Joe Spurlock II

Professor of Law; Director of the Asian Judicial Institute

Joe Spurlock II

“Whether studying, practicing, enforcing, making, judging or teaching the law, I have generally enjoyed the activities I’ve done and the people I’ve met doing so. A life of service in the law is neither irksome nor tedious; it is ever-changing, providing daily opportunities for personal growth and satisfaction.”

Get to Know Joe Spurlock II

What drew you to the law?

My father and his father were lawyers, and my mother was a homemaker, politician and public servant. Both parents taught us (my siblings and me) to respect the law and those who work in it. In college and in the military I considered training for other jobs, but was always talking to others about the law and politics. On separation from the military, I got an opportunity to work as an assistant criminal district attorney and from that first legal job, I have never looked back. In service to the law, I’ve been able to combine my three career loves: teaching, politics and advocacy.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I enjoy greatly the interaction with students in the classroom. It is satisfying to see them “get it” as a light bulb goes off in their minds during a class discussion. Those moments are a treasure to a teacher, and help ease the tediousness of faculty/administrative bureaucracy. Most law students in the courses I teach – Contracts, Children & the Law, and Family Law – have no idea before law school of the complexities of problems folks are capable of creating for themselves. It’s fun to lead students on paths to learn how to guide their future clients to a safe haven or at least toward a friendlier shore. Learning is a two-way street, for I keep being surprised by “modern” customs I learn are developing in our society.

What do you hope students gain from your courses?

If they don’t already have it, I want students to develop a respect for the law. I want them to learn that a fundamental basis for our continuing freedom in the USA is the rule that we are a nation of law, and no person is exempt from or above the law. There are abundant examples rampant today which seem to express the opposite, but those are false positives. As attorneys, our students will have a mantle of leadership placed on them. They must learn that lawyers are the first, sometimes only, line of defense of citizens from outlaws, often even their own government. The lawyer – first, among all others – must be ethical and act ethically.

Moreover, I want my students to learn and understand the law is NOT static; it is constantly evolving. Also, there is no magic formula to “learn” the law, as “learning the law” is largely a myth. They need to learn as much as they can about the basic structure of the part of the law covered in their classes, but realize that it will evolve in time. They also need to develop the skills to research the current law and compare it to the law applicable at the time a client’s issue developed. In doing so, they may adequately counsel that client on any recommended courses of actions or, for a client seeking to prepare for a certain future, give as good advice to them as possible in the political and legal environment that exists today. What students study in classes on particular subjects will give them an overview of those topics and the connection to other disciplines in the law.

What are you passionate about outside the law?

I have four grown daughters and eight grandkids, all of whom live nearby, so I have plenty of chances to stay connected with the real world, and I find time spent with the grandkids helps keep my perspective on life updated. For several years I’ve been privileged to travel abroad to Mongolia and the Far East many times, and it is a wonderful thing to get to travel there to see the country continue to grow in economic strength and her people develop their own brand of democracy. It’s fun to have friends who live half-way around the world to talk to about current events. They give me a different viewpoint on world events than I get from just hanging around Fort Worth, my home. Many of our law school graduates with whom I have formed friendships and keep in touch practice law in the DFW area. It’s fun to socialize with them to share their excitement of practicing law or of serving as judges, prosecutors or administrators.

What are your research interests?

My interests are based in politics as I study varying concepts of the rule of law as an ideal of governance throughout the world. That is, I study how cultures with different types of government systems based on various political ideologies and religious views interpret the “rule of law” concept. Learning how law developed within a country or region and studying the history of and basis of development of controlling legal authorities in those nations is fascinating, and also beneficial to preparing our students to practice in the world’s rapidly developing global marketplace.

Publications

My publications are available on BePress SelectedWorks™.

Expertise

  • Family law
  • Contracts
  • Legislation
  • Texas state and local government

Courses

  • Contracts
  • Legislation
  • Family Law
  • Children & the Law
  • Payment Systems
  • Family Law Practicum
  • Appellate Practicum

Academic Experience

  • Professor of Law
    Texas A&M University School of Law (2013-present)
  • Professor of Law
    Texas Wesleyan University School of Law (1993-2013)
  • Professor of Law
    DFW Law School (1989-1993)
  • Adjunct Professor
    University of Texas at Arlington, Texas Local Government (1986-1990)
  • Adjunct Professor
    Tarrant County College, Economics, State & Local Government, Business Law (1980-1990)
  • Adjunct Instructor
    University of Michigan Extension Service, Business Law and Criminal Law (1964-1966)

Education

  • LL.M. in Judicial Process, University of Virginia School of Law
  • J.D., University of Texas School of Law
  • B.A., Economics, Texas A&M University

Awards

  • U.S. Bronze Star Medal
  • Awarded Friend of Mongolia Medallion by the President and Parliament of Mongolia for his work with the Supreme Court, the Legislature and the Judiciary of Mongolia on Mongolian democratic judicial reform, 2005
  • Voted Professor of the Year four times by the students
  • Received the Shirley Zabel Memorial Distinguished Professor Award, 2001
  • Outstanding Professor in the Nation, Delta Theta Phi International Law Fraternity, 1993

Other Professional Activities

Instrumental in creation of and development of the law school’s Asian Judicial Institute. For many years the Institute has worked with the Mongolian government, among other entities, to assist Mongolia to develop a modern judicial system during her transition from a communist planned market system into a democracy with a capitalist market system.

Experience Prior to Entering Academia:

Before teaching, Judge Spurlock had a distinguished military, political and judicial career. He served four years active duty with the United States Army and was awarded the U.S. Bronze Star Medal while serving with the 525th Mil. Intel. Group in Viet Nam (1967).

On returning to the United States, Professor Spurlock worked as an assistant Criminal District Attorney with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office, prosecuting both misdemeanors and felonies.

In 1970, Judge Spurlock was elected to the Texas House of Representatives, serving six years in the Texas Legislature and one year as counsel to Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe. In 1977, he was appointed to the bench of the 231st District Court (Family) in Tarrant County, Texas, serving six years. In 1983, he was appointed to the 2nd Court of Appeals of Texas in Fort Worth, where he served until 1992, retiring to become a full-time professor. Currently, he is a Senior Judge of Texas serving occasionally on assignments to trial and appellate courts by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas.

Professor Spurlock also served as a delegate to the 1974 Constitutional Convention of Texas, and he has served as a member of the Legislative Council of Texas (’71-77) and member of the Texas Judicial Council (’78-’97) – the last 10 years as President of the Council. He is admitted to practice law in Texas, in the Northern and Eastern U.S. District Courts, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a Member Emeritus of Delta Theta Phi International Law Fraternity and was selected the Outstanding Professor in the Nation by the Fraternity in 1993. In 2005, Spurlock was recognized and honored by the President and Parliament of Mongolia, which awarded him the Friend of Mongolia Medallion for his work with the Supreme Court, the Legislature and the Judiciary of Mongolia on Mongolian democratic judicial reform.