Tonya Parker

116th District Court

Tonya was the first out LGBTQ Black elected official in the State of Texas!

Biography

The Hon. Tonya Parker is Judge of the 116th Judicial District Court, a position she has held since 2011. Elected by her judicial colleagues, she has twice served as the Presiding Judge for the Dallas County Civil District Courts. Judge Parker has also served as the president of the Texas Association of District Judges. She is an Executive Board member for SMU Dedman School of Law and is a member of the American Law Institute where she serves as an Adviser to the ALI’s Restatement of the Law Third, Torts: Remedies project. Judge Parker is consistently recognized for her performance and temperament on the bench. In the Dallas Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Polls for 2021, 2019, 2017, 2015 and 2013, her overall approval ratings exceed 92% and are the highest ratings of any civil district judge evaluated in the polls. Judge Parker is also a 2021 graduate of Stagen’s Social Change Leadership Program.

She serves with distinction, and is recognized at the local, state, and national levels for her contributions. In 2021, the Women’s Commercial and Business Advocate Committee of the American Bar Association Business Law Section recognized Judge Parker with its annual award for her service and commitment to women in our profession. She was also awarded Judge of the Year from Dallas Lawyers Magazine. In addition, the Dallas Bar Association awarded Judge Parker the 2021 Martin Luther King, Jr. Justice Award in recognition of the barriers she has broken in the legal community and her commitment to the principal of equal justice under the law. Additionally, Judge Parker is the 2021 recipient of the Luminary Award from the Diversity and Flexibility Alliance. For the second time in the last five years, the State Bar of Texas African American Lawyers’ Section awarded her its Distinguished Jurist Award at its 2019 Annual Meeting in acknowledgment of the leadership role Judge Parker plays in spearheading the Implicit Bias Project in the Dallas Civil District Courts. In 2018, the Dallas NAACP awarded her the President’s Award for Legal Excellence. In 2017 she won four prestigious awards: the Stonewall Award from the American Bar Association’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Commission, the Distinguished Alumni Award for Judicial Service from SMU Dedman School of Law, the Maura Women Helping Women award from the Dallas Women’s Foundation, and the TRAILBLAZER Award from IGNITE. Judge Parker has also been named trial Judge of the Year by the Dallas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates.

While in private practice she earned the esteem of her peers. She was recognized as one of the top lawyers in Texas by being voted a Super Lawyers Rising Star three years in a row from 2006 to 2008, and again for a fourth time in 2010 just before she was elected to office. Also, in 2010, she received Outstanding Mentor awards from both the J.L. Turner Legal Association and the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers. A few years prior, the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers also named Judge Parker Outstanding Young Lawyer of Dallas. The Dallas Bar Association recognized her with its Outstanding Minority Attorney Award and an Award of Excellence. Judge Parker is also a former American Marshall Fellow, in which capacity she traveled throughout Europe for a period in 2005 to promote transatlantic relations and learn about the social, political, and economic systems of various European countries.

She is a dedicated public servant and thought leader in the community. Outside of her work on the bench, she devotes countless hours to crafting and delivering keynote addresses and TED-style talks at bar and civic events across the country. In addition, over the last decade she has been a regular volunteer with IGNITE, a non-partisan organization aimed at building political ambition in and training young women (ages 14-22) to run for public office. Throughout her career as a lawyer and judge, she has served on numerous legal and civic boards and commissions, including as Chairperson of the Dallas Arts District Alliance’s Board of Directors, Commissioner on the City of Dallas Community Development Commission, At-large Director for the Dallas Bar Association Board, a two-term Board Member for the J.L. Turner Legal Association, and a three-term Advisory Board Member for the Dallas Women Lawyers Association.

Judge Parker’s purpose is also her mantra: “to pursue justice and embody truth.”

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