Order in the Court
Series of judicial clerkships instilled true love of the rule of law in Houston attorney
Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Charles Eskridge '85, B.S. Business Administration and Economics

Houston attorney Charles Eskridge loves the law. He practices it, teaches it, lives it, has fun with it. Even most of his hobbies are law-related.

Fortunate to have had parents who instilled a strong work ethic in him and taught him to find meaning and value in productive work, Charles began mowing neighborhood lawns in seventh grade and continuously held various summer and part-time positions throughout his high school, college, and law school years. Today he is a partner at Quinn Emanuel, a Houston-based firm with 22 offices in nine countries that specializes in complex commercial matters around the globe.  

At Trinity, Charles remembers making many great friends and encountering new experiences every year. He joined Chi Delta Tau and became very close to then- University chaplain Raymond Judd ’56, the fraternity’s sponsor. From sophomore year on he served as a deacon at Parker Chapel, where assistant chaplain Doug Guthier also became a profound influence. “To hear their Sunday homilies was to hear the very best intellectual approach to faith and service,” he says, “and both men have continued to mean a great deal to me.” Charles returned to Trinity last year for the memorial service for Robert Albright, one of his best friends, a fraternity brother, and fellow deacon. Both Rev. Judd and Rev. Guthier returned to the Chapel to conduct what was “certainly the most powerful and meaningful service I’ve ever attended there,” Charles says.

While earning his J.D. from Pepperdine University, Charles interned full-time for a California Supreme Court justice who encouraged him to seek a federal clerkship after law school. Landing a clerkship with the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit led to another clerkship at the U.S. Supreme Court, which in turn led to a two-year stint as a special assistant to one of the U.S. arbitrators at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

“One thing I learned very well as a law clerk is that writer’s block is not an option,” says Charles. “Cases come in steadily and fast, and the flow of paper and exchange of drafts can be daunting, especially at the U.S. Supreme Court.” Nevertheless, “there is really not another time in practice where you see so many different aspects of the law and legal system,” he explains. As mentors, he continues, the judges “instilled a disciplined way to think and write about legal issues, but more important, they truly cared about the rule of law.”  

Charles Eskridge standing next to his family

Taking their lessons to heart, Charles teaches regularly as an adjunct law professor at the University of Houston and Pepperdine. His favorite course is “Origins of the Federal Constitution,” a class he designed to give an intensive introduction to the historical sources of the constitution. “My students are really inspired by the original documents they read, which in turn continues to inspire me. I’m fortunate to be teaching it again this semester.” Charles also encourages students and young alumni to take advantage of any meaningful opportunities that come their way. “Just be mindful that as opportunities come and go, some may not return, so consider saying ‘yes’ before you say ‘no.’”

In his law practice, Charles has handled a wide variety of significant and successful cases. In an antitrust case against Microsoft, he wrote a 188-page “consolidated statement of facts” to explain the case to the court. Although the case settled just before trial, he can say the confidential terms were very favorable for his client. Most recently, he represented a deepwater drilling services company in an international arbitration against Petrobras, the Brazilian oil company. Currently, he is back in court to confirm the award and enforce it against Petrobras.

On the other end of the legal spectrum, but equally significant, Charles represented a man, pro bono, who had spent 18 years in prison, mostly on death row and in solitary confinement, for a terrible crime of which he was completely exonerated following a finding of prosecutorial misconduct by the Fifth Circuit. The State Bar of Texas disbarred the offending prosecutor—a rare sanction—and it was upheld on appeal. For that work, Charles was recognized with the Justice in Action Award by the Texas Defender Service and the Defender of Justice Award by the Texas Fair Defense Project. Due in large measure to that representation, Texas Governor Greg Abbott appointed Charles to the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission, a bipartisan effort that reviewed Texas cases in which a convicted defendant was exonerated and made legislative recommendations to prevent or lessen the chance of future errors.

Deeply committed to the rule of law, Charles is an active member of the American Inns of Court, a group of legal education chapters across the country that seek to advance the profession by encouraging ethics, education, and mentoring. While their monthly meetings usually feature presentations or panel discussions, Charles’ group prefers to add a little levity to their presentations via dramatizations for which Charles usually writes the scripts and says the most fun is working in at least one musical number. The program they created to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta depicted historical characters arguing in situations drawn from popular movies like Monty PythonBill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and A Christmas Carol and included parody lyrics to “American Pie.” It won a national competition among American Inns of Court chapters and they were invited to reprise the performance at their national gala in Washington, D.C., before an audience of judges, justices, professors, and politicians.

While it’s hard to imagine Charles in anything but a legal setting, he says if he weren’t practicing law he would have to find a way to make a living leading hikes in the Lake District of England, a place his wife introduced him to early in their marriage. Calling the mountainous terrain “the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever seen,” he insists that being on a ridgeline there with his wife and children is the very best place to be. Then with a grin he says, “Although the pubs at the end of a hike are nice, too.”  

You can contact Charles at charleseskridge@quinnemanuel.com.

Mary Denny helps tell Trinity's story as a contributor to the University communications team.

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