Judge Michael “Mike” Schneider
315th Juvenile District Court
Judge Michael “Mike” Schneider, a fifth-generation Texan and lifelong Houstonian, has emerged as one of the most innovative leaders on juvenile justice issues in Texas.
He was elected to preside in the 315th Juvenile District Court in 2006. His victory came months after Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed him to the bench. Voters overwhelmingly returned Mike to the bench in 2010 and 2014.
Mike is a graduate of St. Thomas High School, Texas A&M University and the South Texas College of Law. He was also a visiting student at the University of Texas School of Law.
Mike is a tireless advocate for children, families and justice. Since taking the bench, he has been praised for his skillful and fair handling of complex high-profile cases, aggressive protection of taxpayer dollars and thoughtful leadership on thorny juvenile justice issues.
Mike has also fought to improve the chances of success for abused children in prolonged foster care situations and earned praise for his leadership in fighting human trafficking by creating a renowned court for young girls pulled into the dangerous world of the sex exploitation. Mike also started Harris County’s first juvenile drug court in 2010.
Before becoming a judge, Mike joined the staff of the Harris County Attorney’s Office in 1999. He served as chief civil prosecutor in the 313th Juvenile District Court and handled thousands of cases involving abused and neglected children. He was later named Deputy Division Chief of the office’s Children’s Protective Division and General Counsel to the world-renowned Children’s Assessment Center (CAC) – a public-private partnership that provides a wide range of legal and counseling services to sexually abused children. Mike also served as the head of the County Attorney’s CAC Partnership Team.
Before taking the bench, Mike tried hundreds of contested cases in Harris County’s juvenile and family courts. He supervised a staff of more than 35 with roughly 3,000 active child protective custody cases in local courts. His experience as both a trial attorney and an administrator has served him well since taking the bench.
Since taking the bench, Mike has presided over roughly 30,000 cases, including complex jury trials that have involved the varied disciplines of family law, criminal law and child custody. At the same time, Mike has worked hard to expand the pool of qualified attorneys assigned to the complex child custody cases heard in his court. In 2015, he received the Houston Bar Association’s President’s Award for creating a program to provide pro bono legal representation to indigent individuals seeking to have their juvenile records sealed.
He has streamlined procedures in the 315th so cases are handled smoothly and introduced the latest technology to make things run more efficiently. All improvements have been done with a constant eye on making sure justice is not compromised.
Mike has worked with leaders around the state and the nation to address overcrowding in juvenile facilities, modernize the approach to juvenile law and improve continuing education opportunities for lawyers who represent abused children, parents and juveniles accused of crimes.
Mike has also fought for taxpayers. As a member of the county’s Juvenile Probation Board, Mike has pushed for safe and money‐saving alternatives to juvenile incarceration, improvements to how juveniles are incarcerated and better courthouse security. Mike’s tireless efforts on the Juvenile Probation Board have resulted in millions of dollars in savings to taxpayers.
Mike has also fought to make sure the community is more invested in stopping youth crime by involving a diverse mix of family, law enforcement, community members, clergy and others in the effort to make sure juveniles placed on probation are successful and don’t end up back in court.
“Mike Schneider has brought innovation and clear thought to our juvenile justice system. His work will be even more apparent in future years as many young offenders turn away from a life of crime.” said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who leads the county Juvenile Probation Board.
The judge also started an innovative program to track down abused and neglected children placed in foster care who have become teen runaways, fallen “off the grid” and turned to life on the streets. Mike has successfully worked to track the runaways down and get them back into school.
At the same time, as state leaders grappled with problems in the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), Mike helped establish the position of a local TYC Review Officer and a toll-free hotline for families to report abuse in state facilities to local authorities. The entry into such a statewide issue was nothing new to the judge.
Mike had successfully fought and testified in Austin for state laws to make it easier to use the latest video technology for medical experts to testify in abuse cases. He also pushed for legislation to make it easier to serve legal notice on absentee fathers.
Mike is a member in good standing with the State Bar of Texas, the Houston Bar Association (HBA) and the Houston Bar Association’s Juvenile, Criminal, Family and Animal Law sections. Mike previously served as the Chair of the HBA’s Juvenile Law Section.
In 2010, he became a Sustaining Life Fellow of the charitable Texas Bar Foundation. Mike is also a Life Fellow of the Houston Bar Foundation – the charitable arm of the HBA. He has served on the HBA Pro Bono Award Committee since its creation. Judge Schneider is also a voting member of the nation’s oldest judicial membership organization – the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.
In 2013, Mike became a Senior Fellow of the nonpartisan American Leadership Forum and currently serves on the Harris County Juvenile Board, Public Defender Board and Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, as well as the Council of the Juvenile Section of the State Bar of Texas and as a Commissioner on the Texas Supreme Court’s Children’s Commission.
He has also served as a volunteer instructor for Child Advocates, Inc. and, when an attorney, he was a member of the Interdisciplinary Child Abuse Task Force at Memorial Hermann Hospital. In addition, Mike is a featured speaker at national conferences on child abuse and juvenile justice issues. He hosted the first local program to educate the legal community on the correlation between animal abuse and child abuse and established the first Animal Law Scholarship at the South Texas College of Law.
Mike also served as a Visiting Associate Justice on the First Court of Appeals in 2016. The same year he was appointed co-Chair of Houston’s Youth JusticeCouncil (My Brother’s Keeper).
In 2017, Mike was appointed Adjunct Associate Research Scholar at Columbia University in the city of New York.