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Javier Espinoza, Worker’s Rights Advocate, Attorney, and Community Leader

Javier Espinoza moved to San Antonio in 2007 and quickly established himself as one of the best trial lawyers in the city. In addition to that, he has taken up the admirable role of giving a voice to many of our city’s forgotten workers. He joins us to discuss his passion and his plan to start a program to mentor youth that need advice and mentorship to better their lives.

Transcript: [music]

Justin Hill: Hello and bienvenidos, San Antonio. Welcome to the Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonion, and keeper of chickens and bees. On the Alamo Hour, you’ll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique and the best-kept secret in Texas. We’re glad that you’re here.

All right. Welcome to this episode of The Alamo Hour. Today’s guest is Javier Espinoza. Javier is a trial lawyer. He’s an advocate for workers. He’s a singer. I’ve seen him do a backflip, I think, or a front flip, I can’t remember, maybe a handspring. Was it a herky? It was one of those things.

Javier Espinoza: Backflip.


Justin: Javier has handled all types of cases all over the state of Texas, but he’s really settled into a focus on workers rights, not only in the courtroom, but he’s an advocate for workers outside of the courtroom as well. He’s handled some really high-profile cases here. If you Google him, you’ll see that there’s been a bunch of stuff that’s going on in the last year or so that we’re going to talk about involving him advocating for the rights of workers, not just laborers, but also people that work in government. Javier, thank you for being here.

Javier: Thank you for having me.

Justin: Yes. We did a small, little episode for my law firm earlier, so we’re ready. We’re warmed up. I’m going to start with some color commentary, a Top 10 list I do with other people.

Javier: We’re good. How are you doing, Justin?

Justin: I’m doing great. Other than you just told me I look old before we started. What are you going to do? I need to drink more water, I think.

Javier: You look refined.


Justin: Yes. Is that because there’s a distiller on next, I look fermented? All right. Top 10 list with Javier Espinoza. Javier, when and why did you move to San Antonio, Texas?

Javier: We moved to San Antonio, Texas in July 2007. I had been practicing in El Paso for five years prior to that. The main, main reason is because my wife wanted to go to law school and that’s the deal we had made was I went to law school then she went to law school. When I moved to El Paso with the family, there was no law school in El Paso, so we had to pick a landing place. There was few options and San Antonio was definitely at the top of my list because I knew the next move was probably going to be permanent.

Justin: It wasn’t where you went to law school which is in a terrible town. I’m not saying terrible law school but Lubbock is- it’s not much punkin’. I was out there recently. We’re all doing our part right now. Eat local, help local, support local. Are you doing any restaurants? Are you doing take out from or trying to help out or just any of that you’ve generally realized, “Oh, I’m frequenting this one a lot”?

Javier: We’ve actually been cooking at home a lot. Well, I say we, and my wife would kill me if she heard me say we. She has been cooking a lot at the house, and [crosstalk]-

Justin: You’ve been eating.

Javier: – cooking. Yes. I’ve been eating a lot. It’s been tough on me.

Justin: We did Soluna to-go last night. I know that’s one of her favorite restaurants.

Javier: Oh my God. We’ve done that. We did actually Fruteria where we did the to-go Pepino margaritas. Oh my God, that’s delicious.

Justin: I’ve seen you there. I’ve seen you there having those and you’ve never invited me to have one with you. It’s such a strange thing.

Javier: I will, but have you ever had them?

Justin: Of course, I have.


Justin: Of course. One of my favorite-

Javier: That is my favorite drink anywhere in the world. It’s that the Pepino margaritas from Fruteria.

Justin: I’ve got a good story. I’ll tell you afterwards about those margaritas. One funny story about the Fruteria is one of our good friends who is a lawyer in town. Her and I were going to meet and talk about some cases. She helps me on some car wreck stuff from time-to-time. I said, “Let’s meet at Fruteria for lunch.” She said, “Okay.” She shows up, and she’s frazzled, and she’s sweating, and she’s real stressed out.

I was like, “What is wrong?” She said, “Well, you told me to meet you at Fruteria. I Googled it and there’s like 60 Fruterias in San Antonio.” Then she said she found one that was close to the office then went to each of their websites, if they had websites, and found one with a menu, instead of just calling me and asking me. I thought that was pretty funny. Okay. Hidden gems in San Antonio. Anything that you really find particularly intriguing or nice in our city that you share with people that isn’t the normal tourist trap?

Javier: I like Costa Pacifica a lot. That’s a pretty cool restaurant. A lot of mixed Mexican style seafood.

Justin: Is it up Blanco?

Javier: It’s on 1604 and by Blanco. 1604 between Stone Oak and Blanco. It’s pretty good. Then on Thursday nights and Friday nights, they have live music so you sit on the patio and have a margarita, have seafood, and listen to music.

Justin: Have you ever sang?

Javier: Not there. [laughs]

Justin: Okay. Well, another time. Since you’re a lawyer, I asked Mikal Watts recently, who’s the best lawyer you ever saw in trial?

Javier: I ever saw in trial–

Justin: What made him good?

Javier: My old partner and mentor, Sam Legate. I tried a few cases with him. Sam has a way of connecting with juries where he doesn’t shout, he doesn’t get angry, he just talks to them. He would stand up there, and he would talk to them. I just really, really, really loved his style in that sense. Actually, somebody I’ve seen in action, Sam Legate from El Paso.

Justin: There’s something to be said with just being the reasonable one.

Javier: Yes.

Justin: Yes. People forget that and think that what we do is– I always liked Matlock. I thought Matlock had a very good affect.

Javier: Well, he’s very observant, and he’s very introspective. He actually taught me a lot in the sense that he says, “Don’t look at the way you’re looking at things. Look at the way that you believe the jury would be looking at things. Don’t look at the way that an attorney living in your house looks at things. Look at the way that if your jury’s a mechanic that has to go work 60, 70 hours in a garage, in the heat, whatever, think about the way they would look at this case and how do you connect to that.”

Justin: That’s hard to do.

Javier: It is but he was very, very good at that. That was very impressive.

Justin: There’s a lawyer I like to listen to and here he says, “On my tough cases, I just have to think why am I right and why are they wrong?” He says he spends a ton of time trying to figure out that question because that’s what a jury is going to try to figure out. Why are they right or why are they wrong? Part of your background is when you were in college, you worked at a rental car counter is my understanding. I know some of the things that I have done with rental cars, and they’ve probably been very tame. What are some of the craziest things you’ve seen people do to rental cars?

Javier: Well, instead of what they do to or in rental cars, let me tell you a tip on how to get a better rental car.

Justin: Okay. All right.

Javier: What I do, having been in the industry, is I always book an economy car or a compact car because that’s the cheapest one. What I do is I get up to the counter and you befriend the person there. “How are you doing with things?” Or whatever. “Hey, buddy, you got a full size for another five bucks.” With the way we worked is you would get a commission based on any upsells.

If you came to my counter and you were booked on a economy for 22 bucks, and I could put you into a full size for 30 bucks a day. I’m making you spend $8 more per day. If I can sell you the insurance, I get a commission off that. If I can sell you the gas, “Just bring it back empty. We’ll fill it for you.” All of that goes into the commission for the salesman if they’re on a commission-based system which most of them are. They would rather have the extra upsell of five bucks a day than nothing. They would rather have anything you can throw at them.

Justin: Do they have free rein on what to do with the cars in the lot?

Javier: Most of them do.

Justin: Okay. All right.

Javier: That’s why a lot of times, I go up and they say, “You’re reserving that compact. Would like something bigger?” I’d say, “Well, do you have anything available?” They say, “What do you have in the compact?” A lot of times they don’t because they’ve sold out all the cheapest vehicles first. “No, I’m good with what I’ve got.” They’ve got to give you the free upgrade anyway. You end up in a full size for a compact price because they sold out all the compacts. We used to do that all the time.

Justin: I like how much detailed instruction we just got on how to upgrade our rental car. Hey, you said you want to make sure people leave with a useful piece of information. That’s one.

Javier: Yes, for sure.

Justin: How many are you going to get? Three today?

Javier: At least three morsels of golden nuggets.

Justin: Okay. All right. That’s definitely one because I’m going to use that. If you were not a lawyer, what would you be doing?

Javier: I’d be an architect probably.

Justin: Okay. All right. You have a real artistic brain.

Javier: I started as an art major, on art scholarship when I first went to community college. I thought I was going to be an artist. I’ve got a love of music. My brothers and I all play guitar, instruments, and stuff. We sing. We’re not any good, but we do it. Well, some of my brothers are very good. I’m not very good, but we do it.

Justin: How many brothers do you have?

Javier: I have three brothers. I have an older brother and two younger brothers. All of us are musicians. When we get together, I’ve got a whole music room with my bass and drums and guitar. Well, not drums but a percussion.

Justin: A drum machine?

Javier: Well, it’s a percussion system. You know what a cajón is? No?


Javier: The look in your eyes is funny.

Justin: It’s a family-friendly affair here.

Javier: A cajón is just a box that you sit on and you tap it and you’ve got the bass and the little– It’s used a lot in Latin music. I’ve got that, the cajón, and I’ve got the little congas. I’ve got the bass, the guitar, everything. We think we’re a band. My goal in life, from a musical aspect, is to be the guy with the band at Coasta Pacifica [laughs] when you go on Thursday then you listen.

Justin: I rarely go up that far to eat, but if you’re going to be playing a cajón, I’m going to go.

Javier: Well, that’s my goal as far as my music aspirations.

Justin: Well, you have a hat people can put money in?

Javier: Maybe. Depends how good we are.

Justin: All right. This is a perfect segue. Who would you compare your singing voice to?

Javier: God bless. I don’t know that I can find somebody bad enough.


Justin: I only say this because we had a short discussion a couple weeks ago about microphones and you said, “No, I want it to record music,” and so I thought, “Okay.”

Javier: With computers nowadays, there’s a little thing called Auto-Tune.

Justin: Yes, apparently, Post Malone is really into that.

Javier: Yes. If I sing horribly, the computer can make me sound great, but if you hear me in my living room, then I’m not going to sound very good unless we’ve been drinking.

Justin: In my car, I sound fantastic when the music is really loud, no one can hear me.

Javier: I find it the more I drink, the better I sound.

Justin: Yes, I think that is true. As an aside, did you watch Post Malone’s Nirvana concert?

Javier: No, I did not.

Justin: He was fantastic.

Javier: Oh, yes?

Justin: Are you a Nirvana fan?

Javier: I am a Nirvana fan. I know who Post Malone is, but I’m not a huge Post Malone fan.

Justin: Yes, I’m not a Post Malone fan at all. I know who he is just because he’s got a bunch of popular songs. It’s fantastic. He clearly is a humongous Nirvana fan, and he tries to do justice to Nirvana’s albums, and it really is good. He raised $6 million, $10 million for COVID relief or something. It was super successful. The Blink-182 drummer was the drummer on it and they played it in Zoom. It’s worth the hour.

Javier: I got to go check it out.

Justin: Yes, it’s worth the time.

Javier: It’s probably not the type of music I normally listen to, but I got to go check it out.

Justin: I even saw some judges posting on Houston, Harris County judges posting on Facebook about how much they liked it.

Javier: Oh, wow.

Justin: Yes. What do you think the biggest challenge facing our city is?

Javier: Getting out of this, reopening the economy safely.

Justin: Outside of our current shutdown predicament.

Javier: What is our biggest? I think the digital gap which has been really, really highlighted by this COVID deal.

Justin: Exacerbated.

Javier: I’ll tell you, we live on the northeast side. When my kids in second grade were turning in their homework through Google Docs, through PowerPoint presentations, how can somebody way in the south or somebody in a low-income side of town that doesn’t have internet at home, doesn’t have a laptop, how can they compete?

When they get through high school and they just have a really minimal understanding of the digital world, I think that is going to be the biggest game changer from a education standpoint. It’s not really just going to be education, it’s going to be, “Do you know digital?” Think about this. We’re doing a podcast. We’re just talking about your digital thing here. If you don’t have a minimal understanding of the digital world, how can you even do this podcast? That’s what I think the biggest challenge is in our city.

Justin: San Antonio has got the strange element of you’ve got the rural Southeast East Side rural, and then you’ve got low socio-economic that covers a large swath of the city other than maybe the pizza slice going straight north of downtown. You’ve got digital divide from access to internet, digital divide from access to equipment, you’ve got this strange thing.

Javier: I think if there’s anything that we could do to make a difference, it would be to give free internet to everybody, at least, a certain amount.

Justin: Yes, and devices.

Javier: Yes.

Justin: Check out devices. Our law firms help and work with the GED program here right now. They are providing laptops to take home because they can’t come into the classes. They’re doing Zoom classes. They have access to refurbished laptops for 150 bucks. It’s not a hurdle that makes it insurmountable for schools or non-profits to provide. It’s just got to be a focus.

Javier: Yes, for sure.

Justin: Do you do any fiesta stuff, and if so, what is your favorite?

Javier: We really only do the King William Fair.

Justin: Okay. King William’s winning this one by 50%.

Javier: Oh, yes? Well, I think because it’s family-friendly, and probably the majority of the guests you’ve had have families. I’ll share. When we first got here in 2007, I heard a lot about Oyster Bake. I took my, at the time I guess, she would have been seven- seven, nine, and ten-year-old to Oyster Bake thinking, “Oh, I’ve heard a lot about it,” so we go. My wife’s at St. Mary’s Law School, so maybe we’ll see her study there for her finals. It got crazy real quick. Like, “This is not a place for a seven, nine, and a ten-year-old.” We left real quick, and that’s probably wise. Ever since then, it’s like, “What’s family-friendly?” King William Fair has been pretty family-friendly.

Justin: Early.

Javier: Yes. We go eleven o’clock.

Justin: The Pooch Parade is family-friendly. It’s people dress their dogs up in costumes and walk down the street.

Javier: Well, I’d be afraid my family would dress me up in that.

Justin: Some of the owners also dress up. Also the Arts Fair is a fantastic family-friendly. I think it’s my favorite, the Arts Fair.

Javier: The Arts Fair?

Justin: Yes.

Javier: I haven’t been to that one.

Justin: It’s the first weekend. It’s early in the day, so everybody’s still excited. People aren’t hung over yet. It’s just a neat event. There’s a big kids area where kids can go do art all day.

Javier: Well, and I’ll share it with you. I have a lot of people that call me in and ask me about San Antonio. I regularly remind people. Understand, be patient with me, I’ve only been here 12 years. People think I’ve been here all my life and I haven’t. I love this city.

Justin: When did you move here?

Javier: 2007.

Justin: Same as me. When? What month?

Javier: July 2007.

Justin: Me, too.

Javier: Yes. Wow. Look at that.

Justin: Do you know what day? Actually, I moved here in July. Closed on a house in June, moved in July.

Javier: I will tell you the difference between you and I. I had three kids, three little kids.

Justin: All right.

Javier: I wasn’t out looking for the party places, for the fun places. I was looking at- I got to make a living. What’s the best school for my kids? Support my wife whenever- going through those things.

Justin: How do you know I was looking for the party places?

Javier: I’m assuming.

Justin: I was trying to find somebody to– I don’t know. It was a first time I owned a house.

Javier: Speaking of, you’re going to be a father soon, so congratulations.

Justin: Thank you. It’s exciting.

Javier: I think that will definitely change your world.

Justin: I hope so.

Javier: In 12 years, somebody’s going to ask you, “What are the fun places in San Antonio?” You’re going to say, “The DoSeum, the kids museum.”

Justin: EZ’s has free kids on Tuesday. It’s funny we bring this up. We both moved here the same month and the same year. We both were in the same office at one point. Both of us had the same beginning office. That’s only unique because it’s such a odd, weird location. We weren’t in the office building. We were in the upstairs above a woman who lived downstairs in a house.

Javier: Yes, behind Rosario’s, right?

Justin: Yes, strange.

Javier: Yes, I know.

Justin: We’re kindred.

Javier: It was meant to be.

Justin: Okay. Currently, what do you love most about living in the city?

Javier: Number one, the greenery, the hills, the river, but more than anything, really, just the people, man. The people are super cool. Anywhere you go, you say hello. You make friends everywhere you go. You talk to people, “Hey, what are you doing? What’s that?” Nobody’s afraid of you. Nobody’s like, “What the heck are you doing talking to me?” It’s just a very friendly city. We go bike riding and before you know it, we’ve made friends with other bikers. We go to listen to music at the Costa Pacifica or anywhere else. Before you know it, you’ve made friends with the table next to you, and you’re buying them a drink.

Justin: New Orleans is the only place I’ve ever been that has that you make friends just randomly wherever you go. I wouldn’t want to live in New Orleans, but-

Javier: It sure is a fun place to visit.

Justin: – it has that feel. Everybody’s friends.

Javier: Well, that’s another thing. You go to New Orleans, it’s got a very unique culture to New Orleans that is very different from anywhere else. You come to San Antonio, it’s so unique. You go to El Paso, Dallas, Austin, Houston, the bigger cities, none of them are like San Antonio.

Justin: Did Mark Twain say that there are only four unique American cities? I think it’s San Francisco, San Antonio, New Orleans, and Boston. That’s what Mark Twain said. We’re the only unique American cities.

Javier: I don’t disagree with him.

Justin: Yes.

Javier: Smart guy.

Justin: I’ve never been to Boston, actually.

Javier: I have.

Justin: Okay.

Javier: It is a very cool city. All those cities are cool. Although, I don’t know that I agree that it’s such a unique culture. It’s definitely different, but it’s not–

Justin: Maybe in Mark Twain times, 100 years ago, probably was very different.

Javier: True.

Justin: San Francisco, there’s nothing like San Francisco. If you never seen the fog racing in to San Francisco, and think, “Oh my God, the city is on fire.” There’s no way to describe what that looks like if you’re watching it come in. It looks like a fire is overtaking the city, and it’s just the daily fog.

Javier: It’s awesome, and to ride to the trolleys, to go over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, it’s definitely a very unique– Although, still my favorite city in the world is New York City.

Justin: Okay.

Javier: I’m sure you’ve gone there and been there a bunch of times. New York City, to me, is the best city in the world. A big part of that is the multiculturalism that exists in New York City.

Justin: Sure.

Javier: Even that, to say about San Antonio, I love San Antonio, the Hispanic culture in San Antonio, but I do wish it was a little more diverse.

Justin: Like Houston.

Javier: Yes.

Justin: Houston is super diverse.

Javier: Yes. I go to Houston. You go somewhere, you might be served by a Peruvian, and a German, and it’s so diverse. Here, it’s very Hispanic or White. I love our city, obviously. I love that it’s Hispanic, but I was raised in Odessa, Texas which was very, very conservative, republican, Anglo, and very minimal Hispanic when I was there. Now, it’s a majority Hispanic town.

Justin: Even Odessa was that White?

Javier: Odessa was very White.

Justin: I would think Midland, but–

Javier: No. Odessa was very, very White. Yes, it was a lot of oil field. It was very, very difficult growing up there, to be honest with you.

Justin: I’m sure.

Javier: Yes, being an immigrant, I didn’t speak any English when I started school. My teacher, Mrs. Gaines, was an Anglo lady that didn’t speak any Spanish.

Justin: There probably was no ESL program then.

Javier: No, not at all. I spent a lot of times in the corner drawing and coloring which, thank God, because it taught me a lot of art skills. [laughs]

Justin: I want to ask you about that. I told you before you’d be on here I was going to read everything in the public realm about you which, surprisingly, there’s a lot. There is quite a bit about you and your upbringing out there. You’ve brought it up. You were born in Odessa?

Javier: No, I was born in Juarez, Mexico.

Justin: Okay. All right. Talk about when you went to Odessa, growing up in Odessa. That is a very unique American experience, but it is not unique to Javier Espinoza. It’s unique to a lot of people, but people like me have no way to relate to that because the system speaks English. Talk to me about living in Odessa and learning English in that system where you’ve got to feel like an alien.

Javier: Let me back up a little bit to give you an interesting, fun story. The way that we came to the United States, my family with my dad goes back all the way to Mexican revolution. My dad was from a little ranch down in Jalisco, Mexico. Huacasco, Jalisco, title ranch. My great-great-grandfather fought in the Mexican revolution. He and a few fellow revolutionaries took over the haciendas. It’s my understanding, they killed soldalos, and they gave all the food to the people and they did what the Mexican revolutionaries were doing.

The Federales started chasing them. He packed up his little stuff, and they headed north, and they went all the way to Denver, Colorado. They had my grandma. My grandma was born in Denver, Colorado. When the Mexican revolution was over, everything closed down, they go back down to the little ranch. He has a little truck and he [crosstalk]

Justin: From Denver?

Javier: Yes, from Denver they go back down into the little ranch where they’re raising stuff. My dad is born there, uncles are born there, everybody is born in Mexico in that little ranch. My grandfather gets married to my grandma. My grandfather would laugh, would tell me that his friends would tell him, “Do you know what you have there? You’ve got gold. Your wife was born in the US. She’s a US citizen.”


Javier: We would crack up, but that is how they gathered all their little things. They got all their stuff, they went to Juarez which is the border town with El Paso north. Through my grandmother that had been born in the US, somebody had to go find the birth certificate. They paid somebody. They bought her back. She applied for residency then citizenship, then my dad got his papers because he was born to a US citizen. It goes all the way back to the Mexican revolution. My grandfather and my grandmother were very, very poor, very humble. They didn’t have a lot. They get to Juarez, they have 12 kids. All of them are working class. They tell stories. It wasn’t as it is now today.

Justin: This is your dad or mom?

Javier: My dad. They would cross over the river almost every day to come work over here. My grandma would clean houses. Even though they could come to the US, they were still living in Juarez when my dad started becoming of age. My dad was actually a very good soccer player. We have a newspaper cut or something playing for the state of Chihuahua. He was like a little star. He sold drugs for– Not drugs. He sold pharmaceuticals, truly pharmaceuticals. Let me rephrase that.

Justin: PEDs to the soccer team?

Javier: No, truly pharmaceuticals.

Justin: They were all 220. [laughs]

Javier: It was that National Association of Drug, whatever. He would go to the different pharmacies, and he would sell the pharmaceuticals to the pharmacies. Did very well but he would tell me, he says, “I looked at my life and that’s when I had you and I had-” my older brother was three years older than me. He says, “I looked at my life and I thought, ‘I’m never going to get anywhere.’ I would look at friends, they would go to the north and go to the US. I would see them even working in construction, they were doing better than I was doing in a suit selling these pharmaceuticals.” He and my mom decided to come to El Paso.

We moved to El Paso when I was four years old. We stayed there a few months. Then, my uncle drew him over to Odessa, Texas where the oil boom was going on. That’s when the early- this would have been in ’79, ’80.

Justin: I was about to say before the tank in the early ’80s.

Javier: Yes, when it was still booming. My dad tells me, we went to Odessa. He goes, “Man, I remember I got into a fight with one of my supervisors, not a physical fight but a verbal fight, I quit and I walked across the street and got a job getting paid a dollar more.” There was just work everywhere. We- [crosstalk]

Justin: [unintelligible 00:24:32] on that part of Texas. It’s always like that. It’s up and down, up and down.

Javier: It’s up and down.

Justin: When it’s up, it’s up.

Javier: We went there and he started working in construction. When we first got there, we lived in a little, little shack. It’s interesting because I actually just went two weeks ago to film a commercial at that little house.

Justin: Really?

Javier: Yes.

Justin: Cool.

Javier: It’s going to come out in the next couple of weeks.

Justin: Talking about your upbringing and all that?

Javier: Yes, just saying, “We lived in this little house when we first came to the US.” Really, what I’m trying to do is tell kids [crosstalk]

Justin: In Odessa.

Javier: In Odessa. Really, what I’m trying to do is tell kids, if I did it, you can do it. If I’m here, you can be here. When we get to Odessa, I didn’t speak any English, my brother didn’t speak any English, my parents didn’t speak any English, and they were very hard workers. We live in this tiny, little town, in this tiny, little house on the south side of Odessa, south side of the tracks where if you look it up, you can Google it, you don’t believe me. In the early 1980s, Odessa had a higher crime rate per capita than New York City. It was pretty bad out there.

Justin: It also had a Rolls Royce dealership back then-

Javier: In Midland. Midland had a [crosstalk]

Justin: It’s such a weird area.

Javier: Have you read Friday Night Lights?

Justin: Yes, of course.

Javier: Friday Night Lights is about my high school, probably in high school. We ended up going across all tracks, my dad worked as tail off and got us to the high school-

Justin: Those during the heydays when you were there, though?

Javier: It was the year that they won the state championship. The book is about-

Justin: Midland or Odessa?

Javier: No, Odessa. The book is about 1989. That’s where my brother went. Actually, one of the lawyers in that book, Brian Travis, is really good friend of mine. He went to Harvard, then went to law school. That’s 1989, they win the state championship. When I get in there in 1990, they are caught cheating, and they’re not allowed to defend their championship.

In 1991, I think they get pretty far as well and they win it or something like that. It’s something along those lines that it’s been a long time ago. Definitely, if you read Friday Night Lights, it’s going to tell you a lot about the racism that existed, unfortunately, in Odessa. It wasn’t just against the Blacks. Growing up, I was very race-conscious. I remember being in seventh grade and having the biggest crush on this girl, April. I remember asking her to go to the mall with me-

Justin: Every small town in Texas had an April. [laughs]

Javier: An April. Well, she was beautiful. I remember her telling me, “My dad would never let me go with a Mexican.” I said, “Oh, don’t tell him you’re going with a Mexican.” That was my response. [laughs] Tell him my name is John.

Justin: Odessa has got to be very heavily Hispanic now.

Javier: Now. Back then, it wasn’t, but now it is. I grew up with that. I remember being in sixth grade and getting into a fight because the guy called me Mexican. He was like, “You, Mexican.” I just remembered I started swinging at him.

Justin: Those were fighting words calling you Mexican?

Javier: Yes. What’s funny is that when I finally came to UT Austin, met my wife, my wife was from Eagle Pass, so she was raised in a majority Hispanic town. I remember telling her that story, and she goes, “Have you looked in the mirror? You are Mexican.”


Justin: I thought am I completely culturally insensitive because I’m like, “What’s the big deal?”

Javier: I was telling her, “Well, that would be a very chauvinist man telling you, ‘But you’re a woman. How can you do that if you’re a woman?'” It’s not a compliment and it’s not an observation. For us, it was definitely a put down to be called that.

Justin: Sure, yes.

Javier: Anyway, growing up through all that, seeing my parents struggle, seeing my older brother got married at 17, was a father by 18, the goal for us growing up was if you can finish high school, you’ve made it. You graduated high school, you’ve made it. Growing up in that- you asked me at the very beginning, “How’d you end up in San Antonio?” I told you the elevator version.

The real version is this. When I was in high school, I had absolutely no plans to go to college because once I graduated high school, I’m done. I always did well in school. I was in honors classes. I loved to read. I just enjoyed school. I loved learning. I remember coming home one day and sitting there, watching the news with my dad. I saw this good-looking, articulate, smart Hispanic named Henry Cisneros. This guy is talking, and the mayor of San Antonio, and he’s saying-

Justin: Was he the mayor then or-?

Javier: Yes. He was the mayor then. It was before the whole blow up. He is- [crosstalk]

Justin: He was hired also under Clinton?

Javier: Well, he was hired after- Yes, he was hired under Clinton as well. When I saw him, he was mayor. I remember looking and thinking, “Holy cow, a Mexican can be a mayor of a major city? Look at this guy.” Having been raised in Odessa, all of our leaders were Anglo and male.

Justin: Yes, of course.

Javier: There was no female leadership, no Hispanic leadership. Maybe one token African-American. Nobody that looked like me that I had ever seen in that role. I can tell you that was transformational in my life to see somebody that looked like me, and be so articulate, so smart, so sharp. I remember thinking, “San Antonio, I want to live in San Antonio someday.

Justin: Cool.

Javier: I want to be in San Antonio someday because I want to– If you can be that in San Antonio I want to be that,” because I didn’t feel like I could be that in Odessa. That is the long way around that I got to San Antonio.

Justin: That’s great. Little did you know, at that time, we’ve been through a series of Hispanic, African American, female, Jewish, White. Our mayor, really, it’s surprisingly he’s run the gamut in all kinds of diversity contexts [crosstalk]

Javier: Which is great.

Justin: It is great.

Javier: That’s why I love San Antonio because if you go on Google how many mayors Odessa has had?

Justin: What about El Paso, though?

Javier: El Paso was pretty Hispanic. El Paso is probably about 90% Hispanic, but even in a 90% Hispanic town, when I got there in 2002 as an attorney, the main firms were: Scherr & Legate; Mounce, Green, Myers, Safi & Galatzan; Ray, Valdez, McChristian & Jeans. It has some Hispanic names, at least. ScottHulse, Kemp Smith-

Justin: That was your [unintelligible 00:30:56].

Javier: Even in the 90% Hispanic town, the majority of the firms were not Hispanic or not owned by Hispanics, not led by Hispanics.

Justin: Well, so many lawyers come about being a lawyer because it’s a family thing too. I think that’s less our generation, but I think the older generations, it was, “Oh, your granddad was, and now your dad is, and now you’re going to be-” I think that probably fed a lot of that El Paso stuff. You ended up in Odessa. We’ve long way, short way, long way again. You end up in Odessa, not speaking English. You work through that system.

At some point, you end up at UT Austin, but it wasn’t necessarily an easy route for you to get to UT. UT is one of the best schools in Texas, period. It’s even a longer route for a guy coming from Odessa sort of from a marginalized community. Had you always wanted to go to UT? What was the plan? How’d you end up at UT?

Javier: When I was in high school, a bunch of my friends or a bunch of guys that I would see in my classes had UT hats. I was like, “What was UT? What is that Longhorn? Like, “Oh, best school,” whatever. I went to my counselor when I made the decision to go to college. I was like, “Hey, I’d like to go to college. What do you suggest? I’ve heard about UT.” She said, “I think that for you, the best thing to do is start at Odessa Community College. That probably would be good.” I thought, “Okay.” I went to community college, made almost straight A’s, very good grades. I went to a counselor then I told her, “Hey, I’ve always heard about UT.” “Oh, yes, it’s a great school.”

This is how crazy it is, Justin. I was two years into community college when I’m finally thinking about, “Okay, I got to go to a big university now.” I had no idea where UT was because all I had to remember was “UT, UT, UT.” This counselor first tells me, “Well, it’s in Austin. Do you know how far it is? Do you know how to get there?” Because it was before Google Maps. Probably people hearing this are going to be like-

Justin: MapQuest was around on dialog.

Javier: No, not even back then. We didn’t have cell phones.

Justin: What year was this?

Javier: I’m talking about 2005.

Justin: You had to print them up.

Javier: I’m sorry, 1995.

Justin: You could print them up, or whatever, like all these turns, MapQuest.

Javier: Maybe, but I didn’t have a computer at home. I didn’t have a cell phone. I didn’t even have a pager back then.

Justin: You had an almanac?

Javier: Yes. Well, essentially– I’m not joking. When I got my car, I bought a map of Texas. I would follow the map of Texas. When I got to Austin, I went to a store and bought a map of Austin. I learned how to guide myself through Austin from a map of Austin. I didn’t have a cell phone till probably like ’97 maybe was my first cell phone. In ’96, I was fortunate enough to have a beeper. [laughs]

Justin: Okay, all right.

Javier: Anyway, yes, I go to the counselor and I was like, “This is what I’ve always heard. I’ve always seen Austin.” Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think they were going to turn me down. Thank God, they didn’t. I applied and that was the only school I applied.

Justin: I thought you’re going to be like, “They turned me down three times and I stuck to it.”

Javier: No, but it’s crazy now because when I told my kids, I’m like, “Look, get your A school, get your B school. get your Z school. Have your backup plan.” I had no backup.

Justin: I only applied to A&M for undergrad.

Javier: It goes back to our upbringing. Another thing that I want to talk to whoever’s listening, I think that I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. There’s a lot of things that I would have done different if I had a mentor, if I had a good mentor who would have guided me. I think that’s what’s lacking a lot of kids that are raised in low socio-economic households. I used to think it was race-based. It’s not race-based. You can be a poor, White kid and have every disadvantage that my well-to-do Hispanic kid will not have.

Justin: It’s exactly right.

Javier: It doesn’t matter what your race is, but it does matter what your parents do, what your socio-economic standard is. You can be White, Chinese, Black, Brown, it doesn’t matter.

Justin: What you’ve seen in your outer circles, even the people that you’ll go to a barbecue with once in a blue moon, did their kid go to college? Okay, that’s somebody I can, at least, ask questions about.

Javier: If you don’t have that circle of mentors, it’s ridiculous. I didn’t feel the effect of that when I go to law school, graduate, go work at Scherr & Legate in El Paso. James Scherr, Sam Legate were the main partners of that firm, very awesome, amazing attorneys, amazing people.

Justin: Legendary.

Javier: Yes. They’re amazing, great mentors. Sam is one of my best friends still. I just talked to him two days ago and I asked him for advice. James Scherr, I call him and any anything I need him, whatever. My point being that when I was there three years, and I’ve done very well, thank God, and done very well in my injury trials and made a bunch of money for him. We talked about partnership. They said, “Okay, we’re going to talk about your partnership. We’re going to meet at this restaurant tonight. Be there at 7:00,” whatever. I get there 6:30. I’m out in the parking lot.

Justin: What restaurant?

Javier: It was the Greenery at Sunland Park Mall. I still remember that it was raining that night. I was sitting outside my vehicle and I’m just sitting there. I got there 30 minutes early. I’m super nervous. I’ve never been in this situation before. I pull up my flip phone at that time.

Justin: A Razr?

Javier: Something like that. It was a Samsung or something. I pull up my flip phone and I started going through my contacts. I want to call somebody, like, “Who do I ask for advice? Who do I ask for advice?” I went through every single contact. If I call my dad, he’s going to tell me, “I’m going to pray for you, son.” He can’t give me any advice. He’s been a construction worker with a 9th-grade education all his life in this situation.

I remember going through and the only two mentors in this new world that I had stepped into were sitting in that restaurant or were going to be sitting in that restaurant. Because of that, I’ve learned the value of mentors. Every time I’d make a huge, huge decision, depending what part of my life it is, I’ve sought out mentors.

Justin: How did the meeting go?

Javier: It went well. I got offered partnership after three years. We worked towards a good agreement, then I walked away from when I moved to San Antonio. At least, I was offered partnership.

Justin: Is that all positive when you left?

Javier: No.


Justin: Okay. Well, that’s part of the deal. We could talk about how you got to where you are a long time, but I think it’s really important. You said you’re even considering starting maybe a podcast or some sort of question and answer for people that want mentoring, something that just opens up the possibilities for people that have that phone with no names in it. Right?

Javier: Yes.

Justin: We’ve talked about it a little bit so far, but one of your main focuses right now is on-the-job injuries, representing workers. You currently were involved in representing a bunch of La Cantera employees. The suit was based on the idea or the premise that they were told they can’t speak Spanish at work, right?

Javier: Correct.

Justin: Talk to us about how did you get into- not how did you get into, but why do you feel such a passion about representing workers, people that are injured on the job, and that entire class of blue-collar worker?

Javier: Before I went to UT Austin, I worked in construction with my dad. I installed sprinkler systems all through high school.

Justin: Tough work.

Javier: It is, man, digging those ditches. I would do that through high school. I would install sprinkler systems with Mr. Morris. He was one of my teachers, but he also had a side business going on. Then during the summers, I would work in construction with my dad. I just remember working in Midland at these really high-end buildings and walking into the elevator, and then having these people in business suits walk in, these very nice looking ladies, smelling very nice where they walk in in their nice business suits.

My God, the way they would look down on us, just that feeling was horrible, horrible. We’d be working in a building and painting or whatever we’re doing, then my dad would tell me, “Wait, wait, here comes the owner. Here comes the boss,” or whatever. I remember watching my dad go to the corner and just put his head down. I would do the same. I’d go over there next to him and I put my head down and look at the people inspect our work and do whatever they’re going to do. If they address us, we would address them. If they don’t address us, they just walk out and wouldn’t even acknowledge us.

Growing up with that, and finally, when I found my voice, and I found who I was, and I got a little bit of self-confidence, I remember thinking like, “That’s bullshit. Why are you treating people like that? Why are you firing them?” Because you don’t like whatever, because they told you something’s wrong and you have the right to fire them, you abuse them, you don’t follow the law.

When I went to work in El Paso at Scherr & Legate, I started seeing some of those workers come in. I remember I wasn’t very passionate about the other kind of work, but when it came to workers being abused in any way, shape, or form, man, I would see them and I would see them sitting there and 

I would see my aunt, Alicia. I would see my dad, Jose. I would see my uncle, Alfredo, and I would think I would never let anybody talk to my dad the way this guys talked to them. I would never let anybody talk to my uncle the way that this guy has been treating him. I really, really became passionate about fighting for these workers.

Justin: Yes, personal connection.

Javier: Yes, because at the end of the day, man, all they’re doing is they’re trying to make a living for their kids. They’re trying to bring home a paycheck so they can pay rent, so they can pay their cars. They can give their kids what we don’t have or what did we didn’t have growing up. I just saw a lot of abuse and I just really, really hung my hat on that. I just thought I can really, really get behind this.

Justin: Let’s talk about the La Cantera case. Honestly, I remember when you got into that case, I thought, what is the legal argument? That’s a tough, tough case. You chose to take it on. Give us a general background about what the case was, what the theory of liability was and who the people were you were representing.

Javier: Sure. I had represented one of those clients a while back on a pedestrian case where he got hit by somebody and I give my cell phone whatever. One day he calls me out of the blue and he says, “Mr. Espinoza, I’m working at the La Cantera and I’ve been working there for like 10 years and we are the servers. All of us, we are the servers and whenever you have like a quinceañera, wedding, any event, we are the ones that serve you. We’ve never had any issue. Well, last November they brought in a new management company and they replaced all of our supervisors with Anglos. They came in, they told us we can’t speak Spanish. Is that legal?”

I was like, “Well, nothing is black or white. Why don’t you come on in? Let me talk to you.” He said, “Is it okay if some of my other friends come out with me?” “Sure.” Before you know it, I had 24 people sitting in my conference room telling me how they complained to management about how this isn’t right, that they’re not being allowed to speaking Spanish, which they’ve always spoke. The manager’s response was, “Well, this is America. You should speak English.”

That just made my blood boil because again, I could see my uncle, I get to my aunt, they don’t speak English, but are very hard working being told that. Then they say, “Well, we have a business necessity that these people speak English.” I said, “Well, some of these people have been their supervisor for 15 years and there’s been no complaints.” Who’s complaining other than this new management?

Justin: What’s the necessity?

Javier: Yes. I worked with one by one. We filed EEOC charges based on national origin discrimination. What national origin discrimination is, if somebody discriminates on something that is a natural to you. For example, you think about an Indian person from India and they have a certain look, a certain maybe accent and people are making fun of their accent. Well, that’s national origin discrimination. They can’t help that.

With Spanish national origin, most of these people only spoke Spanish. That is national to them, that’s natural to them. If they’re able to do their job and it’s not a business necessity, you don’t have to absolutely speak English to do this work, then there’s absolutely no reason why you should discriminate against what they’re doing. We went to the EEOC, we filed this charge. A few months later I get a call from somebody that says they’re the investigator for the EEOC. This is probably not politically correct, but I get a call and this guy says, “Mr. Espinoza, I need to meet with every one of your clients and–” I’m thinking if the investigator speaks worse English than my clients, this is a good thing.


Justin: Was he an Hispanic guy?

Javier: It was, and he was amazing. He was great. We would joke, we would laugh. He was a good, good guy. He came in and met with all my clients-

Justin: Because process-wise is you have to go through the EEOC process before you can follow a lawsuit.

Javier: For a discrimination claim you can. The attorneys got involved and when Trump won, I started getting a bunch of calls from my clients saying, “Hey, this is taking a long time. I don’t think that Trump’s going to care about doing anything for us.” I remember requesting to the attorneys, “I want the right to sue letter. I’m just going to follow this private lawsuit with or without you guys.” I remember having a call from the attorneys, the EEOC attorneys saying, “Look, we’re very interested in this case. We think this can be a game changer. Give us some time,” and so we did.

They actually ended up finding cause, which in the EEOC world discrimination claim cases when they find cause, they mean that they found enough to warrant that there may have been some discrimination that they want to address. What happens in that case is they filed the lawsuit on behalf of the EEOC and we intervened because they actually represented one guy that never signed up with us, but they filed– If they went through the litigation and they found 20 others, they can represent anybody that potentially got affected. We only represent the ones that actually signed a contract with us.

Justin: Fair enough.

Javier: We interview with them and we started mediating and I remember having the attorney come down from Dallas, the defense attorney. He’s a nice guy, man. Nice guy from Jackson Walker, I think it was Jackson Walker, an Anglo guy and a real cool guy. I asked him, “Tell me, Michael, how do you think it’s going to play in San Antonio in front of probably like judge Rodriguez or Orlando Garcia, one of those federal judges to tell them that at La Cantera [Spanish language]?


He did exactly what you’re doing.

Justin: Did get it?

Javier: He just laughed. He laughed and he got it. He got it.

Justin: At least they got paid well.

Javier: We went round and round.

Justin: It’s public.

Javier: Yes, it’s 2.6 million. Essentially they were discriminated for about six months because as soon as we filed the EEOC charge, it changed and that management company got fired. They went above and beyond to make changes, but for-

Justin: Which was good for them.

Javier: Yes, it was great. It’s a much better outcome. Part of the settlement is they had to page one of my clients a lot of money and then they also are being supervised for three years by the federal government.

Justin: Is that right?

Javier: Yes.

Justin: Good for you, man.

Javier: They have to have all these changes. They have to implement training, diversity training, all kinds of things that have really made an impact on that business. By making an impact on that business and making it so public, I think it’s made an impact on the community.

Justin: The nation, if the feds have shown a willingness to get involved in that, that’s going to make everybody think twice before they do that. Have you had any other calls from people going through that same sort of, “Hey, my job is telling us, we can only speak English?”

Javier: I have. The difficulty with these employment claim cases is you’ve got to have some pretty hard evidence. If my client says, “Well, that manager told me I couldn’t speak Spanish,” and the manager comes in and says, “No, I never did. I never said that.” It’d a he said, she said, and it’s very difficult to-

Justin: In La Cantera was there documents or is just 25 people?

Javier: No, there was write ups. We had two or three of our clients that had write-ups speaking Spanish in the big room.

Justin: Shut up.

Javier: Yes, write-ups, we had emails, we had a big HR meeting where all of them testified. The ones that were there. “I remember the manager saying that we should learn to speak English because this is America.” It was hardcore evidence.

Justin: Where did this management company come from?

Javier: Colorado. Denver, Colorado.

Justin: Not here.

Javier: Yes, no crazy. They’re gone. They’re no longer here.

Justin: That was all over the news. I remember being super happy for you and super happy for your clients because that’s a big structural win. It’s a systemic win I think for workers across the board.

Javier: For a little kid that didn’t speak English going into elementary school, it was definitely a highlight of my life.

Justin: It has to be like real vindication. There really has to be this– “I was marginalized as a child because I didn’t speak English and here I am getting $2.6 million for a bunch of people because they can’t speak English.” It’s fantastic. I don’t remember if there was a lawsuit involved or something, but you injected yourself in city politics or county politics recently basically related to the wages for interns or for the council staff. I can’t remember what it was. What was that case about?

Javier: It’s not necessarily a case yet because it’s not been filed, but it was– I had a few, a lot of them actually, city council staff come and talk to me about their wages. They were being paid very different than city employees. Here’s the setup as I understand it. Again, we haven’t filed a lawsuit, I don’t know 100%. Please, understand the disclaimer.

Justin: Let’s talk about what’s in the news.

Javier: My understanding is if, let’s say Justin Hill runs for City Council and you win, then the city depending on their budget awards you, let’s say a million bucks for your staff. You Justin Hill has to go get your own employer identification number.

Justin: Is that right?

Javier: Yes, and hire your own staff and you decide how you’re going to pay them.

Justin: Like an independent contractor.

Javier: Exactly. To me that presents a million issues because if one of your staff is driving to a Justin Hill for reelection campaign and kills a family, you’re the employer. They’re not still in the city. They’re still in Justin Hill, the city councilman. There’s a huge conflict there. If one of those employees sues you for FLSA, Fair Labor Standards Act, failure to pay overtime, you’re the employer under the IRS, not the city.

I sent what I thought was a very nice, and we’ll draft a letter to the city, city attorney, city council saying, “You guys need to do something about this. This is not right and some of these employees are wearing two to three hats and they’re being underpaid. Some of the lower-tiered staff is not being even paid overtime for working 60 to 70 hours because they’re just being paid almost salaries.”

Justin: Are there any other cities that do it this way?

Javier: There are some but most don’t. There’s different systems that Houston has.

Justin: Just thinking Congress if you’re elected the feds give you x amount of budget for staff. If it’s paid through the feds you get to figure out how to split the pie.

Javier: But if you get hired, you have to get hired through the federal or whatever system HR–

Justin: GSA or whatever.

Javier: The HR. Other cities have the same thing. You go through HR, HR says, “Justin here, you need a chief of staff. Here’s ten candidates we think are good for you because they’ve been vetted through the city HR.” Here they don’t. You bring in whoever you want.

Justin: [laugh] Does the county work that way too for Commissioners?

Javier: That part I don’t know because this was just for the city. I think we have-

Justin: So it’s not resolved? I thought this whole thing had been resolved?

Javier: No, not yet. I mean they got a raise and I think our letter probably threatening lawsuits and addressing some of those issues or bringing to light some of those issues probably had some effect on the raises that they got and they’re trying to be a little more fair to the city council people staff. But I don’t think it’s over by far. I think there’s other issues that are going to be going on and I hope they change it.

I think we’ve got great city council people, very progressive, good people. We’ve got a great leadership in our city and I thought that this– I think if it had been other leadership, I may not have gotten involved because it’s a tough case. Definitely it’s a tough case. It’s tough because a lot of those city council people are my friends and I know them personally and to get a letter from a friend saying, “Hey, if you don’t do these things, I’m going sue you.” [chuckle] It doesn’t create the best love for me.

Justin: But it is still structured that way?

Javier: It is. But at the end of the day, man– and I had some friends tell me, “Why would you do that? Why would you take on the city council that way? The people there are are your friends.” I told them, “You know what, man, I started my career fighting for worker rights, and I will never ever be ashamed of fighting for worker rights.”

Justin: I think it’s fantastic. It’s funny. There’s an older lawyer here in town and I remember him one day drunkenly shaking his fist at the idea that lawyers specialize now because a lawyer should be able to do any kind of case a lawyer is a lawyer and I’m thinking, “What an old kook.” But specializing when the law keeps changing, when the rules keep changing, when the focus keeps changing, when’s the legislation keeps changing really allows you to be better in whatever you’ve chose and you’ve chosen something that– I can’t think of a corollary to you in another city where there’s another Law Firm that has said, “We are the worker’s right Law Firm.” I think it’s just fantastic that you’ve chosen to do that.

That kind of takes me to my next question. You’ve hit on the case against La Cantera and the non-English speakers. What are some of the more important cases you’ve worked on and I want to break this down personally, which ones were the most important to you personally, and then which ones do you think were most important across the board for workers?

Javier: Personally, I had a case that I actually lost that was very, very deep to me and it was I had a young female immigrant. I won’t even mention her name but we had a very, very– she was probably about 19 or 20. Very pretty, young Hispanic immigrant. She comes over. She’s living with her aunt. There’s a construction site across the street. She feels like she’s got to make much got to do something. She walks over across the street into this construction site and says, “Can I be a helper? I’ll work.” Whatever. Sure. Of course, they see her. They start having her pick up trash, right?

Well, pretty quickly the superintendent puts an eye on her and start saying, “You know what, I need a personal assistant. Why don’t you come with me, help me out?” She’s sitting in the truck where he’s taking her everywhere, he starts putting his hand on her thigh, takes her to his house, shows her pornography and she’s just trying to get away. He starts making all kinds of advances on her. Really, really does all kinds of horrible things to her and she comes to me and she says, “This is what’s going on. Is there anything I can do?” I draft a letter for her. I said, “You need to take your hands off her.” She gets fired.

We bring a sexual harassment lawsuit for her. She’s undocumented. In her deposition, we have two attorneys because I sued him individually so he had an attorney and then I sued the company and they start asking her, “What’s your name? How do we know that is your real name? What is your social? Where are you from?” You know all this. I just started instructing her not to answer about her citizenship status, her social security number. Nothing like that. She had provided a Mexican ID which should have sufficed but this was before the Texas Hughes case that came out the Texas supreme court.

They stopped the deposition. They said, “Mr. Espinoza if you’re not going let her answer these questions we’re going to have to take this up with a judge.” “Let’s take it up with a judge.” We get into a big shouting match with these attorneys, shut down the deposition. We go in front of– back then it was judge Saldana who’s now a County judge, but she was District Court Judge back then. She was great. She heard our arguments as a judge and says it has nothing to do with whether she was sexually harassed or not. We have a Mexican ID. That’s who she is. They shouldn’t have to get into all these things. The judge agreed with me. Denied their motion to compel, they mandamus her and goes up to the court of appeals here in San Antonio. This was back in 2008, probably 2009 before we had the court of appeals we have now. And they agreed with the defense. They said, “She has to answer who she is. She got to identify herself because how do we know who she is.” This is about a year-and-a-half process.

We get back down, we go down. I want to scope by the judge. “What does she have to answer? What exactly does she have to answer?” She’s got to say if this is her social that she gave to this employer. She has to say if this is her real name and all these things that were very, very personal identifying. By the time of the first Depo that it’s come up to the court of appeals– I remember calling Maldive. Maldive got involved in it. They wrote an amicus brief and by the time that we get back to taking her depo again, it was about a year and a half almost two years later. By this time she has married a US citizen, she has a baby on the way and she tells me, “I’m trying to get my residency. I’m trying to fix my papers. Is this going to jeopardize my ability to do that?” I couldn’t tell her yes or no. I was like, “I don’t know. I don’t think so, but I don’t know it’s your call.”

She came in one day with her husband and writes me a letter saying, “I’m instructing you to dismiss my lawsuit.” Because of the fear she had of this and if I could only tell you the horrible things this man did to her and got away with it because she was undocumented. That is a case I have never forgotten and I think it hurt even more because I lost. Because I had to dismiss it. Just to know that somebody abused this poor worker, this poor lady that is trying to find a better life for her kin and for herself and for all her family to be abused this way and to get away with it just still burns me inside.

Justin: I worked a case in Oregon and I represented two undocumented workers who were killed in– it was Connecticut and in an 18-wheeler crash and up there they were limited in their wage claim to what they would’ve made in their home country. There are some states that are worse than Texas on this type of stuff. Texas is actually not terrible when it comes to undocumented workers under the law.

Javier: It’s gotten better. Especially after that case that we took up. There was a case that came out of the Texas Supreme Court that said citizenship really shouldn’t have anything to do with it or your status shouldn’t have anything to do with your claims.

Justin: Because it shouldn’t [laugh]. You’re human, you’re human. You’re a worker, you’re a worker.

Javier: [laugh] People say you wouldn’t have made as many wages because you’re not working here legally and I told them when he got injured he was working [laugh]. He had the ability to earn wages whether he was here legally or not. He was obviously working.

Justin: That’s heartbreaking.

Javier: That is definitely a case that has impacted me a lot. The La Cantera case has been a success that I was very happy that I’ll never forget. Right now we’re currently about to fall a lawsuit where one of our clients has mental health issues and is walking down the street on Potranco and there is some evidence that he was stopped by the sheriff and there’s some issues with mental health issues. But at some point he gets picked up by the Customs and Border Patrol, gets processed through the– I think it’s Atascosa County. One of the agencies there. Gets deported to Nuevo Laredo, gets abducted by the cartel, gets tortured. The parents over here get the FBI involved. After a week they finally release him and he gets sent back. Thank God he’s lived but he’s got mental issues completely from that. With the whole time, we find out he had a Texas ID on him, with a Texas driver’s license. I mean a Texas ID with a Texas address on him, on his person.

Justin: They just ignored it?

Javier: I guess. It happened about a year and a half ago here in San Antonio.

Justin: Who’s the case against?

Javier: The US government. We filed our form 95 form, we’ve got to go through this administrative process. If they don’t answer, they don’t respond, they don’t try to get it settled, now we’re going to settle. We’re just going to file it. I want to know what they did. I want to what they what happened. Why did they ignore that Texas ID with a Texas– How can you get a texas ID if you’re not here legally? A valid Texas ID?

Justin: What do you think is next for your practice? Where do you think you are going?

Javier: You mentioned earlier you don’t know of, I guess, similar type firm that fight so much for worker rights in any other city. My goal is to be the worker rights firm in Texas. I would like to open up an office in Austin soon, maybe El Paso later, and who knows? Maybe Dallas and Houston in the far future. I would definitely-

Justin: What would you look for in Austin? I mean tons of white collar workers in Austin.

Javier: Have you been to Austin’s construction site?

Justin: I mean there is the construction, yes but.

Javier: I drive to Austin, there’s a crane, there’s a forklift, there’s construction in every other corner of that city and when you look in there, all those people are brown. It’s all immigrants, all Hispanics. That market.

Justin: There’s no blue collar work other than the construction which is boom and bust.

Javier: No, and that’s great. I’ve got good judges there. It’s a blue county, great people.

Justin: Some odd changes in the primaries that just happen there.

Javier: What do you [crosstalk]

Justin: There were some– The primaries were different this time around.

Javier: Sure, for sure.

Justin: I’m going to look at what the last things I had written down were. The last thing I want to ask you about is you’re an amateur or you’re dabbling in development, you’re dabbling in purchasing real estate. What parts of town do you like? What parts of town do you like to put your money in? Your office is not far from mine, let’s just talk. What do you think about this central San Antonio corridor? You and I both bought real estate here, I live over here. What do you think’s going to happen in the San Pedro corridor?

Javier: I think that definitely a booming area, the Woodlawn theater area is booming. I think Fredericksburg is going to boom. I’ve got some real estate there.

Justin: Why are you talking about Woodlawn. Is Woodlawn over where the punditry is?

Javier: Yes.

Justin: Tell us about that.

Javier: My father-in-law is a baker and he came here about two years ago and we offered to help him open up his [unintelligible 01:02:03].

Justin: That’s great.

Javier: It’s at 1844 Fredericksburg and I own that building actually. On Fredericksburg, I had the real estate and I told him, “Why don’t you put your bakery there?” And him and his brother came in and best Mexican pan dulce that you’re ever going to have. It’s amazing.

Justin: We had some delivered here two weeks ago from there.

Javier: It’s good, right?

Justin: It’s great. Yes.

Javier: It’s good, good stuff. I love that area, I love San Pedro, I’ve got a building in San Pedro, I’ve got 21410. I think real estate is a really, really good investment for anybody that comes into a little bit of money and wants to put it in something. Like my old mentor [unintelligible 01:02:42] told me, “You can put money in the stock market and somebody else is managing it, you have no idea what’s going to happen, things beyond your controlling.” He goes, “You buy a piece of real estate you can drive by it, you can insure it, you can paint it, you can–” Very rarely is real estate going to depreciate because it’s one of the safest investments you can make.

Justin: You can lease it out.

Javier: I mean think about it. If you get to a point where you’ve got enough real estate that you’re living off rent you don’t have to be here because you pay somebody to manage it and you can be living in San Miguel de Allende which is my dream and you’re just living off rents. It’s not like a business that you actively have to be involved in day to day week to week. You either get the monthly check or you don’t and if there’s a problem you’ve got a management company that takes care of it.

Justin: You seem to have a real passion towards mentoring people that came from backgrounds in which they don’t have a mentor opportunity, is there any way people could– I mean is there a plan for you to expand your ability to mentor or get involved in a mentorship angle in a larger way?

Javier: Sure. I’m actually working on Instagram video, type deal YouTube video that’s going to be Latinx Mentor. Now I’m targeting Latin Latino Latina kids just because that’s where I’m from but it’s not exclusive to Latino kids. It’s really underprivileged kids. Hopefully I can get that launched.

Justin: Does it have a title?

Javier: Latinex Mentor and Latinx, my daughter would get mad if I say Latin X, it’s Latinx Mentor and that’s going to be a YouTube channel and Instagram channel, probably Facebook channel as well. What I really I’m hoping to do is just do three to five-minute videos with very, very successful people that have come from underprivileged backgrounds and have kids. Hopefully have that that spark the way I did it when I saw Henry Cisneros,and because I’ve seen the power of a role model, because I’ve seen the power of seeing somebody that looks like you succeed. I don’t think it’s going to be wasted time, effort or money to put successful people where other young kids can see them and say, “Man, I can be like that person.”

Justin: I have another Mike here which I plan to do certain things with but whenever you get that up and running and I’d love for you to come on with somebody that you also think has a compelling story and let’s talk about a year into which I’ve learned and which of think I’ll provide for people and what you’ve heard back from people who were listening to it.

Javier: Yes, that would be awesome.

Justin: Javier, we try to keep these around an hour, you and I have gone long a little bit, but thank you for being on here. Honestly, you’ve got a compelling story personally but I think people are more defined by what they do day to day and you are living a compelling life day to day representing people that I’m sure those people would have had 10 law firms hanging up on them and I think listeners who aren’t lawyers don’t realize that’s not a case anybody else probably other than you would have taken the La Cantera for example and I think it’s fantastic what you do. I think you make our city better, you improve our community, you make people’s lives better and thank you for being here.

Javier: I appreciate you very much man. Thank you. I’m very proud of what you’re doing here with this podcast too man, I think it’s amazing and I’ve told you that many times.

Justin: Yes, I know. Thank you very much. I appreciate. Encouragement actually helps a lot for doing something different. That’s going to do it for this episode of The Alamo Hour, big thank you to Javier Espinoza, we’re going have this up, we’re going have more information from him when he has his Latinx and Latinax mentor program up, we’ll post that on our website as well. You can learn more about Javier and his law firm at–


Justin: All right. Join us on our next episode, our guest wishlist continues. Right now we’ve got Coach Pop who thinks probably never going to get off the list. Shea Serrano, Ron Nirenberg. If you all know them, tell them to come on the show. Ron, we talk about it, but you haven’t pulled the trigger yet, so come on. Thank you all for joining, we’ll see you on the next episode.


Justin: Thanks for joining us on this episode of The Alamo Hour. You are what make this city so great. We hope you join us next week. In the meantime subscribe to our podcast. Check us out on Facebook at or our website, Until next time. Viva San Antonio.

[01:07:02] [END OF AUDIO]

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