R. Austin Huffaker – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama

The Middle District of Alabama was largely static over the last decade, with no new judges joining the court between 2005 and 2018.  Now, in the last year, all three of the court’s judgeships look set to be replaced, including by securities attorney Austin Huffaker.

Background

Robert Austin Huffaker was born in Montgomery, AL in 1973.  Huffaker graduated cum laude from Vanderbilt University in 1996.[1]  Huffaker went on to the University of Alabama Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 1999.

Upon graduation, Huffaker joined the Montgomery office of Rushton, Stakely, Johnston & Garrett P.A.  He is still with the firm today.  Additionally, Huffaker has been a Commissioner with the Alabama Securities Commission, which regulates securities in the state, since 2016.

History of the Seat

Huffaker has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.  This seat opened on January 31, 2019, when Judge W. Keith Watkins moved to senior status.

For Huffaker’s part, he had been under consideration for a federal judgeship in the Obama Administration when he interviewed with Alabama Republican senators about replacing Judge Mark Fuller (the seat was filled earlier this year by Solicitor General Andrew Brasher).[2]  In January 2019, Huffaker interviewed with Alabama Senator Richard Shelby about the upcoming vacancy.[3]  He then interviewed with Democratic Sen. Doug Jones and with the White House, and was nominated in July 2019.

Legal Experience

Huffaker has spent his career as a business attorney at Rushton, Stakely, Johnston & Garrett P.A.  Over the course of his career, Huffaker has tried 16 cases in state and federal court, as well as 20 cases in private arbitrations.[4] 

Among the most significant areas that Huffaker has practiced in, he handled a series of legal malpractice cases, usually defending attorneys against claims raised by their clients.  For example Huffaker successfully found that plaintiffs’ claims against their attorneys for inadequate representation in mesothelioma actions were time-barred.[5]  In another notable case, Huffaker represented a mental health worker in proceedings relating to the alleged homicide of a patient under his care.[6]  Huffaker was able to secure a defense verdict against the allegations of wrongdoing.[7]

Overall Assessment

As a lawyer with a focus in business and commercial litigation, Huffaker has an opportunity to avoid the controversies that have entangled other Alabama nominees.  As such, Huffaker will likely be confirmed fairly comfortably.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Robert Austin Huffaker: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 27-28.

[3] Id. at 28.

[4] Id. at 14.

[5] Frazier v. Jackson et al., 563 F. App’x 435 (6th Cir. 2014).

[6] Verrett et al v. Alabama Dep’t of Mental Health, et al., Case No. 2:03-cv-012301-MEF-CSC.

[7] See id.