Judge Nancy Hohengarten is a progressive democrat who has presided over Travis County’s Court at Law #5 since 2004. Judge Hohengarten is a champion and advocate for innovative programs in the Travis County criminal justice system.
As a lawyer for almost 30 years, Judge Hohengarten brings diverse legal experience to the bench. She began her legal career in the Texas Attorney General’s Office under Jim Mattox, practicing civil litigation. Thereafter Judge Hohengarten served as an Assistant District Attorney in Travis County for 8 years prosecuting felony criminal cases and child protection civil cases. She left the DA’s office to start her own private criminal defense practice before running for judge.
As Judge, Nancy has not only managed a docket of misdemeanor criminal cases but has also been a leader in mental health jail diversion; working to improve programs at every level of the criminal justice system. She helped establish the Mental Health Public Defender’s Office and the Mental Health Defense Attorney appointment process. She obtained a Bureau of Justice Assistance planning grant in 2011 which brought together local stakeholders to examine each point of intercept in the criminal justice system for diversion planning.
After observing repeat public intoxication offenders convicted in the county courts, Judge Hohengarten worked with the Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC) and Integral Care to create a treatment court for these defendants. The Project Recovery docket lasted over 5 years providing residential treatment and support services to defendants with severe alcohol addiction. The program continues today as Road to Recovery through DACC. This experience led Judge Hohengarten to support an alternative to incarceration for defendants accused of public intoxication, the Sobering Center of Austin Travis County.
Judge Hohengarten worked with the Austin City Council and Travis County Commissioners Court to pass resolutions for the creation of the center. She then worked on the stakeholders group that presented a report to both governmental bodies. Based upon the report recommendations the City Council and Travis County Commissioners voted to create the local governmental non-profit and named Judge Hohengarten as Board Chair. The Center will open in Spring 2018 and will provide a safe place for people to sober up and receive treatment referrals.
Her advocacy, in conjunction with the Travis County Law Library, has also led to the creation of a free program for defendants charged with Driving with a Suspended License. Staff attorneys help these defendants determine what is required to reinstate their driver’s licenses or obtain occupational licenses and provide them necessary forms for reduction in surcharges. Once they obtain their driver’s license and insurance their criminal cases are dismissed by the County Attorney’s Office.
Within the community, Judge Hohengarten serves on a number of committees and boards, including the Behavioral Health Advisory Committee, the Psychiatric Stakeholder Services Committee as well as the Sobering Center Board. She has received awards for her work from a number of organizations including NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Austin, Integral Care, Texas Psychology Association, South Austin Democrats, Mental Health America of Texas and the Travis County Women Lawyers Association.
Originally from Denton, Texas, Nancy moved to Austin to study at the University of Texas at Austin in 1979 where she earned a B.A in Economics. During college she worked for a local lawyer and law firm. After college she worked full time for the State Bar of Texas appointing attorneys for parole hearings. In 1984 she moved to Washington DC to attend Antioch School of Law, the country’s first law school to offer legal clinics. When Antioch was sold due to financial difficulties she transferred to the University of Houston Law Center to complete her legal education and obtain her J.D.
When Nancy returned to Austin in 1988 after law school, she became active in South Austin Democrats and served as president in 1991-92. In 2013 she received the Yeller Dawg Democrat award from the organization. Nancy actively volunteered for campaigns for many Democratic candidates prior to becoming judge, which limited her public political activity. She is currently a member of several Democratic clubs, including Central Austin Democrats, for whom she previously served as vice-president.
Nancy has also been a leader in the pro-choice movement, serving as chair of the Austin Chapter of TARAL (now NARAL Pro-Choice Texas) in the early 90’s and organized many successful Celebration of Choice fundraisers.
Nancy is devoted to the advancement of women in the legal profession. She was President of Travis County Women Lawyers in 2001-2002 and served on the board for 6 years.
She also founded the Travis County Women Lawyers’ Foundation and served as President in 2002-2003. The Foundation continues to provide grants to organizations that support the legal rights of women and children even today.
While not at the courthouse, Nancy enjoys watching movies, swimming, cooking, sewing and listening to music (she’s actually been to every single ACL!). She currently lives in central Austin with her husband Jack, their two dogs, Otto and Cookie, and 2 cats, Leo and Sydney. She is the proud mother of Matt Hohengarten, age 21, and stepmother of Will Hohengarten, age 30.