Yolanda Morales Romero: Dialogue with an Adventist judge in Mexico City

Yolanda Morales Romero was born in the port city of Veracruz, in the state of Veracruz, Mexico. Her parents were Lucio Morales León and Hilda Romero de Morales. Her father was employed in the port facilities, and her mother devoted her time to homemaking and especially to raising her children. She became acquainted with the gospel message when Yolanda was 10 years old. They first attended the Díaz Aragón Adventist Church as visitors and then as members.

In addition to being a certified pre-school teacher, Atty. Morales Romero earned a law degree from the University of Veracruz at the Xalapa campus. She has completed several post-graduate courses and is completing a master’s degree in international law. At present, she lives in Mexico City, where she is a judge in civil law.

How long have you been interested in legal matters? When did you know you were going to be a lawyer?

I was born to be a lawyer! Since early childhood I said I was going to be a lawyer, which alarmed my mother quite a bit. She thought it wasn’t an honorable profession chosen by good people. So she influenced me to become a teacher, perhaps because of unfulfilled dreams of her own. When I graduated from training to be a kindergarten teacher, I handed her my diploma and went on to study law.

Do you have any other degree or specialized training?

I’ve taken a number of courses, including a master’s degree in international law. I’m currently preparing my thesis, which is a project for Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Are these courses related to any particular area?

Yes, I’ve specialized in civil law, which has to do with banking, mortgages, deeds, etc.

Tell us about your professional career.

Upon completing my law studies, I received an award for being the top student in my class. So in 1978, along with other valedictorians from around the country, I visited the president of Mexico. For three days, we were treated by the president with tours and meals and were each given a scholarship to study anywhere in the world.

Having good grades in my law studies opened many doors for me. When I returned to my home state, the Supreme Court of Veracruz offered me a job as assistant judge in the city of Perote. I spent one year there. Then I took my professional examination and proposed the creation of family courts in the state system, since there were none at the time. My proposal was accepted, and I was given an honorable mention, which opened more doors for me. That honorable mention accompanied my request to the state Supreme Court for a position, and my request was granted. I was sent to the village of Acayucan as recording secretary. Six months later, I was named judge of ordinary jurisdiction. Then I served in the cities of Córdoba, Orizaba, and Coatepec, all in my native state of Veracruz.

At this point I decided I wanted to make use of my scholarship to study international law in Bulgaria. However, when I came to Mexico City to get information to apply, I began to feel very ill. I went to see a doctor, and he sent me home to Veracruz because I had developed a bad case of pneumonia. So I had to cancel my plans to travel to Europe.

What did you do then?

I decided to try my luck in the capital. I got in touch with people from my home state of Veracruz here in Mexico City. They helped me channel my request, and I was assigned a judgeship in the circuit court. I spent two years there in charge of research and accounting for the magistrate. Then the magistrate died, and his replacement brought with him his own team. Again I contacted some connections, and the Federal District Court opened its doors to me. I took the examination for the position of judge, and thank God I passed. Then I took the specialized examination to become a judge in civil law and won the place I have held for the last three years. My objective for the near future is to become a magistrate.

How did you come to know Jesus?

I became acquainted with the Adventist Church at age 10 and was baptized at age 15, largely due to pressure from my mother. At that time my baptism wasn’t very meaningful to me, but in spite of it all, the Lord became a powerful force in my life.

For example, I felt God was with me when I went to study law at Xalapa. About that time I heard a sermon in which the pastor dwelt on Jacob’s promise to be faithful to God if God would accompany him on his journey. I made that promise my own, that if God would bless me in my studies, I would not go to classes on Sabbath and would attend church. And so it was. Of course, I had problems with examinations scheduled for Friday night. Several teachers made me cry, but I remained faithful.

Have you felt God’s presence in your life?

Yes, especially during some dramatic experiences. When I came down with pneumonia in Mexico City, I felt the Lord was very close to me in a special way. But it was perhaps the failure of my marriage that brought me closest to God. I married a man who did not share my faith. I was very happy with him for a time.When in his right mind, he was a marvelous man; but when he drank, he was a monster. In time, the situation became intolerable, and I decided to part company with him. My first concern then was to look for a job. I asked the Lord to help me, and two days later I was appointed recording secretary in a circuit court. God had answered my prayer.

Being a Christian in the judicial system isn’t easy. What can you tell young people who want to study law and be faithful to God?

I have spoken to the members of my home church and with teachers from the University at Montemorelos recommending that our institutions of higher learning offer studies leading to degrees in law.

Why?

A judge determines life’s direction for many people. I exercise a function that many consider almost divine.

Please explain.

It’s my job to judge men and women. That’s a great responsibility.

Do you feel a connection with God in your work?

Of course. I ask God every day to guide me. I feel that I’m His representative. As judges, we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. Life, liberty, money, position in life—are all dependent on the decisions that we as judges make. For example, the cases of corruption that occur, and they do occur, are very serious, and we are called upon to bring justice, regardless of the people involved. That’s very important.

For those reasons I believe our Adventist universities should offer legal training. There should be judges in whom we can trust and have confidence that their decisions will be guided by God.

In the courts where I have served, we read a morning devotional. I ask for God’s blessing and we get to work. How wonderful it would be if we had an Adventist judge in every court! Unfortunately, in the mind of some people the term “lawyer” is synonymous with “corrupt person.” But that’s not true. One time a medical doctor called me “gangster lawyer.” I answered that if he had any basis for his accusation or any specific charge against me that he should provide the evidence and denounce me.

You’ve had a successful career as a student and a professional and have overcome in emotional crises in your life. What do you have to say to Adventist university students pursuing a law degree?

If you want to be a lawyer, go for it! Put your hand in God’s so your decisions will be just and in harmony with the principles of law. In the corrupt world in which we live, we have to swim against the current, but the rewards are deeply satisfying. If we persist in thinking that becoming a lawyer is to be lost, the world will lose the blessings that God wants to bestow through us.

What habits do you consider important for professionals?

The habit of continuing study and in-service education. Law and medicine, among other fields, are constantly changing and we need to update our skills all the time.

Do you have any further thoughts for the readers of Dialogue?

In everything you do, stay close to God, and He will richly bless you.

Interview by César Maya Montes. César Maya Montes is editor-in-chief of GEMA EDITORES, the Seventh-day Adventist publishing house in Mexico. He is presently completing a doctoral degree in human behavior. His email: direccion@enfoqueonline.com.