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.

Background

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, https://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/2017/09/28/cruz-stands-trump-court-pick-sees-satans-plan-transgender-kids.

[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, https://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/2017/12/12/grassley-urges-trump-drop-mateer-judicial-pick-spoke-satans-plan-transgender-kids.

[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.

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