Carter graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Texas at Austin before moving on to attend Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Law School, where she prepared for a trial practice by successfully competing as a member of the Ames Moot Court Competition.
Carter began her legal career as a litigator at the one of the state’s largest and most reputable law firms, Vinson & Elkins. Carter was part of a team of trial lawyers who handled multi-million-dollar cases in commercial litigation, securities, class action, and products liability.
Carter left Vinson & Elkins to become a prosecutor at the Collin County District Attorney’s Office. She handled cases ranging from theft and DWI cases to assault, prostitution, and drug cases. Carter tried approximately seventy cases to a verdict, gaining extensive trial experience and the satisfaction of putting criminals behind bars as well as gaining satisfaction for victims.
In 2008, Carter left the District Attorney’s Office to go to private practice at Sayles Werbner, a Dallas-based law firm that specializes in white-collar criminal defense, business litigation, intellectual property, and securities and financial fraud litigation. The reputation she earned as an aggressive and skillful litigator earned her an invitation to join the exclusive Patrick Higginbotham American Inn of Court, where she worked to improve the ethics and professionalism of the bar and bench.
In 2008, Governor Rick Perry appointed Carter to a six-year term with the Texas State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), where she replaced Cecilia Abbott, now the First Lady of Texas, who had served on SBEC from 2001 to 2008. Carter helped to oversee all aspects of the preparation, certification, and standards of conduct of public school educators.
In 2010, Carter announced her run against Democrat Carol Kent in House District 102, the North Dallas legislative district where she was born. Seeking to win the marginally Republican seat back for the GOP in a redistricting year, Carter successfully ran the most expensive state house race in the history of Texas, becoming the first and only black female Republican elected to the Texas Legislature in the state’s then-165-year history.
In 2011, Carter left Sayles Werbner to start and manage her own law firm, Stefani Carter & Associates, LLC, where she served as lead counsel in litigation matters as well as provided legal advice to clients such as Burlington Northern on issues as diverse as governmental relations and regulatory compliance. Carter later served Of Counsel for Pryor & Bruce, where she provided legal advice and research on various diverse litigation matters. Currently, Carter is Senior Counsel at Estes Thorne & Carr, a Dallas-based, women-owned law firm specializing in business litigation.
In her first term in the Texas House, in 2011, Carter was selected to serve on the Criminal Jurisprudence and the Energy Resources committees. Carter worked extensively to improve the criminal jurisprudence in this state. For instance, Carter authored and passed bills adding murder to the list of offenses for which deferred adjudication could no longer be used, with limited exceptions (H.B. 215, 82nd Legislature) and requiring each law enforcement agency to create a written policy on handling the agency’s lineup identification procedures (H.B. 371, 82nd Legislature).
Based upon her prosecutorial background and devotion to criminal jurisprudence as well as victims’ rights, Governor Perry appointed Carter in April 2011 to serve on the Crime Victims’ Institute Advisory Council, which studied the impact of crime on victims and survivors, their families, and society at large and evaluated the effectiveness of criminal justice and juvenile justice policies, programs, and services related to crime victims and their family members. The advisory council consisted of then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and 16 appointed persons with knowledge of crime and law, including one member from the Texas House of Representatives.
Upon the conclusion of the 82nd Legislative Session, Carter was recognized by several outlets for her legislative performance. Texans for Fiscal Responsibility named Carter one of only 28 House Members to receive its 2011 Taxpayer Champion award, its top accolade, awarded to those who earned an exemplary rating, or “A” rating, for exhibiting high fiscal austerity and for promoting free enterprise issues during the 82nd Legislative Session. In addition, she received an Honorable Mention by Capitol Inside’s “Best of the Legislature” list for being one of the top-performing freshman representatives during the 82nd Legislature.
In 2012, Carter was re-elected for a second term with 57 percent of the vote in the General Election. During the 83rd Legislature, in 2013, Carter was selected to serve on the Appropriations Committee and the House Select Committee on Criminal Procedure Reform. On the Appropriations Committee, Carter assisted in the development of the 2014-15 budget of $95 billion of state spending and was the legislator responsible for developing and overseeing the more than $200 million of 2014-15 state spending for the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, a state government agency providing various health services to more than 500,000 Texans annually. Carter also served as Vice-Chair of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, a committee she served on for two legislative sessions.
In light of the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton, Carter authored and passed legislation requiring anyone in the State of Texas who prosecutes a criminal case other than a Class C misdemeanor, to complete a class on disclosing exculpatory and mitigation evidence in a criminal case (H.B. 1847, 83rd Legislature). Carter also coauthored and helped to pass bills increasing penalties on human trafficking of minors and taking probation off the table (H.B. 8, 83rd Legislature) as well as instituting life without parole for convictions for a sexually violent offense if the offender had a previous conviction for a sexually violent offense (H.B. 1302, 83rd Legislature). On behalf of then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office, Carter also carried and passed a bill that provided clarity on how the proceeds of criminal forfeited assets can be used such that funds could no longer be used in questionable ways (S.B. 878, 83rd Legislature).
At the end of the 83rd Legislative Session, Carter received numerous awards for her legislative performance from such organizations as Texas District and County Attorneys Association, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, and Texas Association of Business. The Texas Municipal Police Association, the voice of Texas law enforcement, also awarded Carter with the “Defender of the Year” award.
In 2013, Carter was nominated to serve as a Director of Ashford Hospitality Prime, Inc. (NYSE: AHP), a publicly traded real estate investment trust in the hotel and hospitality industry with total assets of $1.3 billion in continuing operations. Carter was elected to the Board of Directors in May 2014 and since re-elected twice. Carter is currently Chairman of the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee and a member of the Audit Committee.
Notably, during the 2012 presidential election, Carter also served as a media surrogate for the Romney/Ryan campaign. Romney for President appointed Carter to the national Black Leadership Council. Carter then attended the Republican National Convention and was invited to the Democratic National Convention on behalf of the campaign. The Black Leadership Council helped facilitate dialogue between Mitt Romney, his campaign, and respected leaders who provide unique expertise, experience and knowledge on a range of issues impacting black American communities. Through her role as a Romney media surrogate, Carter wrote numerous national op-eds and participated in several national radio shows, including the Armstrong Williams show. Carter has been recognized for her achievements in numerous media outlets. She has appeared in several national news interviews, including TV One’s “Washington Watch” with Roland Martin and Huffington Post Live with Abby Huntsman. In 2014, Carter was asked to give a national speech at the Conservative Political Action Convention (CPAC), along with Texas Governor Rick Perry and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. She has been recognized in numerous articles in The Dallas Morning News, including a front-page business section article, a cover story in The Dallas Morning News tabloid “Quick,” two 2008 FOX broadcasts, a 2005 CNN broadcast, numerous national news articles, and articles in several local newspapers. Carter has been quoted in The New York Times and has written for The Texas Tribune in an op-ed asking minorities to vote for Republican Greg Abbott for Governor against Democrat Wendy Davis.
In November 29, 2016, Carter was named as a Transition Landing Team member for the newly elected President Donald Trump in the Department of Justice.
Black Entertainment Television (BET) has named Carter one of twenty national “Top African-American Republicans,” and a Who’s Who publication named her one of the “most influential” blacks in Dallas.
Carter has also been an annual speaker, six times, at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in a Women and Public Policy Program that provides training and support to a select group of Harvard graduate students who are women interested in the electoral process.
Carter enjoys spending time with her mother and father and her five siblings, who reside in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.