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About Judge Payne

Judge Latosha Lewis Payne is the Presiding Judge of the 55th Civil District Court in Harris County, Texas. She also serves as the current Harris County Administrative Judge.  Prior to her election to the bench, she practiced at Am Law 200 international law firms for most of her 18-year law practice. Judge Payne is a former elected Partner of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP n/k/a Foley Lardner and was a Co-Founding Partner of Trahan Dinn Kornegay Payne LLP, a woman-owned civil litigation and insurance coverage law firm.  

Judge Payne earned her law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 2000 and a double major from Tulane University, H. Sophie Newcomb Women’s College in 1996. She was recognized as a Tulane Honors Scholar after being awarded a postgraduate fellowship by the Thomas J. Watson Foundation to study “Culture and the Development of Women’s Sports” in Kenya, Botswana, Ghana, and Jamaica. She was also a scholarship athlete who is the former Metro Conference Champion in the Women’s 400Meter Hurdles.    

Judge Payne is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law and has been honored as a fellow of the American Bar Foundation and Texas Bar Foundation. She has received many honors, including “Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year” by the Houston Young Lawyers Association.  

In addition to her service to the community on the bench, Judge Payne is an Adjunct Professor of a Communication Law & Ethics course at the University of Houston. She also dedicates over 500 hours per year as a volunteer head coach for 11-12 girls and hurdles with the largest youth track club in the United States.

Education and Bar Admissions

University of Texas School of Law, J.D., 2000

Honorary Board of Advocates • American Bar Association Regional Semi-finalist Moot Court Team • Associate Editor, Texas Environmental Law Journal • Women’s Roundtable • Officer, Thurgood Marshall Legal Society • Cecil N. Cook Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Environmental and Public Service Law • Ralph W. Yarborough Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Environmental and Public Service Law

University College of London, Fall 1999

Thomas J. Watson Foundation, Post-Graduate Fellowship, Aug. 1996 – Aug. 1997

Study “The Cultural Constraints on the Development of Women Athletes” in Kenya, Botswana, Swaziland, Ghana, and Jamaica

Tulane University, H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial Women’s College, B.A., 1996

Double Major: Environmental Studies and Political Science, Minor: Philosophy.

Tulane Honors Scholar • Oak Wreath Honor for Leadership & Service • President, Newcomb Honor Board • Tulane Board of Administrators Undergraduate Representative • Martin Luther King Jr. Week for Peace Community Service Award • 1995 Metro Conference (NCAA Div. I) Women’s 400 Meter Hurdles Champion

Bar Admissions

Licensed to practice in all Texas state courts, 2000 • United States Appellate Court for the Fifth Circuit • Southern District of Texas • Eastern District of Texas • Western District of Texas • Northern District of Texas

Honors, Awards, and Recognitions

Mentor of the Year Award, Lifted Lifestyle, 2017

The National Black Lawyers Top 100, 2015

Texas Super Lawyer Rising Star, Texas Monthly, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014

Robert L. Hainsworth Outstanding Service Award, Houston Lawyers Association, 2014

Momentum Award, Ivy Educational and Charitable Foundation, 2013

Houston Top Lawyer for the People, H Texas Magazine, 2009

Houston Top Lawyer, H Texas Magazine, 2008 and 2009                                                

Outstanding Service Award as Vice Chairperson, 83rd Annual National Bar Association Convention, 2008

Woodrow B. Seals Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year, Houston Young Lawyers Association, 2007

Nominee, American Bar Association’s Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year, 2007

Nominee, Texas Young Lawyers Association’s Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year, 2007

Graduate, American Bar Association Tort Trial and Insurance Section National Trial Academy, 2007

Top Professional on the Fast Track, H Texas Magazine, 2006 and 2007

Fellow, American Bar Foundation, 2014

Fellow, Texas Bar Foundation, 2007

Fellow, Houston Bar Foundation, 2006

Life Fellow, Houston Young Lawyers Association, 2004

Community, Legal, and Charitable Service

Past President, Board of Directors, Texas Executive Women, 2016 – 2019

Former Board Member and Chair, Governance Committee, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Houston, 2004 – 2010

Past President, Board of Directors, Houston Lawyers Association, 2002 - 2008

Former Board Member, Houston Young Lawyers Association, 2008-2009

Past Chairperson, Houston Lawyers Foundation, 2002 – 2014

Treasurer, Civil Rights Section and Judicial Selection Committee Member, National Bar Association, 2005 - present

Past Member, State Bar of Texas Legal Services for the Poor in Civil Matters

Houston Bar Association: Fun Run Cmte; Past Co-Chair, Lawyers Against Waste Cmte; Environmental Section, Inaugural Mentor; Juvenile Partnership; Past Member Communities in School and Special Olympics Cmte.

Volunteer Attorney – Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program, Legal Lines, Justice for Children

Publications and Presentations

Panelist, Legal Writing to Win: Know Your Writes, State Bar of Texas, Apr. 2020

Panelist, Judicial Selection, State Bar of Texas Annual Convention, June 2019

Panelist, Judicial Selection, Texas Tribune Festival, 2019

Author, Supreme Court Unlikely to Overturn EPA Rules in Texas Challenge, Hou. Bus. Journal, Apr. 2013

Presenter, Southern Crushed Concrete v. City of Houston, Ordinance and Permitting, Amer. Soc. Safety Eng., 2013

Presenter, Environmental and Insurance Coverage Update, CE for Liberty Mutual Insurers, 2010

Presenter, Overview of Summary Judgment Practice in Texas State Courts, State Bar of Texas Adv. Civ. Lit., Nov. 2008

Author, Certain Businesses at Potential Risk of Indoor Contamination, Hou. Bus. Journal, Aug. 2007

Presenter, Legal Brief: Vapor Intrusion, Tex. Assoc. of Env. Professionals, May 2007

Presenter/ Author, TROs and Temporary Injunctions, Univ. of Hou. Lit. and Trial Tactics, Nov./ Dec. 2007

Presenter/ Author, TROs and Temporary Injunctions, Univ. of Hou. Lit. and Trial Tactics, Nov./ Dec. 2006

Co-author, Texas Supreme Court State Superfund Law Interpretation Allows Contribution Claims, Clarifies Arranger Liability, Mealey’s Emerging Toxic Torts, Aug. 2005

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