Alumna Tackles Local Issues as New Karnes City County Attorney

March 30, 2016

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Jennifer Dillingham knew she wanted to be a judge in the second grade. After spending some time with her father, a police officer, at the Karnes City Courthouse, she was drawn to the respect judges commanded along with the order they brought to the community.

Recently elected as the county attorney for her hometown of Karnes City, Dillingham ’07—a chemistry major with minors in political science and math—said the education she received at TLU prepared her in more ways than she could imagine.

“TLU gives you the chance to do anything you want and it made me a more well-rounded person,” she said. “Being part of the Student Government Association (SGA) and president of the Beta Alpha Sigma sorority taught me how to talk to people. On SGA, you have to know how to manage issues and make cases or arguments for certain things. I think all of that, along with the analytical way I think as a science and math person, allowed me to approach law school in a way that was really helpful.”

Dillingham earned her Doctor of Jurisprudence from the Texas Tech University School of Law in 2009 and joined the Law Office of Frank B. Suhr in New Braunfels in 2010. There, she specialized in criminal law, estate planning, civil litigation, and probate law. Criminal law is an area Dillingham said she’s always been drawn to.

“I always liked the idea that you could help a neighbor or a friend who made a mistake,” she said. “We don’t represent violent offenders. However, someone charged with a misdemeanor who might have had a lapse in judgment, has just made a bad decision. They’re not a bad person and it shouldn’t define who they are. I always ask people, ‘How do we serve society and make sure someone learns their lesson without ruining their future?’”

As Karnes City county attorney, the new role takes her out of the courtroom as a defense attorney and into the government management side of things, examining issues that often impact criminal procedure.

“I’ll be very involved with looking at how we handle our commitments to the city’s aging population, mental health issues, and misdemeanor criminal prosecution especially among juveniles,” she said. “This is an issue that’s very important to me because if we can help juveniles at a young age, they’re much less likely to be adult offenders. Justice isn’t always putting people in jail.”

Aside from her new position, Dillingham will continue another one of her passions: teaching “Criminal Procedure” and “Business in Legal Environments” at TLU.

“Teaching is the best part of my day,” she said. “My students are excited to learn and hear about real-world examples. They participate and they care. And TLU cares about them. Opportunities are everywhere at TLU and the faculty and staff want to help students. They’re here to make sure they succeed.”

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