In this video, WPHK Partner Philip Hundl introduces Attorney Craig Estlinbaum and they discuss Craig’s unique background in the law, the judiciary and in real estate. Call or text 800-929-1725 for an appointment with Attorney Craig Estlinbaum. Appointments can be in-person, online or by phone.
Summary of an Introduction to Attorney Craig Estlinbaum
[Philip Hundl] – Hi, I’m Philip Hundl, a partner here at Wadler Perches Hundl and Kerlick. And today I’d like to introduce one of our newest lawyers and newest additions to the firm, Attorney Craig Estlinbaum.
I’d like to first start out by saying we’re excited to have Craig on board with us. We have multiple offices and our newest office is in Bay City. Craig is primarily practicing out of the Bay City office, but he goes to the rest of our offices, Wharton, El Campo, Fulshear, and Richmond, Texas.
I really want to get into talking about Craig and his background before he joined us at WPHK. So with that, Craig, please introduce us to you.
[Craig Estlinbaum] – I’m Craig Estlinbaum and I’m a Bay City native. I attended Bay City High School, and went to Texas A&M. At A&M, I got two degrees in economics and then spent some time in the real estate appraisal business. I was a commercial real estate appraiser in San Antonio in the ’80s into the early ’90s.
Then I went to law school in Houston at South Texas College of Law and practiced briefly in Houston. In 1997, I moved back home to Bay City. I became the district judge of the 130th in Bay City in Matagorda County, January 1, 2001. After serving for 20 years, I retired at the end of last December.
[Philip Hundl] – Most of us lawyers in the area know you as Judge Estlinbaum. So for us at the firm and other lawyers in the area, we are getting used to calling you Mr. Estlinbaum or Craig. So Craig tell us about the practice areas you want to focus on.
Areas of Law Practice
[Craig Estlinbaum] – Certainly real estate related work is an area of focus. I’m interested in doing anything that would involve real estate. But general business and commercial litigation, family law, wills and trusts, and estate planning are areas of my law practice. And I’m developing a mediation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practice.
I’m also interested in helping clients with governmental relations. That might involve working with government entities or working with private citizens in regulatory matters. That might include public policy or things of that nature.
[Philip Hundl] – As a district court judge, you dealt with the county a lot on budgets and administrative things. That probably happens a lot more in smaller counties than in larger counties where there are lots of district court judges. Is that fair to say?
[Craig Estlinbaum] – It is fair to say. In the smaller counties there are usually just two district judges. So most of those administrative duties fall on the district judges.
Attorney Craig Estlinbaum and Real Estate Appraisal
[Philip Hundl] – Now one thing about your background that I’m almost embarrassed to say. I practiced in front of you for many years in Matagorda County. I did not know about your real estate appraisal background.
At our firm, a lot of our law practice is land related. Valuations, partitions, condemnations, you name it. So tell me how that’s really going to help you.
[Craig Estlinbaum] – Before going to the judiciary I did some work involving real estate valuation. And as you are aware, I did some work where real estate valuation was an issue in the case. Certainly you’re dealing with expert appraisers.
Now, as an attorney who has been out of the business for some time, I don’t have a real good working knowledge of the sales activity or the market conditions that appraisers have who do this every day. But the methodology that they use really has not changed much over the years and understanding that language really helps me zero in on the valuation issues in all types of cases.
These are not just condemnation cases, but divorce cases, family law cases, probate and estate matters and just general business valuation. A commercial construction case might involve valuation related issues in the calculation of damages. I think it’s helpful to have a good understanding of valuation, not unlike a doctor or nurse who becomes a lawyer and works in a medical malpractice case has a little bit of advantage.
[Philip Hundl] – Right, you know a lot of the concepts very well with your background in the real estate appraising when we’re cross-examining experts, about valuations of land. Like you said, it might be in a divorce case or even probate litigation.
We’re dividing up the estate and there’s always the questions of characterization of assets and the valuation of assets. You really kind of have the inside track on how to cross examine experts. That’s one of the most difficult things as lawyers that we do.
[Craig Estlinbaum] – Yes. If you can read an appraisal report, you can understand how the appraiser used the methodologies that appraisers use to get to the results that they got. You really have a good chance to work on that in cross examination and to find a weak spot, if there is one there.
Attorney Craig Estlinbaum and Teaching the Law of Damages
[Philip Hundl] – Now, there is something that I was aware of. I want you to share with everyone out there about you being a law professor. You’ve been a law professor now part-time for a while. Right? So tell us about that.
[Craig Estlinbaum] – Well in 2004 I accepted appointment to be an adjunct professor or a part-time professor of law at South Texas College of Law and I’ve been teaching damages there. The damages course is the only course that I’ve taught there. I teach about once a semester, although I’ve been sitting out the pandemic and haven’t taught in a few semesters now.
Damages is a really good course to teach because it’s very hands-on, it’s very practical. We cover the damage-related aspects of everything from real estate to personal injury, to contracts. We also cover some statutory claims like deceptive trade practices, defamation and fraud. All of these topics are different but we’re only looking at the damages part of it.
I really enjoyed teaching this course because I got to stay more abreast of the damages issues in the cases that I had as a judge. This was probably more so than I would have otherwise, even as a judge. And when you’re writing an exam you really get to play around with the damages laws to think creatively about the way damages are presented or defended.
[Philip Hundl] – After this video, I’ve got some questions on some cases on damages.
[Craig Estlinbaum] – All right.
Attorney Craig Estlinbaum and Applying His Judicial Experience
[Philip Hundl] – So I need to run that by you. With your experience as a district court judge, you bring a lot to the table for our clients. Let’s visit about that. I know what you bring as a judge to the table, but what do you think you bring as a judge?
[Craig Estlinbaum] – Well, I think as a judge that the two things that you focus on a lot are the procedures and the evidence because a lot of times that’s where judges can really make a misstep. So as a judge, you really focus a lot on procedures and evidence.
Understanding a little bit about how docket management works is helpful. However having been on the other side of the bench, you get kind of that perspective concerning the decision points in a case.
A lot of times in a family case or a litigation case that really makes a difference. Judges have to know what’s the difference between, for example where judges have discretion, broader discretion. Where they have more narrow discretion is important too.
As a judge, you really pay attention to that. How much discretion does the judge have? And you tailor your arguments and you tailor your research around those points. So it’s just a different perspective and not one that a lot of people have as far as being a long-time judge going back into practice.
[Philip Hundl] – I think one thing that I’m looking forward to is your experience and knowledge on how to preserve error or to position a case for a possible appeal. So that’s something that goes into procedural issues.
Also as far as the standards of review, sometimes we don’t think about that as much. We had a hearing this morning, and that was one of the number one things that we pointed out. The judge was very keen to pick up on the issue as well. We need to be aware of his standard of review and how that affects the decision in this case.
[Craig Estlinbaum] – Judges are very in tuned to standards of review, burdens of proof, and when they shift and different things of that nature. Judges have to know those things to make to make their best decision.
[Philip Hundl] – And I remember having a case in front of you where one of your questions was very good question — who has the burden of proof. My inclination just to get the hearing over was well I’ll have the burden of proof.
Then I thought for a second and said, no, no, no. The other guy has the burden of proof and that put me in a much better position. So that was a good question that you asked, and that’s what all lawyers have to ask ourselves.
Craig, this has been great. We look forward to having you at the firm and look forward to having some more videos with you to discuss some of the topics that you’re covering in your law practice.
[Craig Estlinbaum] – Okay. Well, thanks. I’m happy to be here.
Schedule an Appointment
Call or text 800-929-1725 for an appointment with Attorney Craig Estlinbaum, or click the button below to send us an email requesting an appointment.