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Anissa Lopez Gloria Saldana Written by: Anissa Lopez
Issue: March 2010 | NSIDE Business
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Beyond The Bench Gloria Saldaña

Saldaña treats these clients with respect and dignity while holding them responsible for their actions.

very Friday at three o'clock and for the last eight months, Barbara Schafer, director of the Family and Drug Court, and her staff present cases in the 224th Civil District Court where Judge Gloria Saldaña presides.

Saldaña's participation with this court process is a glimpse into her lengthy list of community involvement.

"She is nurturing and understanding," says Schafer.

Saldaña treats these clients with respect and dignity while holding them responsible for their actions. According to Schafer, the judge receives good feedback about her fairness from their clients.

Patience proves successful

Presiding as a judge was not in the plan when Saldaña graduated from Providence High School in 1960. As a newlywed, she lived in Korea with her U.S. Army lieutenant husband, working as a Department of the Army civilian for more than a year. When they returned to the states, she devoted her time to the roles of mother and wife.

As their children reached school-age, she pursued her dream of earning a university degree. She began at San Antonio College and transferred to the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she earned her bachelor's degree in accounting in 1985.

After graduation, she worked at a local CPA firm but realized she wanted more interaction with people. "I could have been in an office all day but I liked connecting with people," says Saldaña.

Consequently, she enrolled at St. Mary's University, earning her Juris Doctorate in 1990. "The timing was right for me to enroll. Few women were entering the field of law at this time," she says.

In 1991, she completed the required hours to become a certified mediator. She first gained extensive court experience in the enforcement of child support orders with the Bexar County Child Support Enforcement Department of the District Attorney's Office. Saldaña's sense of pride and values renewed as she advocated for her clients.

In 1994, Saldaña started her own civil and criminal law practice working a variety of cases and devoting many hours in and out of court. She was gaining valuable experience which was preparing her for the next step.

Her passion for the law made her decision to run for a judge's seat easy. "I love justice and I do my best to make it my primary goal," says Saldaña. She strives to view each case with compassion and justice, fully aware that each case affects many people.

Community Conscience

Although Saldaña's accomplishments are extensive, she credits her parents for showing her the importance of education and service. Her parents were self-educated, reading newspapers and magazines to stay informed. They lived in a modest home in San Antonio, grounded in faith. "My parents made a big sacrifice by sending my sister, Beatrice, and me to local Catholic schools," she says.

She also remembers her mother, Mrs. Amparo Ramirez, becoming increasingly active with the grassroots organization Communities Organized for Public Service (C.O.P.S.), during its initial stages in 1974. C.O.P.S. focuses on improving low-income neighborhoods of San Antonio. Her mother's influence paved the way for Saldaña's personal commitment to community and a seat on the bench.

When speaking with Saldaña, you only scratch the surface. It is not until you talk to colleagues and friends that you learn about her impressive record. Her high school classmate and long-time friend, Gloria Uribe, says "Gloria is smart and modest. She is one of the fairest people I know. I admire that she pursued her schooling as a non-traditional student and that she stays active in the community."

Saldaña currently sits on the Bexar County Juvenile Board. Her past service includes the Bexar County Legal Aid Board, the Benedictine Resource Center Board, and the Mexican-American Bar Association Board. She is active with Providence, volunteering for Career Day and their annual spring gala.

She also volunteers her time at The Center for Legal and Social Justice at St. Mary's University. She hears cases of local low-income families who are represented pro bono by attorneys. She also mentored at Tafolla Middle School and taught English as a Second Language at the San Antonio Literacy Council.

Life Lessons in Law

When Saldaña is not in court, she enjoys time with family, friends, hobbies and good works in the community. Her experiences have given her wisdom which she willingly shares.

"To be a strong leader, you need to know who you are, including your values, strengths, and weaknesses," she says. "Be a risk-taker, taking the big leaps of faith to reach your potential. Advocate for yourself and be aware of the open doors as this may be God talking to you."

Just as Saldaña uses her life's lessons daily, she encourages others to do the same through her actions and her words.

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