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Deivanayagam named to replace Freeman as court-at-law judge

Deivanayagam named to replace Freeman as court-at-law judge


McLennan County commissioners selected Vik Deivanayagam, a Waco attorney with judicial experience who has practiced extensively in county court-at-law, to succeed retiring County Court-At-Law Judge Mike Freeman.

After reviewing applications from 11 candidates, commissioners narrowed the field to five finalists last week and made their decision Tuesday after a brief executive session.

Deivanayagam, 45, has practiced law for 21 years and has handled more than 2,400 cases in the county’s two county courts-at-law.

McLennan County Judge Scott Felton, who nominated Deivanayagam, said it was his greater experience in the county courts and support from his peers and community members that made Deivanayagam the right decision.

The vote to appoint Deivanayagam was unanimous. He will fill the last two years of Freeman’s unexpired term and said he will run for election to the position as a Republican.

“I am very thankful for this opportunity,” Deivanayagam said Tuesday. “I feel like the county and the commissioners have placed a great trust in me. I want to live up to it. I am anxious to start, and I am looking forward to proving the commissioners right in their decision-making process by showing they have put the best person in place to succeed.”

The other finalists were Jason P. Darling, Edward Vallejo, Landon Ramsay and Gerald Villarrial.

Deivanayagam has served as associate judge for Woodway Municipal Court since 1997 and is an associate judge for Lacy Lakeview Municipal Court. He is a partner in the law offices of Rod Goble and is an adjunct professor at Baylor Law School.

He is board-certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and graduated from the University of Memphis in 1993 and Baylor Law School in 1996.

Freeman, 71, announced in August he would retire midterm and plans to leave office Jan. 31.

There are two county courts-at-law in McLennan County, which handle criminal misdemeanor cases, civil cases with damages up to $200,000, probate matters, condemnations and guardianships.

Freeman worked from the ground up to create and oversee McLennan County’s successful DWI/Drug Court, and Deivanayagam told the Tribune-Herald he will continue the work Freeman began.

“The DWI/Drug Court is absolutely one of the priorities for County Court-at-Law No. 1,” Deivanayagam said. “I have said it is Judge Freeman’s jewel. If there is one thing that is his legacy, I would say the drug court is. We are going to continue it, and we hope to make it even better and make him proud of it when he comes back to visit.”

> MORE: DWI/drug court credited with changing lives at 100th milestone

Deivanayagam said he is honored to succeed Freeman.

“Judge Freeman was a prosecutor when I got here, and I have always looked up to him. He was always fair-minded, and he was a great prosecutor. As a judge, I have had nothing but the greatest respect for him,” Deivanayagam said.

Freeman said he will preside over his last graduation ceremony for the DWI/Drug Court on Friday evening. The intensive supervision program, which involves counselors, lawyers, prosecutors and others, is credited with turning around the lives of many McLennan County residents with substance-abuse issues.

About 135 people have graduated from the program since its inception in September 2007.

Freeman said he thinks Felton and the commissioners court did “an outstanding job” in reviewing the applicants for the judge’s position and ultimately made a good selection.

“Mr. Deivanayagam and I have a long history,” Freeman said. “I think he is an outstanding and intelligent attorney and will do well. Judges always are interested in seeing what will happen in the future in regard to their courtroom, and I feel very comfortable with Vik sitting on the bench in County Court-at-Law No. 1.”

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