Jan Soifer was elected to a four-year term as Judge of the 345th District Court in 2016. She presides over civil and family law cases, including business, commercial, administrative, consumer, real estate, divorce, child custody, and Child Protective Services (CPS) cases. Prior to taking the bench, Jan was a partner in O’Connell & Soifer LLP, a small Austin-based law firm that focused on anti-fraud litigation and other high-impact public interest cases brought to combat lawless behavior. She was a full-time trial lawyer in Austin for over 34 years before becoming a judge, practicing in the 345th District Court and other similar civil district courts in this county and across the country. Her experience included handling the recent successful case by a same-gender couple against the Hood County Clerk for refusing to issue a marriage license to them after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down laws against same-sex marriage; the case by Whole Woman’s Health and other Texas abortion providers against the State of Texas which successfully challenged the restrictive provisions of HB2 that had closed more than half of the abortion clinics in Texas (in a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court); a whistleblower case that resulted in a settlement of almost $100 million dollars for fraudulent behavior by a large hospital chain; and the successful class action lawsuit against the Pedernales Electric Cooperative based on fraud and breaches of fiduciary duties by its management. During the two and a half years before her first campaign for judge, Jan continued to practice law full-time while also serving in the elected, but unpaid, position of Travis County Democratic Party Chair.
Jan graduated from the University of Texas School of Law with a J.D. in 1982, after receiving a B.A. in 1979 from Yale University. She formerly served as Chief of the Texas Attorney General’s Charitable Trusts Section and Deputy Chief of the Consumer Protection Division, and has been a partner in a large national law firm. Ms. Soifer was an adjunct faculty member of the University of Texas School of Law from 1992 – 2008, teaching trial advocacy, while practicing law full-time and raising two children with her husband.
A respected Austin lawyer, Jan has been elected President of the Austin Bar Association and the Austin Young Lawyers Association, and as a Director of the State Bar of Texas. She has received a number of professional honors: she was honored by the Austin Young Lawyers Association with its 2012 Outstanding Alumnus Award; received the Travis County Women Lawyers’ Association’s 1995 Outstanding Achievement Award; was named the YWCA of Austin’s 1993 Outstanding Achievement Award winner in Business/Professions; and was selected as the Texas Young Lawyers Association’s Outstanding Young Lawyer in Texas in 1991, and as Austin Young Lawyers Association’s Outstanding Young Lawyer in Austin the same year. She has been named a Texas Super Lawyer for multiple years, and is AV® Preeminent™ 5.0 out of 5.0 Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell. She is also Board Certified in Consumer and Commercial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
A proven leader, Jan has been elected to serve in the leadership of many community-based nonprofit and charitable organizations. During her tenure as Travis County Democratic Party Chair (from May 2013 through September 2015), she raised over a million dollars and ran a very successful coordinated campaign for the 2014 election, resulting in increases in Democratic performance across the board in Travis County. She has also served as President of Interfaith Action of Central Texas, President of Congregation Beth Israel of Austin, Chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Austin, a Director of the Texas Mamma Jamma Ride, a Trustee of the Children’s Medical Center Foundation of Central Texas, a Democratic precinct chair, a delegate to at least six Democratic state conventions, a delegate or national committee member to the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Democratic National Conventions, and was one of the initial Commissioners of the Texas Access to Justice Commission. She is currently serving as an Associate National Commissioner of the Anti-Defamation League (which she has also served as a member of the local and regional Executive Committees and a Co-Chair of the local and regional Civil Rights Committees), and a National Advisory Council Member of J Street (a pro-Israel, pro-peace group.) In addition, she has served as a volunteer lobbyist for many progressive groups, including the Texas Freedom Network, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Prochoice Texas, and Equality Texas. She is a graduate of Leadership Austin (1993) and Leadership Texas (1998).
For her service to the community, Ms. Soifer was named a “Yeller Dawg Award” recipient by the South Austin Democrats in 2015; a “Champion” by the Capital Area Democratic Women in 2008; received the 2007 “Belief in Action” Award from the National Council of Jewish Women, Texas State Public Affairs; and was selected to receive the 2000 Austin Jewish Community Leadership Award for her dedication, support and service to the Jewish Federation of Austin, which she served for four years as a Vice President. The 1991-1993 President of Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas, the local bar-sponsored pro bono services provider, Ms. Soifer served on the Board of Directors for seven years, and was selected to receive the 1995 J. Chrys Dougherty Award for exemplary dedication and commitment to the principle of access to justice for all people regardless of income.