Alan Albright – Nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas

An attorney who first became a judge over 25 years ago (and left the bench approximately 20 years ago) would not seem like a likely judge from an Administration focused on youth as a key criteria of nomination.  However, Alan Albright became a judge at just 32 years of age and left the bench before he was forty.  As such, the seasoned litigator, now 58, is still young enough to serve on the bench for another thirty years.

Background

Alan D. Albright was born on November 24, 1959 in Hershey, PA.  After getting a B.A. from Trinity University in 1981, Albright received a J.D. from the University of Texas Law School in 1984.  After his graduation, Albright served as a law clerk to Judge James Nowlin on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.[1]

After his clerkship, Albright joined McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore LLP. as an associate.  Two years later, he joined the Austin office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld as an associate.  In 1992, Albright, only 32, was tapped to be a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

Albright left the bench in 1999 to join the Austin office of Thompson & Knight LLP.  Two years later, he left Thompson to join Gray Cary (now DLA Piper) as a Partner.  In 2005, he moved to the Austin office of Fish & Richardson as a Partner.  In 2009, he joined the Austin office of Bracewell & Giuliani (now Bracewell) as a Partner.  In 2014, he left Bracewell to become a Partner at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.  In 2015, he returned to Bracewell as a Partner, and works there to this day.

History of the Seat

Albright has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.  This seat opened on September 14, 2016, when Judge Walter Scott Smith Jr. retired amidst allegations of sexual misconduct.[2]  In February 2017, Albright applied for a federal judgeship with an Evaluation Committee set up by Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.[3]  He interviewed with the Committee in March 2017 and then with Cornyn and Cruz in April.  Albright interviewed with the White House and Department of Justice on July 18, 2017.[4]  He was nominated on January 24, 2018.

Legal Experience

Albright’s work in private practice can be divided into two periods sandwiched around his seven years on the bench.  The first period was from 1986, when Albright finished his clerkship, to 1992, when he became a federal judge.  During his period, Albright primarily worked in insurance litigation, starting at the Austin firm McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore LLP and then working for the Biglaw firm Akin Gump.

The second period was from 1999, when Albright left the bench, to the present.  In this period, the primary focus of Albright’s career has been on patent litigation, at the firms Thompson & Knight, Gray Cary, Fish & Richardson, and Bracewell & Giuliani (now Bracewell).  Notably, Albright represented Overstock.com in defending against a patent infringement action, representing the website through a jury trial (the jury found for the defendants).[5]

While Albright focused primarily on patent litigation , he occasionally handled other cases.  Notably, Albright represented the Williamson County government in defending against a suit brought by Robert Lloyd, a conservative Republican who claimed that the County had improperly taken his political affiliation and his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage into account in rejecting him for a Constable appointment.[6]

Jurisprudence

Albright served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas from 1992 to 1999.  In this capacity, Albright presided over the pretrial aspects of approximately 1000 misdemeanor and civil cases and approximately 500 civil cases.[7]  He also presided over around 15-20 civil cases by consent.[8]   Among the more prominent cases Albright handled, he overturned a $275,000 jury verdict for a San Marcos plaintiff shot by a police officer on qualified immunity and official immunity grounds (his decision was affirmed on appeal).[9]  In another notable case, Albright found for the parents of a daughter who suffered permanent injuries during birth due to the negligence of the doctor delivering the baby.[10]

In his seven years on the bench, Albright was reversed by the Fifth Circuit in four cases.  In three of the reversals, the Fifth Circuit reversed plaintiff-friendly rulings by Albright.[11]  In the fourth case, the Fifth Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment to the defendant in a Lanham Act case.[12]

Political Activity

Albright has been a frequent donor to Republican candidates.  Cornyn was a particular beneficiary, having received approximately $5000 from Albright.[13]  Albright also donated almost $5000 to Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 Presidential campaign.[14]

Additionally, Albright volunteered on the campaigns of several Texas politicians, including Republican Governor Bill Clements, and Democrats Bob Krueger and Henry Cisneros.[15]

Overall Assessment

Compared to other nominees from Texas who have incited more pushback, Albright is relatively uncontroversial.  His long-time tenure as a patent litigator has allowed Albright to steer clear of controversial cases while maintaining the intellectual vigor needed for the bench.  Additionally, supporters will argue Albright’s representation of Williamson County in defending against a discrimination suit brought by a conservative employee reflects an apolitical approach to the law.

Furthermore, Albright’s record on the bench is relatively non-ideological.  While Albright did overturn a jury verdict for a plaintiff against the cop who shot him, his ruling for the victims of medical negligence in a bench trial suggests that he is not biased against plaintiffs.  Furthermore, most of his reversals from the Fifth Circuit have been from plaintiff-friendly rulings.

Overall, these factors, combined with his age and experience, suggest that Albright will be considered a consensus nominee.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Alan D. Albright: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 46.

[2] Tommy Witherspoon, Probe of Federal Judge Ends With His Retirement, Waco Tribune, Sept. 29, 2016, http://www.wacotrib.com/news/courts_and_trials/probe-of-federal-judge-ends-with-his-retirement/article_232c914f-578a-5e3d-813e-0f963cd75be3.html.

[3] See Albright, supra n. 1 at 44.

[4] See id.

[5] Alcatel-Lucent USA v. Amazon.com, Inc., 6:09-cv-00422-LED (E.D. Tex. Nov. 2, 2011), aff’d, 505 F. App’x 957 (Fed. Cir. 2013).

[6] Lloyd v. Birkman, No. 1:13-cv-00505 (W.D. Tex.).

[7] See Albright, supra n. 1 at 13-14.

[8] Id.

[9] Tamez v. City of San Marcos, No. 93-CV-666 (W.D. Tex. July 8, 1996), aff’d, 118 F.3d 1085 (5th Cir 1997), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 115 (1998).

[10] Jackson v. United States, No. 1:96-cv-00491-ADA (W.D. Tex. Aug. 20, 1998).

[11] See Castillo v. City of Round Rock, Tex., No. A-96-CV-863 (W.D. Tex. Feb. 2, 1998), rev’d, 177 F.3d 977 (5th Cir. 1999), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1019 (1999) (reversing denial of summary judgment to defendants, noting that claims were barred by qualified immunity); Travis v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of Tex. Sys., No. A-94-CV-712 (W.D. Tex.), rev’d, 122 F.3d 259 (5th Cir. 1997), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 1148 (1992) (reversing verdict for plaintiff on sex discrimination and retaliation claims); Texas v. Thompson, No. A-93-CA-343 (W.D. Tex. Dec. 12, 1994), appeal dismissed in part and rev’d in part, 70 F.3d 390 (5th Cir. 1995) (per curiam) (reversing denial of summary judgment to one defendant). 

[12] Soc’y of Fin. Exam’rs v. Nat’l Ass’n of Certified Fraud Exam’rs, Inc., No. A-92-CA-792/ A-92-CV-937 (W.D. Tex. Dec. 8, 1993), vacated, 41 F.3d 223 (5th Cir. 1995), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1103 (1995).

[14] See id.

[15] See Albright, supra n. 1 at 29-30.

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