James A. Payne Jr. sworn in as 273rd District Court Judge

“I'm really lucky I can change in my career but stay in the same field, in the field of law, and that's a big deal for me, and I get to stay in the courtroom and serve on the bench.” 273rd District Judge James A. Payne Jr.

James A. Payne Jr. was sworn into office Jan. 3 in the courtroom where he will preside as the 273rd District Court Judge representing Shelby, San Augustine and Sabine counties.

Before a standing room only crowd, Shelby County Judge Allison Harbison gave Payne, 52, the oath of office as his wife Jill held the Bible used in the ceremony and watched on. Harbison said she was honored to have been asked to preside at the ceremony after Shelby County Auditor Clint Porterfield provided the invocation.

Payne offered remarks after the ceremony and thanked the audience for attending. “This is very important to me and I appreciate each and everyone of you,” Payne said. He introduced several family members attending the event, including his wife Jill Payne and father, James Allen Payne, an attorney in Hemphill.

“I've got the best wife of all wives and I literally would not be here today if it was not for my wife Jill,” he said.

Years ago officials from Sabine, San Augustine and Shelby counties were asked to travel to Austin to testify for the need for what would become the 273rd District Court, Payne said he was surprised to recently discover his father was the representative from Sabine County. Bob Fairchild from Shelby County, Charles Mitchell from San Augustine County and from Sabine County was his father.

“Charles Mitchell told me that, and I called daddy up and asked why he never told me that,” Payne said. “He replied, 'well, I didn't know it was important.'” The new judge said his father is a man he has always tried to emulate. Payne succeeds Mitchell as the 273rd Court's judge. “This is different,” Payne said at the ceremony.

“I've logged a lot of hours in courtrooms, including many hours in this particular courtroom. Most of my memories are from looking at the jury box.” Payne said he feels fortunate to be taking the judicial reins of the district court. “I'm really lucky I can change in my career but stay in the same field, in the field of law, and that's a big deal for me, and I get to stay in the courtroom and serve on the bench,” he said. “And I get to cut down on the stress. Anyone who has tried cases knows how much stress that is.” Payne said he is hopeful he will be able to spend the rest of his career as a judge for the 237rd District Count.

“I have no other aspirations for higher office of any sort,” he said. “I don't want to go to Austin, if I never go to Austin again it will be fine with me.

In her opening remarks, Harbison recognized other elected officials attending the event. They included Shelby County District Attorney Stephen Shires; District Clerk Lori Oliver, Shelby County Clerk Jennifer Fountain; Shelby County Pct. 1 Commissioner Roscoe McSwain; Willis Blackwell, Shelby County Sheriff; Shelby County Tax Assessor/Collector Deborah Riley; City of Center Mayor David Chadwick; City of Center Mayor Pro Tem Leigh Porterfield; City of Center Manager Chad Nehring; former County Judge Rick Campbell; Sabine County Sheriff Tom Maddox; Kevin Dutton, District Attorney from Sabine and San Augustine counties; and San Augustine County Judge Jeff Boyd.

In addition to recognizing his wife and father, Payne gave thanks to his family and recognized family members in attendance, including cousins Polly Montemayor, Jeannie Gaines, and Emily Glass; sisters Jennifer Figge and Charlotte Markowski; and children James and Maddie Payne.

He finished by sharing a quote attributed to Socrates - “Four things belong to a judge: to hear courteously, to answer wisely, to consider soberly, and to decide impartially.” He said that is what he is going to aspire to do and he appreciates everyone giving him the opportunity. He plans to follow the quote with humility and East Texas common sense as well.