Alumni Spotlight – Leigha Simonton

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Leigha Simonton was sworn into office as United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas in December 2022. Her office is part of the U.S. Department of Justice and oversees federal criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits involving the federal government in North Texas.

Leigha is a graduate of RISD. After moving to the area from Louisiana, she attended Apollo Junior High and Berkner High School.

“Apollo was challenging. I learned so much the year I was there—both in terms of academic material and also in terms of how to study and be a good student. I went to tutoring and got to know a lot of my teachers, and they were so caring and helpful. I had the same experience at Berkner. I started making good grades and registering for more challenging courses. I also became involved in several afterschool activities like mock trial. By senior year I was taking several college-level AP classes, and that prepared me very well for college.”

She worked hard to get into the University of Texas at Austin and then worked even harder to graduate with highest honors in three and a half years. After a short stop working in Chicago public schools, she attended Yale Law School, graduating in 2001 and returning to North Texas. Leigha spent a few years working for a big law firm downtown before becoming an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the appellate division of the Northern District of Texas in 2005.

She continued to work hard, arguing more than 20 times before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and acting as sole counsel in almost 400 criminal appeals.

Now, Leigha oversees a staff of more than 200, including 100 lawyers and more than 100 support staff. She is the top-ranking federal law enforcement official in the district, which includes 100 counties, 96,000 miles, and a population of over 8 million people.

“I am so proud of what our office does—every day we work to keep our North Texas communities safe, help crime victims, and stop fraud against the government. It is amazing to get to do this in the place where I went to junior high and high school because I know this area well and have deep roots in one of the communities we serve.”

Leigha understands the value of public schools and the value of RISD in particular. Her husband, David Horan, is also a Berkner grad and also a Yale Law School grad. David has been a magistrate judge for the Northern District of Texas since 2012.

While they attended Berkner and Yale at the same time – David is two years older – they didn’t really meet until they were college students and Berkner counselors invited them separately to come back to the campus to speak to students about preparing for college.

“I knew his sister, Bridget, when we were in high school, but I didn’t meet David until he and I both visited Berkner during winter break in college. We met in the home economics room at Berkner before the counselors sent us to classrooms to talk with high school seniors about college. Long story short, now we’ve been married for 26 years, and we chose to move back to RISD and put our kids in RISD schools. There’s nowhere else we would have chosen for their education given how well RISD prepared us for success.”

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