FOR 225TH DISTRICT COURT
Trailblazer, Innovator, Community Servant
In a time in our history when government feels paralyzed, acrimony seeps into so much of our lives, and politicians focus on puffery rather than people, Former Judge Renée Yanta has boldly walked a different path.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly. These six words are the core of how Former Judge Renée Yanta has created positive change for children, for families, for our community. All her life, she has served others. And serves without limits.
A Legacy of Service
Service is in Renée’s DNA. She grew up in a military family: her grandfather led his squadron into air combat on D-day; her father flew a radar-jamming plane over Vietnam—leaving himself exposed to enemy fire. Her mother volunteered 100s of hours with the Red Cross at Clark Air Force Base, writing letters for wounded warriors.
Growing up in the military deeply molded Renée’s character. She learned the importance of putting service above self. She also learned the strength of diversity. Over the years of her father’s military service, Renée and her family lived and travelled extensively throughout Asia and Europe. Renée’s parents taught her to delight in new and different smells, foods, and traditions. She learned early on to love and appreciate other cultures. So she nibbled the tail of the roasting pig that was part of a traditional Filipino wedding celebration. She woke up at 4AM and joined her Father in the vineyards along the Mosel River to help her German friends harvest grapes. Because of these and countless other experiences—Renée developed a bold admiration for people’s differences. To this day, Judge Renée is deeply certain of the power of diversity in our great American culture.
It was as a child being raised on military bases that Renée learned to give back. As a 6 year old, she collected toys for children in Vietnam. At 11, she amassed over 100 hours working for Family Services. When she was a teenager, she volunteered for the Red Cross at Landstuhl Military Hospital, was a Girl Scout, and led the Junior ROTC unit at Judson High School. Renée was never satisfied, always seeing more ways to help and more people to assist. That’s why she ultimately decided to become a public school teacher.
The Call to Teach
After graduating from the University of Texas in just 3 years, Renée started her teaching career at an at-risk district, Del Valle ISD. Some of her students were her same age! Some of her students were already parents. These challenges motivated Renée to quickly develop into a master teacher.
With the birth of her daughter, Renée wanted to return home to San Antonio. She took a job teaching history and government at MacArthur High School. For the next 7 years, Renée used her role as a teacher to challenge students to become critical thinkers, creating positive change in her students’ lives. She overlaid her lesson plans with creativity and energy. Just ask some of her former students to explain “Eco-robics”—Renée’s way to invigorate the Economics curriculum. She started the United Nations Club and became the coach of the Academic Decathlon team. Deeply investing into the minds and hearts of her students was Renée’s hallmark. Many of Renée’s students chose her as the teacher who most influenced them.
From Teacher to Student
Renée loved teaching. But every time she taught the Constitution to her students, she was drawn to the logic of law. Almost on a lark, Renée took the LSAT. When she scored in the top 95%, she decided to apply to only one law school: St. Mary’s in San Antonio. If she got in, she’d go. If she didn’t? Well, that would be a sign. One of the hardest days of her professional life was receiving that admission letter, and then having to tell her mentor-principal she had decided to transition into a new career. And she went bold!~
With my two little children in tow, she cashed in my teacher retirement, took out huge loans, and headed to St. Mary’s. From day one, Renée loved learning the law. She didn’t miss a single class my first year—often dragging her my daughter and son with her, squirreling them in the back of the classroom with books and colors. She’d pour over the heavy law books at home. Inevitably, she’d start applying legal principles, like tort duties, to her children’s arguments.
In her second and third years, Renée spent long hours researching and writing about law—while Brandon and Jackie played tag (sometimes to her fellow students’ chagrin) and collected law books for Renée’s law journal article. Her kids love to tell the story lugging huge tubs of Legos up to the Law Journal office while Renée worked as Editor in Chief.
Though it was all-consuming at times, Renée reveled in the study of law, leading her graduate at the very top of her class. But learning the law as a mother instilled in her a deep understanding that law is also about compassion and social justice.
A Trailblazing Noble Lawyer
After graduating, Renée dove into litigation—learning quickly that becoming a Noble Lawyer required a humble walk. She juggled motherhood with her professional growth as an attorney. Renée honed her skills of legal advocacy while her children played in her office, Jackie reading Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and Brandon reading about the Civil War and Prussian military tactics.
Renée’s children grew as rapidly as her practice. Before long, they were spending evenings and weekends at the softball field or basketball court. So Renée decided to take her work there. Many a supreme court brief was researched and written from the Little League stands.
For over 17 years, Renée continued to work 60+ hours a week handling a wide array of cases (even winning a bobcat its freedom). She learned most from losses, and eventually built a nationwide reputation focused on appellate law and legal issues embedded in trials—discovery issues, evidence, jury charges and motion practice. She became board certified in civil appellate law, was name a Super Lawyer, and was lauded as one of the top women lawyers in the State of Texas. She started teaching law, became a prolific legal writer, even co-authoring a book used by every judge and lawyer at trial. Despite all her success, she never once lost sight of what called her to law in the first place: helping others.
A Woman Helping Her Community
Throughout her legal career, Renée volunteered to help her community. As a member of the Bexar County Women’s Bar (BCWB), Renée helped many non-profits, including the Rape Crisis Center and the Battered Women’s Shelter. When she became president of BCWB, Renee partnered with the San Antonio Sport Foundation to start a program that worked with at-risk middle school girls in Harlandale Independent School District. This program made a profound impact and helped to lower the teen pregnancy rate in San Antonio.
A Higher Calling and Innovative Solutions
It was no surprise when Renée was appointed to the 73rd District Court in January 2010. Handling from contested divorces and child protection cases to commercial litigation, Former Judge Renée Yanta enjoyed the chance to use every legal resource and reasoning skill she had to bring protect children and heal families.
Former Judge Renée saw a phenomenon from the bench that was dangerous and pervasive. Teen girls in foster care were practically doomed for poverty, early pregnancy and educational challenges. She felt compelled to create positive change for these special young ladies. She dreamed to creating a court program that could provide tender healing and inspiration—an initiative she called PEARLS Court.
So when Former Judge Renée returned to the Bench in 2015, she launched PEARLS Court in March of that year. Under her leadership, PEARLS Court developed into an amazingly successful program that enables the teen girls to heal from the trauma they’ve experienced, teaches life skills, and provides powerful mentoring by over 100 women volunteers from all over Bexar County. PEARLS Court has inspired over 100 girls to stay in school, create high goals for themselves, wait to become mothers, and empower themselves to become successful adults.
And the blessings have been remarkable. Almost all the PEARLS Girls are on path to graduate from high school when the nationwide graduation rate is just 25%. Over the years, almost all the PEARLS Girls graduate from high school and most attend college. Many of the girls are reunited with family members, almost all progress toward a stable and permanent placement in other homes, and close to 100% are promoted to the next grade level. The PEARLS Girls also take seriously their commitment to wait to became pregnant. All of the PEARLS Girls became bolder and stronger. These young ladies are truly pearls, healing from the inside out, and becoming empowered, brilliant young women.
Expanding the Universe of Blessing
Former Judge Renée Yanta has changed the lives of so many woman and girls. She recognizes problems and acts to positively change them in a time where playing politics and achieving nothing has become an accepted norm. That’s because Judge Renée believes there is no room for politics on the bench. That is why when she left the 150th District Court at the end of 2018, she went back into practice mediating and handling appeals throughout Texas. She also took on the responsibility to build the financial stability of PEARLS Court through the PEARLS Foundation, which raised over $150,000 in grants and donations in 2019.
Now, she is returning to public service with an expanded platform as Judge of the 225th District Court—the same type of Civil Court upon which she has previously served. Renée is the only candidate with judicial experience—which is 7 years deep. She is the only candidate who is Board certified—giving her expertise in the specific tasks judges perform every day. She is the only candidate who has built and managed a restorative court program—PEARLS Court—focusing her heart on transforming the lives of teens in Foster Care. She has dedicated her life to ensure the Rule of Law and that the Law serves everyone. That is why she is on a mission to return to judicial service.
She has lived her life—as a mother, grandmother, wife, teacher, lawyer, judge and collaborative leader—in her family’s legacy to: Do Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. That is why we need Renée Yanta as our Judge of the 225th District Court.