Best Family Court Judge (2010)

Tena Callahan,302nd District Court

It's no small thing being branded an activist judge in Texas, particularly because judges are elected and the state is so conservative and activist judges raise the ire of heavily financed tort reformers. Add to this the fact that the judge is in family court where the law is rarely challenged or changed, and you can sense how much courage it would take to grant a divorce to a gay couple in Texas, when there's a state constitutional amendment forbidding that same gay couple from ever getting married here in the first place. Yet in October, two men who were legally married in Massachusetts and had moved to Dallas presented themselves before the 302nd District Judge Tena Callahan and requested a divorce. Not so fast, said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who tried to intervene in the case, representing the state's interest in defending the constitutional ban. But Callahan refused to let him join the party and then ruled that the Texas ban on same-sex marriage violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. She later amended her ruling and based it on the Texas Family Code, but what the heck, the line was drawn. Although the conservative 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas reversed her ruling, Callahan's decision might have sparked an Austin judge to rule in the same manner. With this ruling also on appeal, before the more liberal 3rd Court of Appeals, the case may be in the courts for quite some time. We can only hope that Judge Callahan will be too.