The Honorable Rose Vela, a retired district judge and Appeals Court Justice, made history in 2006 when she became the first Republican elected to the 13th Court of Appeals in South Texas.
Justice Vela was born into a military family in 1964 at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Southwest Texas State University in 1985, with a major in English and a minor in Political Science, she received a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law in 1988, and was licensed to practice law in Texas that same year.
Upon graduation from law school, Justice Vela served as a Briefing Attorney for the Fourth Court of Appeals for one year. After moving to Corpus Christi in 1990, she served as a Briefing Attorney for the Thirteenth Court of Appeals for two years. In 1998, she was elected to the 148th District Court of Nueces County, where she served two full terms. She was elected to the Thirteenth Court of Appeals in November, 2006. Justice Vela is a member of numerous legal organizations.
She previously served as the Presiding Administrative Judge of the Nueces County Council of Judges, President of the Corpus Christi Young Lawyers’ Association, Director of the Texas Center for the Judiciary, and Director of the Corpus Christi Bar Association.
Married to U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, Justice Vela’s family has a long tradition in South Texas politics. Her husband’s family has been in public service for 150 years. Her father-in-law, Filemon Vela Sr., was a federal judge in the Valley, and her husband’s mother, Blanca Sanchez Vela, was mayor in Brownsville.
Justice Vela has also been involved in numerous community activities serving as a director on the Brownsville Fine Arts Museum and the Food Bank of Corpus Christi as well as treasurer for the Court Appoint Special Advocates (CASA) program. She has also served as chair of the Corpus Christi Crime Control and Prevention District and on the Nueces County Appraisal District.