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Judge Karahan is a native of Tampa, Florida. He is a 1978 honors graduate from Florida State University with a baccalaureate degree in Music Theory and a certificate in vocal performance. Before attending law school he interned for a year at the Hillsborough County State's Attorney's Office in Tampa, where he was introduced to the criminal justice system.

Judge Karahan moved to Texas in 1979 to study law at South Texas College of Law. He attended law classes at night and interned during the day at the Harris County District Attorney's Office in the intake and grand jury divisions. He graduated with a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree in 1983.


Judge Karahan has been licensed to practice before the Texas Supreme Court, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Judicial Circuit since 1983. Judge Karahan was first certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization as a Criminal Law Specialist in 1988 and has maintained specialization in Criminal Law since then.

Prosecution Experience

Judge Karahan served as an Assistant District Attorney for Harris County, Texas from 1983 to 1987. He was a member of the District Attorney's child abuse committee and specialized in child abuse prosecutions. In 1987, the U.S. Attorney General appointed him an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas. As a federal prosecutor he served in the Major Offender Division, Bank Fraud Task Force, and as a district coordinator for child exploitation investigations and prosecutions. As both a state and federal prosecutor Judge Karahan tried to jury verdict over 100 serious felony cases.

Private Practice Experience

Judge Karahan left government practice in 1991 to serve as litigation and compliance counsel for a Fortune 100 company based in Houston. He left corporate practice in 1995 to open the white-collar defense firm of Jay Karahan & Associates, where he specialized in state and federal criminal trials and appeals, mediations, and consulting in corporate compliance and investigations. As a defender he tried an additional 30 serious felony jury trials.

Law Faculty, Bar Association, and Speaking Experience

From 1987 to 1997, Judge Karahan taught criminal trial advocacy as an Adjunct Professor of Law at South Texas College of Law. He has served as Chair of the Administration of Justice Committee, and as Chair of the Criminal Law and Procedure Section, both of the Houston Bar Association. He has also served as vice-president and director of the Harris County Criminal Lawyer's Association. Judge Karahan currently serves on the Houston Bar Association Pro Bono Practice Committee, which identifies and recognizes solo attorneys and law firms who provide free, exceptional legal services to Houston’s economically disadvantaged citizens in need of legal counsel.

Judge Karahan speaks on criminal justice issues and concerns at CLE seminars, at colleges and universities locally and abroad, at Houston area public and private schools and in the community. Judge Karahan has also lectured and published articles on the use of expert witnesses concerning the reliability of eyewitness testimony in criminal cases, as well as law practice in the Harris County Criminal-Courts-at-Law.

Judicial Experience

Judge Karahan has presided over 500 jury and court trials and has managed the disposition of over 70,000 cases since his investiture on January 1, 2003. He has been re-elected three times since then. Judge Karahan's sentencing practices are designed to motivate and empower offenders to return to integrity with the community, to learn how to make better life choices, and to live productive, law-abiding lives. He spends additional time with 17-20 year old youthful offenders / probationers as well as repeat DWI offenders, who periodically meet with Judge Karahan for mentoring and compliance evaluations.

Judge Karahan also serves as a judge of one of five SOBER (Saving Ourselves By Education and Recovery) Courts for serious DWI repeat offenders. The SOBER Court program was established in January 2008 by the Harris County Criminal Courts-at-Law and the Texas Legislature to focus on intervention and rehabilitation of DWI repeat offenders with alcohol and substance abuse problems. These sentencing practices reduce probationer recidivism, increase public safety and increase successful probations in our courts.

Community Service

Judge Karahan is a member of St. Martin's Episcopal Church where he serves as a chalice bearer, lay reader and choir member. Judge Karahan also serves as visiting judge for moot court and mock trial competitions at South Texas College of Law. Judge Karahan welcomes interested middle and high school students, youth scout organizations, and civic organizations to observe court proceedings and learn more about our criminal justice system. Please call court coordinator Donna Ramos at 713 / 755-6208 to schedule a courtroom visit or a presentation by Judge Karahan at your school or civic event.

Court Directory

Judge Paula Goodhart, Court 1

Judge Bill Harmon, Court 2

Judge Natalie C. Fleming, Court 3

Judge John Clinton, Court 4

Judge Margaret Harris, Court 5

Judge Larry Standley, Court 6

Judge Pam Derbyshire, Court 7

Judge Jay Karahan, Court 8

Judge Analia Wilkerson, Court 9

Judge Sherman Ross, Court 10

Judge Diane Bull, Court 11

Judge Robin Brown, Court 12

Judge Don Smyth, Court 13

Judge Mike Fields, Court 14

Judge Jean Spradling, Court 15

Judge Darrell Jordan, Court 16

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