Retired Senior District Judge Sydney Farrar’s long distinguished career as a practicing attorney, trial judge and Associate Justice on the Second Court of Appeals exemplifies his love of the law and hard work. His oral interview at Texas A&M Law School as part of the State Bar of Texas Appellate Section/Oral History Committee effort to record the histories of the state’s appellate justices was taken on January 30, 2015, is available at http://youtu.be/AiEsf7rO4Vw.
Farrar is a Fort Worth native and Paschal High School graduate. He attended Texas Christian University for two years and received a BBA from the University of Texas. He graduated from University of Texas Law School in 1955 and after passing the bar, being subject to the draft, he enlisted in the United States Army as a private and served for the next two years in Korea. He returned to Fort Worth in 1957 and was hired on the spot by Kelly, Morris & Walker where he worked with Jearl Walker and Garrett Morris primarily handling insurance defense cases.
Like many new attorneys he came to the practice of law without knowing a single attorney or even what lawyers did except that he wanted to become one. “The day I got word that I had passed the Bar Exam I thought people ought to be able to look at me and know that I’m a lawyer, I was so proud of being a lawyer and I never ever wanted to do anything that would detract from that.”
In 1962 he joined with Jim Claunch to set up the law offices of Farrar & Claunch in downtown Fort Worth after tossing a coin to decide how to name the firm. He was active in the Tarrant County Bar Association serving as a Director of the Tarrant County Bar Association and Chairman of the Grievance Committee.
In 1980, he received a call from Judge Ardell Young who was retiring and suggested that he seek the appointment to the 153rd District Court in Tarrant County. One of the amazing aspects of Judge Farrar’s career was that he was appointed to the bench by two Texas governors from different political parties.
In 1981 Republican Governor William P. Clements appointed him to serve as Judge of the 153rd Judicial District Court with no request that he switch parties. Clements wanted the best attorney for the position. Farrar’s position during the selection process was that “you knew I was a Democrat when you invited me down here.”
As a trial judge his job “was to let the parties and their lawyers put their case on the best that they could and being fair to everybody involved. It’s not my job to try to determine or to make a case. That’s just not a judge’s job.” Farrar held the job for the next 11 years.
In 1992, Governor Ann Richards appointed him to the Second Court of Appeals where he served for the next two years as an Associate Justice. At the Second Court of Appeals he did not realize that the majority of the docket was criminal cases and that many of the cases and arguments were similar. During his two years on the court he authored many published opinions at a time when opinions were not always submitted for publication. He voted only to publish opinions if a case was unique or new.
He learned the difference from being an appellate justice where there was time to make decisions from his days on the trial court bench where decisions had to be made fast. He handled cases by this rule: “As a judge I have to put away my personal opinions about the type of case that it is and rule based upon what is presented to me and what the law is.”
After his time on the court of appeals he continued to serve as a visiting judge through 2011 when he retired. His family now has a legacy of attorneys as his son Stephen Farrar is an attorney practicing in Hurst. The State Bar of Texas has been proudly served by his contribution to the practice of law and to the Texas judiciary.
This article was published in the April edition of the Tarrant County Bar Journal. It can be found at: http://issuu.com/tarrantcountybarbulletin/docs/7218_april_bulletin_2015hi-res.