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Slow Pace Of Trump Appointments Takes Toll On Federal Courts In Texas

Five months into the Trump administration, more than a dozen Texas seats on the federal bench remain vacant.


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There are currently 11 U.S. district judgeships in Texas waiting to be filled, along with two seats on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Several have been vacant for more than two years, in part because the Republican-led Senate held off approving nominees by former President Obama.

"Texas is a very large state. There's a lot of civil and criminal litigation in the federal courts here. And so to have judicial vacancies means, basically, that the other judges have to pick up the slack," says Hugh Brady, director of the University of Texas School of Law's Legislative Lawyering Clinic. The longer the seats remain empty, he says, the bigger the backlog of civil and criminal cases will grow.

The White House also has yet to name U.S. attorneys for the four districts of Texas. At present, two of the posts are held by acting U.S. attorneys, the other two by Obama-era survivors staying on until the Senate confirms their replacements.

"If you're a holdover or an acting U.S attorney," Brady says, "you're there as a caretaker, and you're not going to be announcing any bold initiatives or taking any drastic actions."

Houston sits in the Southern District of Texas, which prosecutes more cases against defendants than any other U.S. attorney's office in the country. An acting U.S. attorney has run the office since March.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media's business reporter, covering the oil...

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