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Former Judge Finds Teaching at UHD Inspirational

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 / Celeste Zamora

Former Texas State Appellate Judge Sam Nuchia recently joined the faculty at the University of Houston-Downtown and will teach courses in criminal justice and public service leadership there this fall.

As the Distinguished Lecturer in Public Service in UHD’s College of Public Service, Nuchia will teach Criminal Court System, a 200-level course, and a graduate class, Leadership in Public Service. The latter is a special topics course that covers the dynamics of high-level management positions in federal government.

UHD administrators believe Nuchia’s background will give UHD students a definite advantage.

“It is exceptional for any criminal justice instructor to have the depth of experience that Judge Nuchia brings to the classroom,” said Clete Snell, chair of UHD’s criminal justice department. “Nuchia has tremendous experience in law enforcement, criminal law, the criminal court system and administration.”

Nuchia said his first semester at UHD was rewarding.

“I find the students to be inspirational,” said Nuchia, who taught courses in the spring as an adjunct professor. “I wanted to teach at UHD to have the opportunity to work with young people. Education is essential for modern law enforcement. It improves performance and helps individuals to move up.”

Snell said that the department appreciates Nuchia’s commitment to higher education.

“He shares books and student experiences with other faculty in the department like a veteran teacher,” said Snell. “He takes classroom preparation very seriously. He meets students often before and after classes. His commitment to student success in the classroom makes him an excellent fit as an instructor here.”

Beth Pelz, dean of the College of Public Service, said Nuchia’s appointment creates a new tradition at UHD. “The Distinguished Lecturer in Public Service is UHD’s first Distinguished Lecturer faculty position,” she said. “We appreciate that Judge Nuchia considered the quality of our Criminal Justice program to be such that he was interested in becoming part of our faculty. We believe his experiences as Chief of the Houston Police Department and a Justice of the First Court of Appeals of Texas adds immeasurable quality to the strength of our existing program.”

Nuchia’s 32 years of public service began in 1967 as a patrol officer in the Houston Police Department. He rose in the ranks to deputy chief while attending college, first at Abilene Christian College and then at South Texas College of Law.

Nuchia left HPD to become an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Texas. As a prosecutor, he served on the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force, the Public Corruption Division, and the Organized Crime Strike Force. In his five years of service, he successfully prosecuted and won the 30 cases he tried.

Nuchia returned to HPD from 1992-96 as chief of police under Mayor Bob Lanier. During his tenure as chief, crime decreased significantly, according to the Citywide Uniform Crime Statistics 1985-2004 report.

In 1996, he became a Justice on the First Court of Appeals and was re-elected in 2002. He served for 12 years. The Houston Bar Association Appellate Practice Section recently honored Nuchia at its annual judicial reception for his years of service as a state appellate judge.

UHD’s Department of Criminal Justice is the only program in the greater Houston area that offers an organized educational program leading to a bachelor’s of science and master’s of science in criminal justice. The programs combine applied aspects of the field with the theoretical components necessary for the development of effective public policy for community safety and justice.

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