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.

Background

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.

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