n the middle of a burglary trial in a small West Texas town, the 19-year-old defendant is asked by the district attorney if he was in town the night the crime occurred. On the front row of the courtroom, invested but not attached to the case, sat a local attorney and his young daughter. When the defendant responded, ‘No,’ the girl stood up and in a loud, confident manner said, ‘He’s lying!’”
Judge Ann-Marie Carruth said she always knew she wanted to pursue a legal career. After graduating from Texas Tech University in 2004 with a degree in agricultural communications, she attended Texas Tech School of Law.
Carruth said the speaking, research and writing skills she developed through FFA and the agricultural communications curriculum prepared her for her journey to becoming a judge. She said the support system at Texas Tech provided a great foundation for law school and her career.
“If I told someone that I wanted to go to law school or this was my career path and these are my goals, I was just always encouraged by everyone,” Carruth said. “Someone would find a way for me to do an internship that I wanted to do or locate a mentor for me to talk to.”
Although Carruth may not have chosen a traditional agricultural path after graduation, she said she is proud of her agricultural roots and the opportunities and skills it provided her.
“There was something about growing up in a small agricultural community that defined who I was,” Carruth said. “The work ethic, the caring for others, being responsible for others in the community in the sense of stewardship, I just don’t think you can get that anywhere else.”
Carruth said although agriculture helped prepare her for a legal career, it was her parents, Sam and Sylvia Saleh, that were the biggest influence in her life. Her parents were both in the legal profession and owned their own law office. Her father was a judge twice; once as a special district judge and then as a constitutional county judge.
Carruth said she spent much of her childhood at the law office from the day she was born.
“I was born in Lubbock, and whenever my parents drove back to Lamesa with me in the car headed home from the hospital, we went straight back to their law office,” Carruth said.
I saw it every day, and I knew it was something that I wanted to do.
Carruth said it was her time spent at the law office, seeing steady streams of her father’s clients come in and out, that helped her discover her desire to give back to the community by helping those in need. She said it was this passion that gave her the motivation to overcome any difficulties she faced in law school.
“I don’t think I could have had any better role models because I really just got to experience it firsthand,” Carruth said. “It wasn’t something that I thought about in theory or hypothetically. I saw it every day, and I knew it was something that I wanted to do.”
Carruth’s mother, Sylvia, said when she was young, she would crawl down the long hallway in the office when a client would come in. As she got older, she would help file documents at the courthouse and eventually help answer the office phone. But like any good aspiring attorney, she had a few questions first.
“She wanted to know how long did she have to work, how many days that was going to be, and she wanted to be paid in cash,” Sylvia said.
Carruth’s father, Sam, agreed her involvement in the law office at such a young age helped her realize the impact she could make with a legal career.
“She saw that people came in with big, big problems with a frown on their face, and when they left, they had a smile on their face because we were able to help them,” Sam said. “And I think that has influenced her tremendously seeing what lawyers can do to actually help people.”
That young girl in the front row of the burglary trial, Sam said, demanded the defendant tell the truth is still trying to help everyone reach the best solution to their problems, which Carruth said is her favorite part about being a judge. She said she still pays an homage to her parents and the impact they had on her career by wearing the judicial robe her father once wore when he was a judge.
“When I got sworn in four years ago, I asked if I could wear his robe. So I had it tailored. It was a little bit too long, so I had it shortened and taken up just a bit, but I get to wear his robe,” Carruth said with a smile. “It’s something that we share that I love.”