Judge Ada Brown – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas

Judge Ada Brown is only the second African American woman appointed by the Trump Administration to the federal bench, and would be the first African American woman on the Northern District of Texas.

Background

Ada Elene Brown was born in 1974 in Oklahoma City.  She received a Bachelor of Arts from Spellman College in 1996 and a J.D. from Emory University School of Law in 1999.[1] After graduating from law school, Brown joined the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, working first as a Family Violence Advocate and then as an Assistant District Attorney.

In 2005, Brown was appointed to be a trial court judge in Dallas County.  She left this position in 2007 to be a Litigation Attorney at McKool Smith P.C. in Dallas.[2] 

In 2013, Gov. Rick Perry appointed Brown to the Fifth District Court of Appeals based in Dallas, where Brown currently serves.[3]

History of the Seat

Brown has been nominated to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.  The Northern District is facing a high level of turnover, with four of the twelve allotted judgeships for the District currently vacant.

The vacancy Brown has been nominated to fill opened on July 3, 2013, when Judge Terry Means moved to senior status, making it one of the oldest vacancies in the country.  On March 15, 2016, Obama nominated Judge Irma Ramirez, a federal magistrate judge, to fill the vacancy.[4]  While Judge Ramirez had the support of her home state senators and received a hearing in September 2016, her nomination never moved to the floor and thus was not confirmed.  She was not renominated to the Court by President Trump.

In April 2018, Brown interviewed with the Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee (FJEC) set up by Senators Cornyn and Cruz.  Upon Cornyn and Cruz’s recommendation, Brown was interviewed by the White House in July 2018, and officially nominated on March 26, 2019.

Legal Experience

Brown has worked both as a state prosecutor and in private practice at the firm of McKool Smith.  In the former position, Brown focused on criminal matters while handling an exclusively civil docket at the latter.[5]  Over the course of her career, Brown has tried over 200 cases, including approximately 100 jury trials.[6] 

In addition to her role as an attorney, Brown has served on the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education, which governs and supervises state law enforcement officials.  While a Commissioner, Brown voted to uphold the firing of Edwin Lang, a state trooper accused of falsifying DWI reports.[7]  She also voted to examine state trooper hiring policies after receiving evidence that officers who had failed polygraph tests were nonetheless hired.[8]

Jurisprudence

Brown served as a trial judge in Dallas from 2005 to 2007 and as an appellate judge since 2013.  In this role, Brown has written approximately 500 opinions as part of over 1500 cases.  Of Brown’s more prominent cases, she held that a defendant’s rights were violated when a trial judge denied a criminal defense attorney the opportunity to question prosecutors in an open hearing regarding potential Brady violations.[9] 

As a judge, Brown has shown a willingness to affirm summary dismissals of cases, even dissenting from opinions where colleagues found otherwise.  For example, in one case, the Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of dismissal for a libel case where the plaintiff had been accused of committing welfare fraud.[10]  However, Brown dissented, arguing that dismissal was appropriate as the article was satirical and thus not false, noting: “the substance of the article, especially viewed within its structure and tone, persuades me its primary purpose was to critique the food-stamps benefits system.”[11]  In another case, Brown wrote for the court in reversing a jury verdict for plaintiff after an electrical fire at their facility, holding that the evidence was insufficient to show that defendant’s negligence had caused the fire.[12]

Political Activity

Brown has been elected as a Republican to the state bench.  In addition, she has volunteered with the Dallas GOP and for local Republicans.[13]

Overall Assessment

The Northern District of Texas currently has only one African American judge serving actively on the court: Judge Sam Lindsay.  Brown is strongly favored to join Lindsay on the bench, given her youth, conservative credentials, and judicial experience.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Ada Brown: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] States News Service, Gov. Perry Appoints Brown As Justice Of 5th Court of Appeals, States News Service, Sept. 3, 2013. 

[4] See supra n. 1.

[5] See Brown, supra n. 1 at 37-38.

[6] See id. at 38.

[7] Mike Ward, Firing of Star Trooper Upheld, Austin American-Statesman, July 16, 2010.

[8] Mike Ward, Some DPS Troopers Failed Polygraph Test, Austin American-Statesman, Feb. 20, 2009.

[9] Brantley v. State, No. 05-13-01060-CR, 2015 WL 846749 (Tex. App. Dallas Feb. 26, 2016 no pet.).

[10] D. Magazine Partners, L.P. v. Rosenthal, 475 S.W.3d 470 (Tex. App. Dallas 2015).

[11] See id. at 492 (Brown, J., dissenting).

[12] Oncor Elec. Delivery Co. LLC v. Southern Foods Group, LLC., 444 S.W.3d 699 (Tex. App. Dallas 2014).

[13] See Brown, supra n. 1 at 36.

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