Sean Jordan – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas

The Eastern District of Texas is currently short three judges of its eight.  President Trump’s attempts to fill its bench have been somewhat complicated by the controversy many of his nominees have run into.  After his previous nominee to this seat was forced to withdraw, Trump has put forward Sean Jordan, an Austin based attorney with a close association with Sen. Ted Cruz.


Sean Daniel Jordan was born in New York City in 1965.  Jordan attended the University of  Texas at Austin, graduating with a B.A. in 1991.  He proceeded to the University of Texas Law School, graduating with a J.D. in 1994.  After graduating, Jordan joined Bell & Murphy P.C. in Houston as an Associate.

In 1997, Jordan moved to become an Associate with Beirne, Maynard & Parsons LLP and in 1998, to Solar & Fernandes LLP.[1]  In 2000, Jordan joined Jackson Walker LLP in Austin.  He became a Partner there in 2002.[2]

In 2004, Jordan became Assistant Solicitor General of Texas under then Solicitor General Ted Cruz.[3]  Jordan became Deputy Solicitor General in 2006 and Principal Deputy in 2008.  In 2012, Jordan left the office to join Sutherland Ashbill & Brennan LLP as a Partner.

In 2015, Jordan rejoined Jackson Walker as a Partner and has been there ever since.

History of the Seat

The seat Jordan has been nominated for opened on March 10, 2015, with Judge Richard Schell’s move to senior status.  On March 15, 2016, President Obama nominated Karen Gren Scholer, a former Republican state court judge, to fill this vacancy.  However, Scholer was blocked from final confirmation by Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.[4]

On September 7, 2017, President Trump nominated Jeff Mateer, who served as the First Assistant Attorney General of Texas, to fill the vacancy.  However, shortly after his nomination, two of Mateer’s 2015 speeches were uncovered, in which Mateer suggested that transgender children were part of “Satan’s plan.”[5]  A few months later, the White House dropped Mateer’s nomination as it became clear that they lacked the votes to confirm him.[6]

In February 2018, Jordan applied for a judgeship with the Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee set up by Cornyn and Cruz.[7]  He interviewed with the Committee in April and then with Cornyn and Cruz in May.  Jordan’s name was submitted to the White House in August 2018.[8]  After interviews with the White House Counsel’s Office and the Department of Justice, Jordan was nominated on January 16, 2019.

Legal Experience

Jordan has spent much of his legal career in private practice, focusing on trial court litigation for the first part of his career and on appellate litigation in the latter part.  Jordan has tried five cases to verdict, including one in which he served as Associate Counsel.[9]

In 2014, Jordan authored a brief on behalf of the Student Press Law Center, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the PEN American Center in Elonis v. United States, arguing that discussions of violence on social media should not be interpreted as “true threats” unless thus understood in their original context.[10]

Between 2004 and 2012, Jordan served in the Solicitor General’s Office in Texas.  In this capacity, Jordan represented the state in numerous proceedings, including at the Supreme Court.  Jordan argued one case before the Court, unsuccessfully arguing that the grant of an out-of-time direct appeal to a criminal defendant does not toll the statute of limitations to file a habeas action.[11]

Additionally, Jordan was on the legal team that challenged President Bush’s 2006 directive that instructed state courts to comply with rulings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).[12]  The Supreme Court ultimately sided with Texas and found that ICJ rulings were not self-executing that state courts were not thus required to comply.[13]  Jordan also argued successfully before the Fifth Circuit that the Due Process Clause was not violated when inmates convicted of a sex crime had additional conditions imposed on their parole without additional process.[14]

Political Activity

Jordan is a Republican and a current member of the Federalist Society for Law and Policy.  He also served on the Campaign Finance Committee for Cruz’s Senate campaign in 2012.[15]

Overall Assessment

Given the close association with Cruz, his membership in the Federalist Society, and his record as an attorney, it is fair to describe Jordan as a conservative.  However, unlike the previous nominee to this seat, Jordan does not have a record of inflammatory rhetoric and, as such, is unlikely to attract the same level of controversy in confirmation.

[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Sean D. Jordan: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id.

[4] Scholer was later nominated by Trump to a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas and was unanimously confirmed.

[5] Nicole Cobler, Cruz Stands By Trump Court Pick Who Sees ‘Satan’s Plan’ in Transgender Kids; Cornyn Undecided, Dallas Morning News, Sept. 28, 2017,

[6] Nicole Cobler and Todd J. Gilman, No Judgeship for ‘Satan’s Plan’ Texan, as White House Drops Jeff Mateer Nomination, Dallas Morning News, Dec. 12, 2017,

[7] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Sean D. Jordan: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 24-25.

[8] See id.

[9] See id. at 13.

[10] See Press Release, Don’t Criminalize Discussing Violence on Social Media, SPLC-Led Coalition Urges Supreme Court (Aug. 25, 2014).

[11] Jimenez v. Quarterman, 555 U.S. 113 (2009).

[12] Medellin v. Texas, 552 U.S. 491 (2008).

[13] See id.

[14] Jennings v. Owens, 602 F.3d 652 (5th Cir. 2010).

[15] See Jordan supra n. 1 at 10.

Judge David Novak – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

Twelve years ago, a young prosecutor named David Novak was nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, only to see his nomination stalled.  Today, Novak, now a federal magistrate judge, is getting a second shot at that court.


David John Novak was born in Greensburg PA in 1961.  He received a B.S. magna cum laude from St. Vincent College in Latrobe PA in 1983 and then got a J.D. from Villanova University Law School in 1986.[1]

After graduation, Novak worked as an Assistant District Attorney at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and then worked as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.[2]  In 1994, Novak moved to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.[3]

In 2007, Novak was nominated by President George W. Bush for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia vacated by Judge Robert Payne.[4]  While Novak received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2008, his nomination was never approved by Committee and he was not confirmed before the end of the 110th Congress.  President Obama chose not to renominate Novak, instead choosing John Gibney, who was confirmed and serves today.

In 2012, Novak was appointed as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Richmond Division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  He continues to serve there today.

History of the Seat

Novak has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  This seat opened on June 1, 2018, when Judge Henry Hudson moved to senior status.  While Novak originally applied for an Alexandria based vacancy that opened with Judge Gerald Lee’s retirement, he was not recommended for that seat and was instead supported by Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, for the Richmond-based seat opened by Judge Hudson.  Novak was nominated on March 15, 2019.

Legal Experience

Novak spent virtually all of his career prior to taking the bench as a prosecutor, working first in Philadelphia, then in Houston, and finally in Richmond.  In Richmond, Novak became Chief of the Criminal Division in 2010, overseeing the criminal prosecutors under U.S. Attorney Neil McBride.

Most notably, Novak was the lead prosecutor against Zacarias Moussaoui, a French national who pleaded guilty of conspiring with Al Qaeda to kill American citizens in the September 11 attacks.[5]  On behalf of the Department of Justice, Novak presented evidence to the jury seeking the death penalty against Moussaoui.[6]  The case hit a hurdle when it was revealed that TSA Attorney Carla J. Martin had coached witnesses in violation of Judge Leonie Brinkema’s orders.[7]  Novak himself acknowledged the egrigiousness of Martin’s actions in court, which led Brinkema to impose a sanction against the government.  Ultimately, the jury decided not to impose the death penalty on Moussaoui, prompting the defendant to proclaim: “America, you lost; you lost, Novak. I won.”[8]


Novak has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge since 2012.  In this capacity, Novak oversees discovery, adjudicates cases where jurisdiction is consented to, and presides over settlement.  In his time as a magistrate, Novak has presided over 7 bench and 3 jury trials.  Among his most significant trials, Novak presided over a negligence trial arising from a motorcyclist injured after being struck by an eighteen-wheeler.[9]

Over his seven years on the bench, Novak’s rulings have been partially reversed by higher courts six times.[10]  None of these reversals involve controversial issues or detail significant criticism of Novak’s reasoning.


In 1999, Novak authored an article[11] to provide guidance for federal prosecutors on handling death penalty cases.[12]  In the article, Novak outlines the various unique processes and issues that are raised in a capital case, including the notices issued by the Department of Justice, discovery, victim impact evidence, and voir dire.  Overall, Novak concludes that death penalty cases require “an enormous amount of preparation” and that prosecutors must “be dedicated to learning all aspects of the defendant’s life.”[13]

Political Activity

As a federal prosecutor, Novak occasionally donated to Republican candidates, including donations to U.S. Senator George Allen, N.Y.C.Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and Rep. Eric Cantor.[16]

Overall Assessment

While Novak’s initial nomination to the federal bench stalled, his path to the federal bench looks much smoother this time around.  As Novak has already gotten the sign-off of Virginia’s Democratic senators, and given his impressive resume, it is more a question of when, rather than if, Novak will be confirmed.

[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., David J. Novak Jr.: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id. 

[4] Press Release, Warner and Webb Applaud Selection of Davis, Novak for Federal Judgeships (Office of Sens. Warner and Webb) (Nov. 15, 2007).

[5] Philip Sh and Benjamin Weiser, 2 Rival Legal Teams For ‘20th Hijacker’ Case, N.Y. Times, Dec. 18, 2001.

[6] Brooke A. Masters, U.S. Defends Its Moussaoui Stance, Wash. Post, May 11, 2002.

[7] Jerry Markon and Timothy Dwyer, Judge Halts Terror Trial, Wash. Post, Mar. 14, 2006.

[8] Neil A. Lewis, 911 Plotter Gets Life in Jail; Jury Swayed By Moussaoui’s Tough Childhood, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, May 4, 2006.

[9] Scott v. Watsontown Trucking Co., 920 F. Supp. 2d 644 (E.D. Va. 2013), aff’d, 553 F. App’x 259 (4th Cir. 2013).

[10] See Taylor v. Timepayment Corp., 2019 WL 1375594 (E.D. Va. Feb. 5, 2019); Testemark v. Berryhill, 736 F. App’x 395 (4th Cir. 2018); Parham v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 627 F. App’x 233 (4th Cir. 2015); Loving v. Astrue, 2012 WL 4329277 (E.D. Va. June 22, 2012); Fed. Nat’l Mortg. Assoc. v. CG Bellkor, LLC, 980 F. Supp. 2d 703 (E.D. Va. 2013); L. Foster Consulting, LLC v. XL Group, Inc., 2012 WL 2785904 (E.D. Va. June 1, 2012).

[11] The article was reviewed and incorporated feedback by then AUSA James Comey (who has since become famous for his tenure at the Department of Justice).

[12] David J. Novak, Trial Advocacy: Anatomy of a Federal Death Penalty Prosecution: A Primer for Prosecution, 50 S.C. L. Rev. 645 (Spring 1999).

[13] Id. at 677.

[14] Id. (quoting Judge Rossie Novak).

[15] Brad Kutner, Senator Don McEachin Talks LGBTQ Issues Ahead of the 2016 General Assembly Session, GayRVA, Aug. 26, 2015,  

Stephanie L. Haines – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

A prosecutor with a relatively apolitical background, Stephanie Haines looks poised for a comfortable confirmation to the federal bench in Pennsylvania.


A Western Pennsylvania native, Haines was born in Johnstown in 1969.[1]  Haines attended Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa. and received a B.A. degree in 1992, subsequently getting a law degree from Ohio Northern University.[2]

After graduating, Haines clerked for Judge Eugene Fike in Somerset, Pa. and then joined the U.S. Army, working in various legal roles, including as a Legal Assistance Attorney, a Prosecutor, and an Appellate Defense Attorney.[3]  Since 2005, Haines has been a Judge Advocate with the West Virginia National Guard.

In 2002, Haines became a federal prosecutor in West Virginia and, since 2007, has served as a federal prosecutor in Johnstown, Pennsylvania (the sole one since 2018).[4]

History of the Seat

The seat Haines has been nominated for opened on November 24, 2017, with the move to senior status of Judge David Cercone.  In March 2017, Haines applied for a federal judgeship with the application committee set up by Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA).[5]  While the panel recommended Haines, no further action was taken until July 31, 2018, when Toomey interviewed Haines and her name was passed to the White House.[6]

Haines was officially nominated on March 5, 2019.

Legal Experience

Haines has practiced law for over twenty years, working in one of two capacities: as a military lawyer; and as a federal prosecutor.  In the former position, Haines represented service members in assisting with estate planning, family law, and other matters, as well as prosecuting and defending soldiers in military courts.[7]  Since 2002, Haines has represented the U.S. government as a federal prosecutor, first in West Virginia and, since 2007, in Pennsylvania.  During this time, Haines tried approximately 40 cases.[8]

Among the most notable cases Haines handled, she prosecuted Rev. Joseph Maurizio, a Catholic priest, charged with sexually exploiting minors during trips to Honduras.[9]  Early in the case, Haines successfully convinced Judge Kim Gibson to reverse the grant of home detention for the defendant.[10]  Maurizio was eventually found guilty in a jury trial of five counts, including those alleging illicit sexual conduct.[11]

Overall Assessment

As a result of close cooperation between Casey and Toomey, Pennsylvania’s district court nominees have generally avoided the partisan rancor that other states have produced.  Haines looks likely to be no different, and, given her background as a prosecutor and her long service record, she is unlikely to draw much controversy.

[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 114th Cong., Stephanie L. Haines: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id.

[3] Id. at 1-2.

[4] Id. at 2.

[5] See id. at 25.

[6] Id.

[7] See id. at 12-13.

[8] See id. at 13-14.

[9] See United States v. Maurizio, Crim. No. 3:14-23 J (W.D. Pa.).

[10] See Paul Pierce, Priest Charged in Sex Case Won’t Be Freed, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Nov. 15, 2014; see also Paul Pierce, Priest’s Home Detention Irks Prosecutor, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Nov. 7, 2014.

[11] Paul Pierce, Somerset County Priest Found Guilty, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Sept. 23, 2015.

Daniel P. Collins – Nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Longtime appellate attorney and former Scalia clerk Dan Collins is one of three California nominees to the Ninth Circuit who face the joint opposition of home state senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.  His nomination moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote despite this opposition.


Daniel Paul Collins was born in Brooklyn in 1963.  Collins received an A.B. from Harvard in 1985 and a J.D. from the Stanford Law School in 1988.[1]  After graduating from law school, Collins clerked for Judge Dorothy Nelson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and then spent two years at the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel.  Collins then clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court, clerking with Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the Sixth Circuit and conservative lawyer Ed Whelan.[2][3]

After his clerkships, Collins became a federal prosecutor in the Central District of California, leaving in 1996 to join the Los Angeles Office of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.[4]  In 2001, Collins left Munger to work as Associate Deputy Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice.[5]  Collins rejoined Munger in 2003 and has served as a Partner since.

History of the Seat

Collins has been nominated for a California seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  This seat opened on December 11, 2015 when Judge Harry Pregerson moved to senior status.  On February 25, 2016, President Obama nominate U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh to fill the vacancy.  Even though the Senate was controlled by Republicans, Koh received a favorable reception before the Senate Judiciary Committee and was approved 13-7 on September 15, 2016.  However, she was blocked from a final floor vote by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and never confirmed.

In March 2017, Collins was contacted by the White House to gauge his interest in an appointment to the Ninth Circuit.[6]  In late 2017 and early 2018, Collins interviewed with Advisory Committees set up by California’s Democratic Senators.[7]  Collins’ nomination was announced in October 2018 and he was renominated on February 6, 2019.

Both of Collins’s home state senators, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Kamala Harris, have expressed opposition to Collins’s nomination.

Political Activity & Memberships

Collins has a very active political history, having donated extensively to Republican candidates from 1998 to 2016.[8]  Over this time, Collins has given over $85000 to Republican candidates.[9]  For example, in a single contribution in December 2013, Collins gave $15000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.[10]  Similarly, in October 2016, Collins gave $2700 contributions to Republican Senate candidates Marco Rubio, Todd Young, Ron Johnson, and Joe Heck (all except Heck won their elections).[11]

Furthermore, Collins has been a member of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies (a conservative legal organization that is the source of many Trump nominees) since 1995.[12]

Legal Experience

Collins has primarily worked in two legal postures.  The first is at the government, as a prosecutor from 1992 to 1996 and at the Department of Justice, where he was from 2001 to 2003.  The second is at Munger, Tolles & Olson, where he has spent virtually the rest of his legal career.

Assistant U.S. Attorney

From 1992 to 1996, Collins worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney with the Central District of California.  Here, Collins primarily handled appeals, while also trying eight jury trials during his tenure.[13]  One of those trials was that of Jeffrey Van Poyck who was convicted of two counts of armed bank robbery and one count of conspiracy (the convictions were upheld on appeal).[14]

Department of Justice

From 2001 to 2003, Collins worked in the Department of Justice, serving as Associate Deputy Attorney General.  In this role, Collins worked on several of the Department’s legislative initiatives, including the drafting and passage of the PROTECT Act of 2003, which increases penalties and authorizes additional law enforcement tools relating to child pornography and sexual abuse.[15]  To this end, Collins testified in Congress in support of much of the language that eventually found its way into the PROTECT Act, specifically noting that such language would not interfere with “First Amendment freedoms.”[16]

Munger Tolles & Olson

Since 2003, Collins has been a Partner in the Los Angeles Office of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP working in appeals and complex civil litigation.  As a Munger Partner, Collins helped recruit Paul Watford (now a judge on the Ninth Circuit) to the firm.[17]  At the firm, Collins has extensive experience with complex commercial appeals, including representing Occidental Petroleum Corp. against suits alleging complicity in illegal bombings conducted by the Colombian military,[18] defending Jeppesen Data Plan, Inc. against allegations that they transported the plaintiffs to locations where they were tortured,[19] and representing Philip Morris in a suit to successfully strike down Massachusetts regulations restricting cigarette advertising.[20]  Particularly notably, Collins represented a series of oil companies in defending against a suit by native american tribes seeking damages for global warming.[21]


Collins has frequently written on the law, starting as a law student, when he authored a student note discussing the role of circumstantial evidence and the burden of proof on a decision to grant or deny summary judgment.[22]  In much of his writing, Collins looks back to the original understanding or meaning of a law to decipher its current application, suggesting that Collins would identify as an “originalist.”  For example, in one article, Collins outlines the history of the Alien Tort Statute as a way of understanding its scope.[23]  In another article, Collins argues that the right to a jury trial is innately tied with the accuracy of the outcome, citing the debates over the jury right during the drafting of the Constitution.[24]

Overall Assessment

It is easy to compare Collins with his former Munger colleague Judge Watford.  Both were former Supreme Court clerks (Watford clerked for Justice Ginsburg) and longtime commercial litigators at Munger when nominated for the bench.  As such, some may argue that Collins deserves the bipartisan confirmation that Watford received in 2012.  However, opponents are likely to draw a few distinctions.  First, Watford had built a largely nonideological profile before his nomination, with prominent conservatives confessing that they had no idea what his political views were.  In contrast, Collins is a clearly defined conservative with his writings showing an originalist lean and a long political history.  Second, Watford had the support of his home-state senators, unlike Collins.

On his own merits, Collins obviously has the intellectual capacity and legal ability for the Ninth Circuit.  It remains for senators to decide if his record has demonstrated the requisite level of impartiality needed to be a fair judge as opposed to an advocate.

[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Daniel P. Collins: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Other clerks that year included future federal judges Jeffrey Meyer, Gregory Katsas, and Gregory Maggs.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] See id. at 63.

[7] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] See Collins, supra n. 1 at 5.

[13] Id. at 25.

[14] See United States v. Van Poyck, 77 F.3d 285 (9th Cir. 1996).

[15] Pub. L. 108-21.

[16] Lyndall Schuster, Regulating Virtual Child Pornography in the Wake of Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 80 Denv. U.L. Rev. 429, 444 (2002) (citing the Child Obscenity and Pornography Prevention Act of 2002 and the Sex Tourism Prohibition Improvement Act of 2002: Hearing on H.R. 4623 and H.R. 4477 Before the Subcomm. On Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Sec. of the Comm. on the Judiciary, 107th Cong. (2002) (statement of Associate Deputy Attorney General Daniel P. Collins, on behalf of the Department of Justice)).

[17] Carol J. Williams, Lawyer Tapped For 9th Circuit, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 18, 2011.  

[18] Galvis Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corp., 771 F.3d 580 (9th Cir. 2014).

[19] Mohamed v. Jeppesen DataPlan, Inc., 614 F.3d 1070 (9th Cir. 2010) (en banc).

[20] Lorillard Tobacco Co. v. Reilly, 533 U.S. 525 (2001).

[21] Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corp., 696 F.3d 849 (9th Cir. 2012).

[22] Daniel P. Collins, Summary Judgment and Circumstantial Evidence, 40 Stan. L. Rev. 491 (January 1988).

[23] Kristin Linsley Myles and Daniel P. Collins, Burdens, the Future of International Human Rights Litigation, 32 Litigation 40 (Spring 2006).

[24] Daniel P. Collins, Juries and the Criminal Justice System: What Role?: Making Juries Better Factfinders, 20 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 489 (Winter 1997).

James Wesley Hendrix – Nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas

James Wesley Hendrix is not even 42 yet, and still has the distinction of having been nominated to the bench by Presidents of two different parties.  After his initial nomination under President Obama stalled, Hendrix has a new opportunity under President Trump.


James Wesley Hendrix was born in Lubbock, TX in 1977.  He attended the University of Chicago, receiving his Bachelor of Arts with Honors in 2000 and a Juris Doctor with High Honors from the University of Texas School of Law in 2003 (alongside fellow Northern District nominee Matthew Kacsmaryk).  After graduating from law school, Hendrix clerked for Judge Patrick Higginbotham on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and then joined the Dallas office of Baker Botts as an associate (again, alongside Kacsmaryk).

In 2007, Hendrix left Baker Botts and joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas as an Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) (Kacsmaryk would make the same move a year later).  For his part, Hendrix stuck with the office, serving as Chief of the Appellate Division since 2011.

History of the Seat

Hendrix has been nominated to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas to a seat vacated by Judge Samuel Cummings on December 31, 2014.  On March 15, 2016, Obama, with the approval of Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, nominated U.S. Magistrate Judge E. Scott Frost to fill the vacancy.  Hendrix himself was nominated for a different vacancy on the court.  While both Frost and Hendrix received favorable receptions before the Senate Judiciary Committee, neither was reported out before the end of the Obama Administration.

While Hendrix applied almost immediately for a renomination, he was not initially recommended by Cornyn and Cruz to the Trump Administration.[1]  It was only after Hendrix reapplied in 2018 that Cornyn and Cruz sent his name to the White House.  Nevertheless, Hendrix interviewed with the White House in July 2018 and was nominated on January 17, 2019.[2]

Legal Experience

Hendrix has worked in two primary legal positions in his career: as an associate at Baker Botts; and as a federal prosecutor.  In his initial position at Baker Botts, Hendrix focused on civil litigation, handling wage-and-hour, patent, and real estate litigation.[3]

Since 2007, Hendrix worked as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.  In this capacity, Hendrix worked primarily with the appellate division, handling over 350 appeals over the course of his career.[4]  Notably, Hendrix argued before the en banc Fifth Circuit that Texas burglary constituted a qualifying offense under the Armed Career Criminal Act, which would trigger enhanced sentencing penalties.[5]  The Fifth Circuit narrowly found against Hendrix’s position on a 8 to 7 vote in an opinion authored by his former boss, Judge Higginbotham.[6]

Overall Assessment

While his career has largely been parallel to that of Kacsmaryk’s, Hendrix is unlikely to share Kacsmaryk’s controversy.  While Kacsmaryk has attracted opposition for his work for the First Liberty Institute, Hendrix has gained respect across the board with his work in the government.  Furthermore, Hendrix’s nomination by the Obama Administration, and the reluctant endorsement by Cornyn and Cruz, suggests that he is not an aggressive conservative, and will likely be confirmed by a bipartisan majority this year.

[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., James W. Hendrix: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 31.

[2] Id.

[3] Id. at 15.

[4] See id.

[5] See United States v. Herrold, 883 F.3d 517 (5th Cir. 2018).

[6] See id.