This article has been updated.
Longtime Judge Peter Sakai will step down from his seat at the end of October.
Sakai, who presides over the 225th District Court and the Bexar County Children’s Court, announced his resignation at a news conference on Wednesday. He submitted his letter of resignation to Gov. Greg Abbott in a letter on Monday.
“I have stood in four elections and for the last three terms, I have been unopposed,” Sakai wrote to Abbott. “When I first ran, I promised to protect children, empower families, and improve the system. Since I have fulfilled my promises, I am ready to embark on a new path of my life.”
Sakai’s resignation takes effect on Oct. 31.
Sakai, 66, has devoted much of his judicial career to the welfare of children and families. In 2019 he helped establish the Collaborative Commission on Domestic Violence, which released its first report in March. And eight of the 10 specialty courts that involve children were created with his involvement.
“My biggest and proudest accomplishment has been [serving] as the Administrative Judge of the Bexar County Children’s Courts,” he wrote in his Monday letter.
He pointed specifically to the success of the Early Childhood Court, also known as Baby Court. Since that specialty court started in 2015, the Bexar County judiciary has reunited thousands of children with their parents, something that Sakai said he was very proud of.
“Those are the reasons why I have lasted so long,” he said. “Those are the miracles that have happened in our community, and I will hope to continue to be involved in those programs.”
Sakai declined to take questions at the Tuesday news conference.
Sakai began his judicial career in 1995, when he was appointed to the Children’s Court as an associate judge. He ran for his current seat in 2006 and won, and is currently in his fourth term. Though he has received many accolades throughout his career, he was most recently recognized for his work on behalf of children with the national-level National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges Innovator of the Year Award in 2020 and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Luminary Award. In January, Sakai received another national nod with the Casey Excellence of Children Leadership Award.
Sakai was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley, graduating from McAllen High School. He earned his bachelor’s degree and his law degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He served as the chief of the juvenile section in the Bexar County district attorney’s office, left for private practice, and then entered the judiciary as a juvenile associate judge of the 289th District Court in 1989. He has continued his work on juvenile issues since then.
As he closed his resignation letter, Sakai also urged Abbott to “do whatever you can” for foster children amid a statewide foster care crisis. As the judge presiding over cases for foster children without placement, he said he ordered Child Protective Services to find safe places for them to sleep instead of CPS offices.
“I have no doubt you care about them and will address their issues,” he wrote to Abbott. “I pray for our foster children in care.”