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Rivera-Worley leaving bench

Colleagues praise 16th District judge for work ethic, sense of respect

Carmen Rivera-Worley is about to put down her gavel.

Rivera-Worley, who served two terms as judge for the 16th District Court, announced last year she was not seeking re-election.

“I will miss doing this every day,” Rivera-Worley said to the group of judges, attorneys and politicians gathered at her retirement celebration Friday morning. “I am grateful to God for the opportunity to serve you.”

Co-workers reminisced about how hard she has worked in her career.

“She hired me in the civil division [of the district attorney’s office] right before she was appointed to the bench,” said Brody Shanklin, now a trial attorney with the law firm Harris and Cook. “She taught me a lot as an attorney and a practitioner. It’s been a pleasure to have started off and then followed her to the bench in my career thus far.”

Bill Schultz, an attorney in the civil division, said he was first introduced to Rivera-Worley as a “young buck.”

“As my department head, she always was very kind and very sweet,” Schultz said. “[As judge] she treated both sides of the counsel table with respect — ran a great court and smooth trials.”

“She is the best example of being a supervisor,” said Priscilla Brooks, a senior paralegal for the county. “I have always appreciated how she kept everyone together. Some might say she was too firm, but I think it was just what was needed. She kept everyone goal-oriented and on target.”

In an interview last year, Worley said she was leaving the courtroom to be a mother to the son she and her husband recently adopted.

While she might be going more into “mom mode,” Rivera-Worley told everyone Friday, she will still be around.

“I will be going into mediation work,” she said. “I want to thank Bruce Isaacks for offering a job to me in 1992 and my husband who followed me.”

Lee Worley, her husband of 39 years, knows she is not stopping anytime soon.

“She has a mind and heart that keeps on giving,” he said.

They were high school sweethearts, Worley said.

“We came up to the county years ago from Del Rio when she was first offered a job with the county,” he said. “I am lucky to call her my friend — if you have her as a friend, you’ll have a best friend for life.”

During Rivera-Worley’s retirement speech, she joked about loitering in the courthouse parking lot on her first Monday morning off.

“I don’t think I will know what to do with myself not coming up here every day,” she said.

District Attorney Paul Johnson won’t be ready to kick her out anytime soon.

“I have known Judge Rivera-Worley as both a co-worker and judge,” Johnson said in an e-mail Friday. “She has always shown great integrity and fairness in her professional capacity, but I know her more as a true friend. She has done a lot for Denton County in her years as a public servant. I will miss her around here at the courthouse.”

Rivera-Worley heard criminal, family, civil and Child Protective Services law cases during her tenure as judge. Her last day as 16th District Court judge will be Dec. 31, and Sherry Shipman will take office in January. 

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is