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United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas

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Southern District of Texas
Fifth Circuit
Judges: 16
Posts: 19
Vacancies: 3
Active judges
Chief: Ricardo Hinojosa
Senior Judges
Magistrate Judges
Former Judges
(Numbers indicate % of seats vacant.)
More than 40%

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas is one of ninety-four United States district courts. The court's headquarters is in Houston and has six additional offices in the district. When decisions of the court are appealed, they are appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals based in downtown New Orleans at the John Minor Wisdom Federal Courthouse.

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas represents the United States in civil and criminal litigation in the court. The current district attorney is Kenneth Magidson.[1]

Vacancy warning level

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas's vacancy warning level is currently set at yellow. The court currently has three vacancies out of their nineteen posts.

Pending nominations

Rolando OlveraHarvard University, 1985University of Texas School of Law in Austin, 1989

Active judges

Article III judges

JudgeBornHomeAppointed byActiveChiefPreceededBachelorsLaw
Judge Micaela Alvarez1958Donna, TXW. Bush 12/13/2004-PresentDavid HittnerUniversity of Texas, 1980University of Texas Law, 1989
Judge Randy Crane1965Houston, TXW. Bush 03/19/2002 - PresentNew Seat|114 Stat. 2762University of Texas, B.A., 1985University of Texas Law, J.D., 1987
Judge Keith Ellison (Texas)1950New Orleans, LAClinton 07/07/1999 - PresentNorman BlackHarvard 1972Yale Law, 1976
Judge Vanessa Gilmore1956St. Albans, NYClinton 06/09/1994 - PresentNew Seat|104 Stat. 5089Hampton U., B.S., 1977University of Houston Law, J.D., 1981
Judge Lynn Hughes1941Houston, TXReagan 12/17/1985 - PresentRobert O'ConorUniversity of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, B.A., 1963University of Texas Law, J.D., 1966
Judge Andrew Hanen1953Elgin, ILW. Bush 5/10/2002-PresentFilemon VelaDenison University 1975Baylor University Law School, 1978
Judge Melinda Harmon1946Port Arthur, TXH.W. Bush 05/22/1989 - PresentJohn SingletonHarvard-Radcliffe College, A.B., 1969University of Texas Law, J.D., 1972
Chief Judge Ricardo Hinojosa1950Rio Grande City, TXReagan 05/05/1983 - Present2009 - PresentWoodrow SealsUniversity of Texas, Austin, 1972Harvard Law, 1975
Judge Sim Lake1944Chicago, ILReagan 08/12/1988 - PresentRoss SterlingTexas A&M U., B.A., 1966University of Texas Law, J.D., 1969
Judge Gray Miller1948Houston, TXW. Bush 05/26/2006 - PresentEwing Werlein, Jr.University of Houston, 1974University of Houston Law, 1978
Judge Lee Rosenthal1952Richmond, INH.W. Bush 05/13/1992 - PresentNew Seat|104 Stat. 5089University of Chicago, B.A., 1974University of Chicago Law, J.D., 1977
Judge George Hanks1964Breaux Bridge, LA 4/20/2015-PresentLouisiana State University, 1986Harvard University, 1989
Judge Al Bennett1965Ennis, TX Kenneth Hoyt (Texas)University of Huston, 1988University Of Texas School Of Law, 1991
Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos1966Port Lavaca, TX 08/08/2011-PresentHayden HeadSouthwest Texas State University, 1987University of Texas Law, 1991
Judge Marina Marmolejo1971Nuevo Laredo, MexicoObama 10/3/2011-PresentSamuel KentUniversity of the Incarnate Word, 1992St. Mary's University, 1996
Judge Diana Saldana1971TexasObama 2/9/2011-PresentGeorge P. KazenUniversity of Texas, 1994University of Texas, 1997

Active Article III judges by appointing political party

This graph displays the percent of active judges by the party of the appointing president and does not reflect how a judge may rule on specific cases or their own political preferences.


Senior judges

JudgeAppointed byActiveChiefSeniorBachelorsLaw
Senior Judge Janis JackClinton 03/11/1994 - 05/31/201106/01/2011 - PresentUniversity of Baltimore, B.A., 1974South Texas College Law, J.D., 1981
Senior Judge Nancy AtlasClinton 06/30/1995-6/20/20146/20/2014-PresentTufts University, 1971New York University Law, 1974
Senior Judge David Hittner 06/09/1986 - 11/10/200411/11/2004 - PresentNew York U., B.S., 1961New York U. Law, J.D., 1964
Senior Judge Kenneth Hoyt (Texas)Reagan 04/01/1988-3/2/20133/2/2013-PresentTexas Southern University, 1969Texas Southern University Law, 1972
Senior Judge John RaineyH.W. Bush 05/14/1990 - 06/10/201006/11/2010 - PresentSouthern Methodist U., B.B.A., 1967Southern Methodist U. Law, J.D., 1972
Senior Judge Hilda TagleReagan 05/17/1998 - 12/31/201212/31/2012 - PresentEast Texas State University, 1969University of Texas School of Law, 1977
Senior Judge Ewing WerleinH.W. Bush 04/13/1992 - 12/31/200501/01/2006 - PresentSouthern Methodist U., B.A., 1958University of Texas Law, LL.B., 1961
Senior Judge George KazenCarter 5/11/1979 - 5/31/20091996 - 20035/31/2009 - PresentUniversity of Texas, B.B.A., 1960University of Texas School of Law, J.D., 1961
Senior Judge Carl BueNixon 10/15/1970 - 09/01/198709/02/1987 - PresentNorthwestern U., Ph.B., 1951University of Texas Law, LL.B., 1954

Senior judges by appointing political party

This graph displays the percent of senior judges by the party of the appointing president and does not reflect how a judge may rule on specific cases or their own political preferences.


Magistrate judges

Magistrate Judge Janice Ellington11/13/1996 - Present
Magistrate Judge John Froeschner1991-PresentElmhurst CollegeUniversity of Missouri
Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson (Texas)1990 - Present
Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy
Magistrate Judge Peter Ormsby02/28/2005 - Present
Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos08/26/1996 - Present
Magistrate Judge Stephen W. Smith07/22/2004 - PresentVanderbilt U., B.A., 1973University of Virginia Law, J.D., 1977
Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy2/20/1990 - 2/19/2022Baylor U., B.S., 1977Baylor U. Law, J.D., 1979
Magistrate Judge Ronald G. MorganPennsylvania State U. Law, J.D., 1985
Magistrate Judge Guillermo Garcia
Magistrate Judge J. Scott Hacker
Magistrate Judge Diana Quiroga2011-PresentUCLA, 1998Harvard Law School, 2001
Magistrate Judge Jason B. Libby5/9/2013 - PresentTrinity University, B.A., 1992Southern Methodist University School of Law, J.D., 1985
Magistrate Judge Ignacio Torteya III1/27/2014 - 1/27/2022Baylor University, 1992Baylor Law, J.D., 1995


The Counties of the Southern District of Texas (click for larger map)

The Southern District of Texas has original jurisdiction over cases filed within its jurisdiction. These cases can include civil and criminal matters that fall under federal law.

There are seven court divisions, each covering the following counties:

  • The McAllen Division, covering Hidalgo and Starr counties.




Federal Court Caseload Statistics*
YearStarting case load:Cases filed:Total cases:Cases terminated:Remaining cases:Median time(Criminal)**:Median time(Civil)**:3 Year Civil cases#:Vacant posts:## Trials/Post
2013 11492152582675015240 115104.97.2367 (7.6%)27.925
2012 12029149622699115445 115464.77.6359 (7.5%)18.930
2011 12280171102939017406 119844.76.8324 (5.9%)42.229
2010 11614178352944917052 123974.66.3156 (3.1%)32.228
2009 10006159272593314221 117124.46.9152 (3.3%)721
2008 10232154802571214904 108084.56.2143 (3.4%)022
2007875714379231361397891584.96.6180 (4.1%)026
*All statistics are taken from the Official Federal Courts' Website and reflect the calendar year through September.    **Time in months from filing to completion.
#This statistic includes cases which have been appealed in higher courts.    ##This is the total number of months that any judicial posts had spent vacant that year.

Notable cases

For a searchable list of opinions, please see Justia.com-Dockets and Filings-Southern District of Texas.


On December 29, 1845, the State of Texas was organized as one judicial district. One judgeship was authorized for this U.S. district court, and being that it was not assigned to a judicial circuit, the district court was granted the same jurisdiction as the United States circuit courts, excluding appeals and writs of error, which are the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

Texas was divided into two judicial districts, known as the Eastern District of Texas and the Western District of Texas, on February 21, 1857. One judgeship was authorized for the court in each district. Circuit court jurisdiction of the district court in Texas was repealed on July 15, 1862, and a U.S. circuit court was established for the district and assigned over to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Texas was then assigned to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on July 23, 1866.

The Northern District of Texas was established on February 24, 1879, with one judgeship authorized to the district court. On February 9, 1898, a temporary judgeship was authorized to the Northern District. However, the statute provided that any vacancy in the existing judgeship would not be filled.

A few years later, on March 11, 1902, the Southern District of Texas was established and one judgeship was authorized to this district court.

The Southern District of Texas had eighteen judicial posts added over time for a total of nineteen current posts.[10]

Judicial posts

The following table highlights the development of judicial posts for the Southern District of Texas:[10]

Year Statute Total Seats
December 29, 1845 9 Stat. 1 1
March 11, 1902 32 Stat. 64 1
May 31, 1938 52 Stat. 584 2
August 3, 1949 63 Stat. 493 4 (1 post temporary)
February 10, 1954 68 Stat. 8 4
May 19, 1961 75 Stat. 80 5
March 18, 1966 80 Stat. 75 7
June 2, 1970 84 Stat. 294 8
October 20, 1978 92 Stat. 1629 13
December 1, 1990 104 Stat. 5089 18
December 21, 2000 114 Stat. 2762 19

Former chief judges

In order to qualify for the office of chief judge in one of the federal courts, a judge must have been in active service on the court for at least one year, be under the age of 65, and have not previously served as chief judge. A vacancy in the office of chief judge is filled by the judge highest in seniority among the group of qualified judges. The chief judge serves for a term of seven years or until age 70, whichever occurs first. The age restrictions are waived if no members of the court would otherwise be qualified for the position. Unlike the Chief Justice of the United States, a chief judge returns to active service after the expiration of his or her term and does not create a vacancy on the bench by the fact of his or her promotion.[11][12]

Former judges

For more information on judges of the Southern District of Texas, see former federal judges of the Southern District of Texas.

Federal courthouse

Seven separate courthouses serve the Southern District of Texas.

See also

External links