Texas Governor Rick Perry has appointed Julia Rathgeber, formerly deputy chief of staff to Lietenant Governor David Dewhurst, as new Texas Insurance Commissioner. Commissioner Rathgeber replaces Eleanor Kitzman who failed to win confirmation from the Texas Senate. In addition to her work for the Lieutenant Governor, she has worked at the state’s General Land Office, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission and at that agency’s successor, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Earlier in her career, Ms. Rathgeber worked for six years as Director of the Senate Research Center under Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock in January, 1992. The background of Ms. Rathgeber, a 1990 graduate of the University of Texas Law School, in insurance law and regulation is unclear at this point.
Let’s hope Ms. Rathgeber’s lengthy background in Texas politics makes her a quick study. And let’s hope she receives lots of fair minded assistance. And let’s hope she supports the suggestion of her former boss, Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst, that windstorm insurance reform be added to the agenda for a legislative special session. She takes charge, among many other responsibilities, of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, which oversees the largest insurer of property on the Texas coast and whose financial problems might explode if a significant tropical cyclone hits the Texas coast before significant reform occurs.
Also, we did a little web background check on Ms. Rathgeber, who now becomes a bit more of a public figure. She has been involved in Meals on Wheels, the Seton Hospital, and the Shelter for Battered Women and lists various lobbying groups as “Likes” on her Facebook page. One curious fact emerges: although Ms. Rathgeber passed the Texas bar in 1990 upon her graduation from law school, and although no disciplinary violations are reported against her, she is currently suspended from the practice of law in Texas. [NOTE ADDENDUM BELOW DATED May 30, 2013] Possible reasons for this suspension are listed here. It could well be as innocent as failing to pay membership dues or failing to complete Continuing Legal Education requirements. And, an active license may not have been necessary in her recent jobs as she likely was not representing clients.
ADDENDUM: May 30, 2013. The Texas bar has changed the status on Ms. Rathgeber. When I wrote what I did, it is quite true that she was listed as suspended. But, Ms. Rathgeber is no longer listed as “suspended from the practice of law” but is now listed as “Inactive.” I do not know whether the earlier designation represented an error by the State Bar or whether Ms. Rathgeber took appropriate steps to get an earlier suspension removed. There is absolutely nothing wrong having an “inactive” law license assuming one is not representing clients.