Charles Eskridge – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas

A former Supreme Court clerk and a longtime judge picker in Texas, Charles Eskridge now has any opportunity to join the bench he selected many of the judges for.

Background

Eskridge was born in Cleveland, OH in 1963.  Eskridge graduated from Trinity University in 1985 and received a J.D. summa cum laude from Pepperdine University School of Law in 1990.[1]  After graduating, Eskridge clerked for Judge Charles Clark on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and then for Justice Byron White on the U.S. Supreme Court.[2]  After his Supreme Court clerkship, Eskridge spent three years as a Special Assistant to Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal Arbitrator Howard Holtzmann.[3] 

In 1994, Eskridge joined Susman Godfrey LLP in Houston as an Associate.[4]  He became a Partner in 1997.  In 2015, Eskridge moved to the Houston Office of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP as a Partner, where he currently practices.

History of the Seat

Eskridge has been nominated to fill a vacancy opened by Judge Gray Hampton Miller’s move to senior status on December 9, 2018.  However, he actually applied and interviewed with the Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee (FJEC) created by Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz for a previous vacancy created by Judge Melinda Harmon’s move to senior status.[5]  However, upon determining that he could not commute to the judgeship based in Galveston, Eskridge chose not to pursue that nomination, which went to Texas Supreme Court Justice Jeff Brown.  Instead, Eskridge was shortlisted for the next Houston-based vacancy that would open.[6]  When Miller announced his move to senior status, Eskridge was recommended to the White House and was nominated on May 13, 2019.

Legal Experience

Eskridge’s career in private practice was primarily at the firm of Susman Godfrey LLP, where he worked closely with Steve Susman, a Democrat and fellow member of the FJEC.[7]  At the firm, Eskridge notably represented death row inmate Anthony Graves in seeking to get the prosecutor who convicted him, Charles J. Sebesta, disbarred for prosecutorial misconduct.[8]  Eskridge’s representation led to Sebesta’s disbarment for hiding evidence of Graves’ innocence.[9]  It also led to Eskridge’s receipt of awards from the Texas Defender Service and the Texas Fair Defense Project.  In another case, Eskridge also represented Caldera, Inc in an antitrust claim against Microsoft.[10]

Since 2015, Eskridge has been a Partner with Quinn Emanuel, where he represented Vantage Deepwater Company, a deepwater driller, in a contract dispute with Petrobras America, Inc. regarding the operation of deepwater drilling rigs.[11]

Political Activity

Eskridge has been very active in the Texas Republican Party for many years, including volunteering for the campaigns of Cornyn, Cruz, and former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.[12]  In addition, Eskridge was a prolific donor to Republicans, giving over $100,000 since 2000.[13]

Furthermore, Eskridge was a member of the FJEC set up by Cornyn and Cruz from 2013 to 2018, during which time the Committee processed and approved over fifteen nominations to Texas federal courts.

Overall Assessment

Going back to his Supreme Court clerkship, his extensive litigation experience, and his impressive academic record, Eskridge has strong qualifications for the federal bench.  As such, few would disagree that Eskridge possesses the base level of intellectual ability to be a federal judge.  Some may even argue that Eskridge is more qualified to serve on the Fifth Circuit than some of the other nominees the Administration has extended to that court.

Eskridge may draw some opposition based on his partisan record, as Eskridge has donated more money than almost every other judicial candidate put forward by the Trump Administration.  As such, some may argue that Eskridge is seeking to “purchase” a judicial seat.  However, such arguments ignore the fact that, even independent of his contributions, Eskridge is one of the most qualified nominees the Administration has put forward.  Furthermore, his legal record is not that of an ideologue, as he has worked closely with Texas Democrats and has litigated in favor of accountability for prosecutors who violate the rights of others.  As such, Eskridge should, notwithstanding his donation records, be considered a consensus nominee.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Charles Eskridge, Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Among Eskridge’s clerk class, five are already federal judges: Jeffrey Meyer (Blackmun); Jeffrey Sutton (Scalia); Daniel Collins (Scalia); Greg Katsas (Thomas); Greg Maggs (Thomas).

[3] Id. at 2.

[4] See id.

[5] Id. at 48.

[6] Id.

[7] PR Newswire, Steve Susman of Susman Godfrey L.L.P. Speaks to a Group of Local Attorneys About Restoring a Fully Functioning Judiciary (Sept. 12, 2012). 

[8] See Michael Graczyk, Texas Prosecutor of Death-Row Inmate Loses Law License, Associated Press, June 12, 2015.

[9] See id.

[10] Caldera, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp.,  87 F. Supp. 2d 124 (D. Utah 1999).

[11] In re Arbitration Between Vantage Deepwater Co. v. Petrobras America Inc., Case No. 01-15-0004-8503 (International Center for Dispute Resolution).

[12] Id. at 20.

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