United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas
- 1 Vacancy warning level
- 2 Active judges
- 3 Jurisdiction
- 4 Caseloads
- 5 Notable cases
- 6 History
- 7 Federal courthouse
- 8 See also
- 9 External links
- 10 References
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.
Vacancy warning level
|Rolando Olvera||Harvard University, 1985||University of Texas School of Law in Austin, 1989|
Article III judges
|Judge Micaela Alvarez||1958||Donna, TX||W. Bush||12/13/2004-Present||David Hittner||University of Texas, 1980||University of Texas Law, 1989|
|Judge Randy Crane||1965||Houston, TX||W. Bush||03/19/2002 - Present||New Seat|114 Stat. 2762||University of Texas, B.A., 1985||University of Texas Law, J.D., 1987|
|Judge Keith Ellison (Texas)||1950||New Orleans, LA||Clinton||07/07/1999 - Present||Norman Black||Harvard 1972||Yale Law, 1976|
|Judge Vanessa Gilmore||1956||St. Albans, NY||Clinton||06/09/1994 - Present||New Seat|104 Stat. 5089||Hampton U., B.S., 1977||University of Houston Law, J.D., 1981|
|Judge Lynn Hughes||1941||Houston, TX||Reagan||12/17/1985 - Present||Robert O'Conor||University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, B.A., 1963||University of Texas Law, J.D., 1966|
|Judge Andrew Hanen||1953||Elgin, IL||W. Bush||5/10/2002-Present||Filemon Vela||Denison University 1975||Baylor University Law School, 1978|
|Judge Melinda Harmon||1946||Port Arthur, TX||H.W. Bush||05/22/1989 - Present||John Singleton||Harvard-Radcliffe College, A.B., 1969||University of Texas Law, J.D., 1972|
|Chief Judge Ricardo Hinojosa||1950||Rio Grande City, TX||Reagan||05/05/1983 - Present||2009 - Present||Woodrow Seals||University of Texas, Austin, 1972||Harvard Law, 1975|
|Judge Sim Lake||1944||Chicago, IL||Reagan||08/12/1988 - Present||Ross Sterling||Texas A&M U., B.A., 1966||University of Texas Law, J.D., 1969|
|Judge Gray Miller||1948||Houston, TX||W. Bush||05/26/2006 - Present||Ewing Werlein, Jr.||University of Houston, 1974||University of Houston Law, 1978|
|Judge Lee Rosenthal||1952||Richmond, IN||H.W. Bush||05/13/1992 - Present||New Seat|104 Stat. 5089||University of Chicago, B.A., 1974||University of Chicago Law, J.D., 1977|
|Judge George Hanks||1964||Breaux Bridge, LA||4/20/2015-Present||Louisiana State University, 1986||Harvard University, 1989|
|Judge Al Bennett||1965||Ennis, TX||Kenneth Hoyt (Texas)||University of Huston, 1988||University Of Texas School Of Law, 1991|
|Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos||1966||Port Lavaca, TX||08/08/2011-Present||Hayden Head||Southwest Texas State University, 1987||University of Texas Law, 1991|
|Judge Marina Marmolejo||1971||Nuevo Laredo, Mexico||Obama||10/3/2011-Present||Samuel Kent||University of the Incarnate Word, 1992||St. Mary's University, 1996|
|Judge Diana Saldana||1971||Texas||Obama||2/9/2011-Present||George P. Kazen||University of Texas, 1994||University 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 Judge Janis Jack||Clinton||03/11/1994 - 05/31/2011||06/01/2011 - Present||University of Baltimore, B.A., 1974||South Texas College Law, J.D., 1981|
|Senior Judge Nancy Atlas||Clinton||06/30/1995-6/20/2014||6/20/2014-Present||Tufts University, 1971||New York University Law, 1974|
|Senior Judge David Hittner||06/09/1986 - 11/10/2004||11/11/2004 - Present||New York U., B.S., 1961||New York U. Law, J.D., 1964|
|Senior Judge Kenneth Hoyt (Texas)||Reagan||04/01/1988-3/2/2013||3/2/2013-Present||Texas Southern University, 1969||Texas Southern University Law, 1972|
|Senior Judge John Rainey||H.W. Bush||05/14/1990 - 06/10/2010||06/11/2010 - Present||Southern Methodist U., B.B.A., 1967||Southern Methodist U. Law, J.D., 1972|
|Senior Judge Hilda Tagle||Reagan||05/17/1998 - 12/31/2012||12/31/2012 - Present||East Texas State University, 1969||University of Texas School of Law, 1977|
|Senior Judge Ewing Werlein||H.W. Bush||04/13/1992 - 12/31/2005||01/01/2006 - Present||Southern Methodist U., B.A., 1958||University of Texas Law, LL.B., 1961|
|Senior Judge George Kazen||Carter||5/11/1979 - 5/31/2009||1996 - 2003||5/31/2009 - Present||University of Texas, B.B.A., 1960||University of Texas School of Law, J.D., 1961|
|Senior Judge Carl Bue||Nixon||10/15/1970 - 09/01/1987||09/02/1987 - Present||Northwestern U., Ph.B., 1951||University 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 Judge Janice Ellington||11/13/1996 - Present|
|Magistrate Judge John Froeschner||1991-Present||Elmhurst College||University of Missouri|
|Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson (Texas)||1990 - Present|
|Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy|
|Magistrate Judge Peter Ormsby||02/28/2005 - Present|
|Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos||08/26/1996 - Present|
|Magistrate Judge Stephen W. Smith||07/22/2004 - Present||Vanderbilt U., B.A., 1973||University of Virginia Law, J.D., 1977|
|Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy||2/20/1990 - 2/19/2022||Baylor U., B.S., 1977||Baylor U. Law, J.D., 1979|
|Magistrate Judge Ronald G. Morgan||Pennsylvania State U. Law, J.D., 1985|
|Magistrate Judge Guillermo Garcia|
|Magistrate Judge J. Scott Hacker|
|Magistrate Judge Diana Quiroga||2011-Present||UCLA, 1998||Harvard Law School, 2001|
|Magistrate Judge Jason B. Libby||5/9/2013 - Present||Trinity University, B.A., 1992||Southern Methodist University School of Law, J.D., 1985|
|Magistrate Judge Ignacio Torteya III||1/27/2014 - 1/27/2022||Baylor University, 1992||Baylor Law, J.D., 1995|
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 Corpus Christi Division, covering Aransas, Bee, Brooks, Duval, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Live Oak, Nueces, and San Patricio counties.
- The Houston Division covers Austin, Brazos, Colorado, Fayette, Fort Bend, Grimes, Harris, Madison, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Walker, Waller, and Wharton counties.
- The Victoria Division, covering Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson, Lavaca, Refugio, and Victoria counties.
|Federal Court Caseload Statistics*|
|Year||Starting case load:||Cases filed:||Total cases:||Cases terminated:||Remaining cases:||Median time(Criminal)**:||Median time(Civil)**:||3 Year Civil cases#:||Vacant posts:##||Trials/Post|
|*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.
For a searchable list of opinions, please see Justia.com-Dockets and Filings-Southern District of Texas.
| • Emergency "Park It Now" motion denied for recalled General Motors cars (2014)|
Judge(s):Nelva Gonzales Ramos (Silvas, et al v. General Motors, LLC, 2:14-cv-00089)
|Click for summary→|
|On April 17, 2014, Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos denied an emergency motion for injunctive relief filed by Charles and Grace Silvas -- one which colloquially came to be called the "Park It Now" motion -- that sought the court to order General Motors (GM) to tell customers to stop driving its recalled vehicles until repairs could be made.
Judge Ramos denied the motion, noting that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had jurisdiction over the remedy being sought, writing, "The court is of the opinion that N.H.T.S.A. is far better equipped than this court to address the broad and complex issues of automotive safety and the regulation of automotive companies in connection with a nationwide recall."
| • Third party complaint for alleged funding of terrorism dismissed (2014)|
Judge(s):Gray Miller (Odelia Abecassis, et al v. Wyatt, Jr., et al, 4:09-cv-03884)
|Click for summary→|
|On February 12, 2014, Judge Gray Miller granted thirty-three separate motions to dismiss filed by third party defendants, ruling that they were not entitled to relief pursuant to the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), the law under which they filed suit.
As Judge Miller noted in his opinion, the ATA does not permit defendants to demand that third parties assist in payment for damages. Miller wrote that "[t]here is no dispute that the ATA does not contain an express right of action for contribution," further noting that Wyatt and Chalmers did not "state a legally cognizable claim" in their complaint. He dismissed the third party complaint with prejudice, denying the oilmen the opportunity to amend their complaint, as doing so would be "futile."
| • Partial summary judgment in Bumbo products liability case (2013)|
Judge(s):Gregg Costa (Blythe, et al v. Bumbo International Trust f/k/a Jonibach Management Trust, et al, 6:12-cv-00036)
|Click for summary→|
|On November 26, 2013, Judge Gregg Costa granted partial summary judgment to Bumbo International in a products liability case where parents of an infant alleged that their baby fractured her skull after falling from an elevated surface while seated in a Bumbo Baby Seat. The Baby Seat had a warning that clearly stated it should "never [be used] on any elevated surface." The parents admitted they did not read any of the warnings present, but if they had, they would have obeyed them. Despite these facts, the Blythes still believed Bumbo International failed to provide adequate warnings about the Baby Seat's potential dangers, and sued under a marketing defect claim. In his decision, Judge Costa rejected that theory of the case, ruling that "there [was] no basis for a reasonable jury to decide that this unambiguous and conspicuous warning was insufficient." A jury later returned a verdict in the companies' favor on the remaining causes of action.|
| • Suit against BP by investors following Gulf of Mexico spill (2012)|
Judge(s):Keith Ellison (In re BP p.l.c. Securities Litigation, Civil Action No. 4:10-md-2185)
|Click for summary→|
|On February 13, 2012, Judge Keith P. Ellison of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled that BP PLC should face claims of fraud by investors who claim the company lied about its capabilities to respond to accidents before and after the 2010 major spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
In his ruling, Judge Ellison rejected investor claims that BP lied about its commitment to safety, but found the company possibly exaggerated its ability to respond to a large-scale spill. His ruling allowed for the suit to move forward for holders of BP American depository receipts, but denied ordinary stock holders due to a lack of jurisdiction in his court. This suit was brought by five Ohio pension plans and one New York State pension plan.According to the investors who brought suit, BP hid the actual size of the accident to limit the damage to its stock price. They further claimed that "BP publicly declared to a commitment to safety while cutting budgets and personnel, and rejecting internal complaints."
| • McNamee motion to dismiss Clemens's defamation claims (2009)|
Judge(s):Keith Ellison (Clemens v. McNamee, Civil Action No. 4:08-cv-00471)
|Click for summary→|
|Judge Ellison granted in part and denied in part Brian McNamee's motion to dismiss third-party publication defamation claims that were filed by Roger Clemens, providing Clemens leave to amend the complaint as to the denied claims alleging publication to Pettitte.
On June 30, 2009, Judge Ellison rejected a claim filed by seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens against Brian McNamee, thus allowing McNamee, a former trainer, to file his own lawsuit against Clemens. Judge Ellison's June 30 ruling also reaffirmed an earlier ruling against Clemens. Ellison said that if Clemens "...believes that the federal investigators or the Mitchell Commission overstepped the bounds of the law, he is free to bring suit against those enemies, subject to possible immunity."The case involves claims by former trainer McNamee that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone from 1998 to 2001. Clemens denied using performance-enhancing drugs.
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.
The following table highlights the development of judicial posts for the Southern District of Texas:
|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.
For more information on judges of the Southern District of Texas, see former federal judges of the Southern District of Texas.
Seven separate courthouses serve the Southern District of Texas.
- U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas
- U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas
- Judges of the Southern District of Texas
- Opinions of the Southern District of Texas
- Offices of the United States Attorneys, Official list
- New York Times, "A Bid to Park Recalled G.M. Cars Is Denied," April 17, 2014
- CNBC, "Judge to hear motion on parking GM recalled cars," March 27, 2014
- Courthouse News Service, "Oilmen Get No Relief Under Terrorism Law," February 19, 2014
- Courthouse News Service, "Baby Seat Manufacturer Isn't to Blame for Injury," December 2, 2013
- Pensions&Investments, "BP must face investors' fraud claims tied to oil spill," February 14, 2012
- Clemens v. McNamee, "Memorandum and Order," February 12, 2009
- Boston Globe, "Federal judge rejects Clemens bid," July 2, 2009
- Seattle Times, "Judge's decision clears way for lawsuit against Roger Clemens," July 2, 2009
- History of the Southern District of Texas on the Federal Judicial Center website
- United States Courts, "Frequently Asked Questions"
- United States Courts, "On Being Chief Judge," February 2009
Chief Judge: Ricardo Hinojosa • Micaela Alvarez • Randy Crane • Keith Ellison (Texas) • Vanessa Gilmore • Lynn Hughes • Andrew Hanen • Melinda Harmon • Sim Lake • Gray Miller • Lee Rosenthal • George Hanks • Al Bennett • Nelva Gonzales Ramos • Marina Marmolejo • Diana Saldana
|Magistrate judges||Janice Ellington • John Froeschner • Nancy Johnson (Texas) • Mary Milloy • Peter Ormsby • Dorina Ramos • Stephen W. Smith • Frances Stacy • Ronald G. Morgan • Guillermo Garcia • J. Scott Hacker • Diana Quiroga • Jason B. Libby • Ignacio Torteya III •|
|Former Article III judges||
Samuel Kent • Reynaldo Garza • Waller Thomas Burns • Joseph Chappell Hutcheson • Hayden Head • Thomas Martin Kennerly • James Allred • Adriana Arce-Flores • John Black (Texas) • Calvin Botley • Brian Owsley • Norman Black • George Cire • Ben Connally • Finis Cowan • Owen Cox • James DeAnda • Hugh Gibson • Allen Hannay • Joe Ingraham • Gabrielle McDonald • James Noel • Robert O'Conor • Woodrow Seals • John Singleton • Ross Sterling • Filemon Vela (Texas judge) • Gregg Costa •
|Former Chief judges|
State of Texas
|State executive offices||
Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Secretary of State | Attorney General | Comptroller | State Auditor | Commissioner of Education | Commissioner of Insurance | Commissioner of Agriculture | Commissioner of General Land Office | Chairman of Workforce Commission | Chairman of Public Utilities | Chairman of Railroad Commission |