21 years, counting: First female GC district judge talks challenges, drive to keep going

Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat
Judge Carol Siebman, in the middle, with the late Keith Gary, retired Grayson County Sheriff on the left, and Judge Larry Phillips on her right.

Carol Siebman was the first female to be elected to a court of record in Grayson County back when she took the bench in 1999, and the position was challenging. But, her desire to become a judge was to find a way to join her experience as both a teacher and a lawyer as well as make a difference.

"On my first day in office, I recall hearing the booming voice of an elder jurist coming down the hall in the courthouse exclaiming loudly, “There must be a woman on the hall because I smell scented candles,” she said in an email.

"That was probably his backhanded way of saying welcome aboard, but it definitely signaled a long haul to gaining acceptance, which was even more difficult because I wasn’t willing to just go along to get along. I ruffled more than a few feathers by refusing campaign contributions from lawyers who practiced in the court and by refusing to blindly approve plea bargains. I have continued those policies to this day," she said.

Throughout the years, Siebman has opened my courtroom to area teachers for field trips and extra-curricular activities.

"This gives students a front row view of the consequences of making bad decisions, and the rewards from making good ones," she said. "I’m humbled when I’m recognized at a store or restaurant and told that my tough but fair approach made an impact on them and, as a result, they had turned their lives around. That’s what it’s all about and what keeps me going."

In her time on the bench, Siebman has watched a number of technological changes move through the court system in the county as they went from a paper filing system to e-filing and being available remotely on a 24-hour basis to assist law enforcement officers with warrants.

"However, my philosophy remains unchanged – to make decisions based on the facts and the law so the public has confidence that the decisions made are fair and impartial. Everyone is entitled fair and equal treatment under law regardless of who they are and I strive every day to uphold this principle in the courtroom."

From the left, the late Paul Brown, retired federal district court judge of the eastern district of Texas, James Fry, retired judge of the 15th state district court, Carol Siebman, Rayburn Nall Jr., retired judge of the 59th state district court.

She said she has used that technology to try to overcome the challenges faced by courts in the COVID-19 pandemic so people could still look to the courts for assistance and justice during a trying time.

"I very much look forward to resuming regular court activities in the near future. As for my plans for the future, I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Grayson County as long as I am making a difference and as long as they will have me."