Cynthia Orr

Commission Member

Cynthia has attained international prominence representing citizens and entities in trial and appellate courts. She is the past-chair of the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section and a member of the ABA’s House of Delegates (NACDL). She is a member of the Texas Board of Law Examiners and also a member of the Board of Governors for the Bar Association of the Fifth Federal Circuit. She is the Vice President of the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law. She is also a Past President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and, Past President and Founder of the San Antonio Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. In the local bar, Cynthia is a chair of the San Antonio Bar Association’s Federal Courts Committee - Criminal Law Subcommittee.

On November 9, 2018, Ms. Orr obtained a jury acquittal of Vernon Farthing on bribery and money laundering charges in federal court. In a capital murder case, on September 17, 2014, the Court of Criminal Appeals granted Cynthia’s writ of habeas corpus, filed on behalf of Hannah Ruth Overton, reversing her conviction and remanding the case to the district court for a new trial. Hannah was convicted of failing to provide adequate or timely medical care to her four-year-old foster son (whom she and her husband were trying to adopt) and given a life sentence. Her case was dismissed on April 8, 2015.

On October 4, 2011, Cynthia was instrumental in gaining the release of an innocent man, Michael Morton, who was convicted in 1987 for the murder of his wife, in Williamson County, Texas. The Morton defense team includes New York Innocence Project lawyers – Barry Scheck and Nina Morrison; Houston lawyer – John W. Raley and San Antonio lawyers – Gerald H. Goldstein and Cynthia Orr. Based on this case, the criminal discovery law in Texas was reformed to relevance-based discovery. It is some of the most liberal criminal discovery in the country.

In 2011, Defendant, Adrian Estrada’s, death by lethal injection was overturned and his sentence reduced to life in State of Texas vs. Adrian Estrada, Cause No. 2006-CR-2079 in the 226th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, San Antonio, Texas. In 2017, Cynthia obtained a life sentence for Pedro Sosa on an Adkins claim after he had served 30 years on Death Row.

She has been successful before the U.S. Supreme Court with regards to money laundering in Moreno-Gonzalez vs. U.S., No.07-400 (2008).

Cynthia obtained the first confession of error by the State of Texas in a death penalty case, Miguel Angel Martinez vs. Gary Johnson, No. L-98-37 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Laredo Division, underlying case - State of Texas vs. Miguel Angel Martinez, Cause No. K-91-294-D3 in the 341st Judicial District Court, Webb County, Laredo, Texas.

She was counsel on the amicus brief in CNN vs. General Manuel Noriega before the United States Supreme Court where she successfully defended this unpopular defendant’s attorney-client privilege her first year out of law school.

Cynthia also represents victims in capital murder, assault, domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual assault of child cases.

She is listed in The Best Lawyers in America by Woodward White, the Best 100 Trial Lawyers in Texas by the National Trial Lawyers Association, is AV rated by Martindale Hubble, and has been named a fellow to the American Board of Criminal Lawyers. Cynthia has been published by the ABA, NACDL, TCDLA; in the Texas Bar Journal, Texas Lawyer and has updated the TCDLA’s Texas Annotated Codebooks (2014-2015).

She began her career clerking for Fifth Circuit Judge Emilio Garza when he was on the District Court bench in San Antonio, Texas. She is most active advocating criminal justice reforms. Cynthia is Board Certified in Criminal Law and Criminal Appellate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

A 1979 undergraduate of the University of Texas at Austin and 1988 graduate of St. Mary’s School of Law.