by Jason P. Bloom
From the start of his law career, in which he practiced insurance defense, to his seat on the bench, where he ensures that the law is followed, Judge King Fifer has considerable experience and knowledge in the inner workings of the law.
Born in the East Texas town of Tyler, Texas, Judge Fifer and his family moved to Dallas when he was in the fourth grade, and he has since considered Dallas to be his true home. Judge Fifer grew up in the Lake Highlands area and graduated from Lake Highlands High School.
After graduating from high school, Judge Fifer went on to the University of North Texas. He then transferred to the University of Texas at Dallas, where he graduated with a degree in Government and Politics. While earning his degree, Judge Fifer interned for an educational lobbying group in Washington D.C. It was there that he first became fascinated with the law.
At the encouragement of his employer on Capitol Hill, Judge Fifer decided to attend law school at the University of Tulsa. While there, Judge Fifer contacted his family’s long-time neighbor and church acquaintance, the Honorable Merrill Hartman, and requested a summer clerkship. Judge Hartman, who at the time presided over the 192nd District Court, obliged, and it was during that summer that Judge Fifer’s love for the law and the judicial process was solidified.
“I said then and there, ‘this is what I want to do. I want to do litigation and, if possible, someday become a judge’,” recalled Judge Fifer.
He fondly recounts a products liability trial involving marine products that he observed in Judge Hartman’s court. Although the dispute was hotly contested, Judge Fifer so admired the civility and skill of the lawyers and the manner in which the proceedings were handled that he knew he would like to be a trial lawyer and, one day, a judge.
He pursued these goals after graduating from law school in 1992. And after 14 years as a trial lawyer, focusing mainly on construction litigation, representing architects, engineers and general contractors, Judge Fifer was elected to the bench in 2006. He began his career as a judge just as his long-time mentor, Judge Hartman, was retiring.
One of Judge Fifer’s goals as a jurist is to ensure that all litigants in his court are treated fairly and that attorneys get an opportunity to try their cases in a timely and cost-effective manner. Since Judge Fifer assumed the bench, the average time it takes for a case to get to jury trial has been decreased to between 20 and 24 months. He hopes to see that time reduced to 18 months during his tenure.
Our job as the third branch of government is to make sure that we have an orderly disposition and administration of justice in our community,” he said. “I want to let the lawyers try their cases. I don’t want to be part of the problem. I want to be part of the solution.”
Judge Fifer aims to reach a just and fair result in every case that comes before him. He stated, “My objective is to get it right. Some folks can’t afford to appeal. The odds are that my ruling may be the only one some people get.”
As a former trial lawyer, Judge Fifer understands the pressures that lawsuits can place on clients and attorneys alike. He strives to reduce those pressures by creating a courtroom environment where litigants can feel relaxed. At the same time, he believes formalities are crucial to the process, especially in jury trials, and strives to adhere to them.
Judge Fifer also believes that it is extremely important for young litigators to have opportunities, as he did, to watch great trial lawyers in action. He encourages firms to allow their young attorneys to not only observe trials and hearings, but to take an active role in the proceedings.
“I would encourage young lawyers to watch other seasoned, experienced lawyers try cases,” he said. “There is enormous pressure to be profitable, but there is also a tremendous responsibility to be effective.”
Among his many accomplishments, Judge Fifer was named Trial Judge of the Year in 2009 by the Dallas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates. While the award is proudly displayed in his office, it is nearly swallowed by more than 20 pictures of the accomplishments he holds most dear, his two sons and his wife of 15 years. And he now lives with his family in the same Lake Highlands neighborhood in which he was raised.
Jason Bloom is an associate in Haynes and Boone’s Business Litigation and Intellectual Property Litigation Practice Groups and focuses his practice on copyright, trademark and First Amendment litigation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.