Ysmael Fonseca jumps in GOP race for 13th Court of Criminal Appeals

Ysmael Fonseca

Former District Judge Ysmael Fonseca announced his bid for the Republican nomination for the 13th Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3.

The 13th Court of Appeals consists of six justices who hear cases out of a 20-county area, including Aransas, Bee, Calhoun, Cameron, DeWitt, Goliad, Gonzales, Hidalgo, Jackson, Kenedy, Kleberg, Lavaca, Live Oak, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria, Wharton and Willacy. The court has two offices located in Corpus Christi and Edinburg.

Fonseca was appointed to the 464th District Court in 2019 by Gov. Greg Abbott and currently practices law in McAllen. He has received praise from the governor, who referred to him a “trusted defender of the Constitution.”

The former district judge was born in Weslaco and raised in Edinburg. He graduated with honors from the University of Notre Dame in 2003, as well as the Notre Dame School of Law in 2009. In between college and attending law school, Fonseca served as a second-grade teacher.

Around that time, he served as a paralegal specialist for the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C. where he assisted in the prosecution of civil rights cases, focusing on the prosecution of human trafficking offenses.

While in law school, he continued his work in public service with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in McAllen after his first year. During his second year, he worked with Texas Sen. John Cornyn in the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Senate. Fonseca also served in the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy as note editor, and in the Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic as a student-lawyer representing indigent clients in small estate, guardianship, and other probate matters while in law school.

Fonseca’s began his career as an attorney as judicial law clerk for federal District Judge Randy Crane. He continued his practice at Guerra, Leeds, Sabo & Hernandez PLLC (now Guerra & Sabo PLLC), specializing in civil defense, municipal and governmental law, and small business and nonprofit representation.

He served as judge of the 464th District Court of Hidalgo County from 2019 to 2020, where he managed and presided over criminal, family and civil cases.

Fonseca currently lives in McAllen with his wife Alejandra, their two children, and another baby on the way.

Editor’s note: This story was updated Oct. 11, 2021, to clarify information about Fonseca’s bid.