds, i.e., “the haves” and “the have-nots.” My family was in the latter category with neither of my parents having completed high school and my father being in and out of jail/prison due to addiction issues. These experiences motivated me to pursue a college education and contributed to my interest in the law.

What was your trigger moment and why this specific office?

My trigger moment was when a mentor challenged me to stop thinking of my law license as a way to simply accomplish goals for my clients and to start thinking of how I could use it but rather to make an impact in my community. Based on the almost 10 years of experience I had when I decided to run for office, I decided that I wanted to ascend the bench and use my service to elevate the quality and ethics of our bar. I try to do this each day by being and requiring the lawyers who appear in front of me to be prepared and dignified in all proceedings.

What made you feel qualified to run for office?

I had experience represented plaintiffs and defendants, individuals and corporations, and handling tort and commercial business litigation. I also had significant experience presenting in civil courts, both in trials and hearings. I was confident these experiences gave me the capacity to be impartial and the exposure to many of the legal, procedural, and evidentiary issues that would come before a civil district court.

Do you work full-time or part-time?


Most people don’t know what their elected official does on a daily basis. What’s a typical day looking like for you?

Presiding over jury trials, non-jury trials, and hearings on contested motions. A significant amount of time each day is also invested in: I) reading the parties’ briefs in preparation for hearings and/or trials and ii) in processing orders submitted in cases where the parties agree to the relief sought or where a party has been served with the suit but has failed to appear so the court can decide the matter without a hearing.

Additionally, they might not know what their elected official is responsible for. What is your role in comparison to other elected offices on your level?

A civil district judge is responsible for the cases on her docket. She must fairly and efficiently cause the matters to be adjudicated to a conclusion whether via trial or motion.

What do you think people would be surprised to know someone in your position does?

As a district judge, I am also empowered to conduct marriage ceremonies which I do sometimes between proceedings.

What are 3-5 skills needed to be successful in the elected office you served in/are currently serving in?

Patient, diligent, organized, hard/smart-working, and impartial.

What’s the best part about serving in elected office?

Helping people to get closure and move forward in their lives from the incident or tragedy that has brought them before the court as a plaintiff or defendant.

What has been the accomplishment you’re most proud of while in office?

Founding the Implicit Bias Task Force of the Dallas Civil District Courts and the work I have spearheaded to get an implicit bias jury instruction passed by the State Bar of Texas Rules Committee on to the Supreme Court of Texas (where it is currently being considered for inclusion in the Texas Rules of Procedure).

In terms of finances, how much money did you have to raise for your campaign?

On average we raise between 125K to 150K each election cycle.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who’s thinking about running for the position you serve/have served in their community?

Be intentional about the experience you garner. Make sure it includes representing different types of clients, exposure to different areas of the law, and forming allegiances with people across many different groups. Finally, seek out positions where you get a chance to serve the public so that you can learn what it feels like to have the public’s trust and can develop a record of making good use of that trust.