Reed O'Connor

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Reed O'Connor
O'Connor in 2018
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas
Assumed office
November 21, 2007
Appointed byGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byA. Joe Fish
Personal details
Reed Charles O'Connor

(1965-06-01) June 1, 1965 (age 58)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
EducationUniversity of Houston (BS)
South Texas College of Law Houston (JD)

Reed Charles O'Connor (born June 1, 1965) is a United States district judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. He was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2007.

O'Connor has become a "go-to" favorite for conservative lawyers, as he reliably rules against Democratic policies and for Republican policies.[1][2] Attorneys General in Texas appear to strategically file cases in O'Connor's jurisdiction so that he will hear them.[3]

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Houston, Texas to George John O'Connor and Eileen Star Boyle,[4] O'Connor received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Houston in 1986 and a Juris Doctor from South Texas College of Law in 1989. He was in private practice in Texas from 1989 to 1994 and an assistant district attorney with the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office in Fort Worth, Texas from 1994 to 1998. O'Connor then served as Assistant United States Attorney of the Northern District of Texas from 1998 to 2007. From 2003 to 2007, he worked on the staff of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary.[5]

Federal judicial career[edit]

On June 27, 2007, O'Connor was nominated by President George W. Bush to a seat on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas vacated by A. Joe Fish. The United States Senate confirmed O'Connor's appointment on November 16, 2007, and he received his commission on November 21, 2007.[5]

Significant cases[edit]

O'Connor has widely been described as conservative.[6][7][8][9] He has long been active in the Federalist Society, and is a contributor who has frequently spoken at the organization's events in Texas.[10] O'Connor has become a "go-to" favorite for conservative lawyers, as he reliably rules against Democratic policies and for Republican policies.[1][2] Attorneys General in Texas appear to strategically file cases in O'Connor's jurisdiction so that he will hear them.[3]

On February 11, 2015, O'Connor held that a portion of the federal Gun Control Act of 1968 was unconstitutional.[11] This ruling was reversed on appeal.[12]

On March 26, 2015, O'Connor enjoined the federal government's definition of marriage as it relates to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.[13] He dissolved the injunction following the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.[14]

On August 21, 2016, O'Connor issued a ruling against the Obama administration dealing with the government's interpretation of Title IX rules. The guidance from the White House was issued in May 2016, and addresses the Title IX requirement that schools receiving federal funding not discriminate against students on the basis of sex. The ruling required that transgender students be allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. O'Connor ruled that the new guidelines did not receive proper notice and comment prior to publication, and that Title IX and its implementing regulation are "not ambiguous" as to the "plain meaning of the term sex as used". He then issued a nationwide injunction preventing them from being enforced with respect to students' access to "intimate facilities."[15] The Obama administration appealed the decision, but the Trump administration rescinded the guidance and moved to dismiss the appeal.[16][17]

On December 31, 2016, in a separate case, O'Connor issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the Obama administration's regulations implementing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded health programs) as a likely violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and what he said was an improper inclusion of gender identity discrimination.[18]

In early 2018, O'Connor held the Certification Rule of the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional in Texas v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, finding it violated the nondelegation doctrine.[19] This ruling was reversed on appeal.[20]

In 2018, O'Connor ruled that the Indian Child Welfare Act was unconstitutional.[21] The Fifth Circuit reversed O'Connor's ruling on appeal, and the reversal was upheld by the Supreme Court in Haaland v. Brackeen (2023).[22]

On October 31, 2021, O'Connor ruled that the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act provide religious employers an exemption from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act's ban on discrimination "on the basis".[23][24]

In 2022, O'Connor issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Pentagon from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for its Navy Seals. O'Connor said the U.S. government had "no license" to abrogate the freedoms of the Navy SEALs.[25] The preliminary injunction was partially stayed by the Supreme Court on March 25, 2022.[26]

In October 2022, O'Connor ruled that the Boeing Company committed criminal acts when not disclosing the MCAS system of the FAA. This contradicted the previous settlement the federal government made with Boeing, and opened the door for new legal action by victims families.[27]

In VanDerStok v. Garland (2023), O'Connor issued a nationwide injunction blocking a rule issued in 2022 by the ATF that classified receiver blanks as "firearms" or firearm "frames or receivers" within the meaning of the Gun Control Act.[28][29] By classifying receiver blanks as firearms, the ATF rule required such receiver blanks to have serial numbers, required manufacturers of such receiver blanks to be licensed, and required commercial sellers to conduct background checks for purchasers.[28][29] O'Connor determined that the ATF rule exceeded the agency's authority, ruling that receiver blanks were not firearms or firearm receivers.[28] The U.S. has appealed to the Fifth Circuit,[28] and O'Connor's injunction was administratively stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court pending further proceedings.[30][31]

Affordable Care Act[edit]

On December 14, 2018, O'Connor ruled that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional.[32][33] O'Connor ruled that the individual mandate was unconstitutional by saying "[the] Individual Mandate can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of Congress's Tax Power and is still impermissible under the Interstate Commerce Clause—meaning the Individual Mandate is unconstitutional."[32][34] This is in reference to National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012) which ruled that the individual mandate was constitutional because of the tax penalty. The penalty was reduced to $0 by the 2017 tax bill starting in 2019.[35] The ruling was deemed likely to be appealed, with both Republican and Democratic legal experts saying that the legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act was unlikely to succeed.[32][36][37][38][39] The Affordable Care Act would remain in effect throughout the appeals process.[39][32] President Donald Trump commended the ruling on Twitter.[40][41][42]

Legal experts who both support and oppose the Affordable Care Act harshly criticized O'Connor's ruling, with The Washington Post noting that legal scholars considered O'Connor's ruling "as a tortured effort to rewrite not just the law but congressional history."[36] Ted Frank, director of litigation at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute said the ruling was "embarrassingly bad."[36] Nicholas Bagley said O'Connor's ruling was "about as naked a piece of judicial activism as I have ever seen; I don't even think it's close."[36] Jonathan H. Adler and Abbe R. Gluck, who were on opposing sides of the 2012 and 2015 Supreme Court challenges to the Affordable Care Act, wrote a joint opinion editorial in The New York Times where they described the ruling as "lawless", "a mockery of the rule of law and basic principles of democracy" and "an exercise of raw judicial power."[43][44]

While O'Connor's ruling was upheld on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, O'Connor and the Fifth Circuit were reversed by the Supreme Court of the United States in a 7-2 ruling issued on June 17, 2021, which stated that the parties involved in the lawsuit did not have standing to bring the suit.[45] Associate Justice Stephen Breyer was joined in the majority by Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Thomas wrote a concurring opinion while Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote a dissenting opinion and was joined by Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch.

In Braidwood Management Inc., et. al. v. Xavier Becerra, et. al., on March 30, 2023, O'Connor sided with conservative employers and individuals in Texas who argued that the Affordable Care Act's provision mandating that businesses provide their employees with free coverage of preventative services including mammograms, colonoscopies, mental health screenings, and the HIV prevention drug PrEP was unconstitutional.[46] Coverage recommendations are driven by the volunteer U.S. Preventive Services Task Force; O'Connor ruled that enforcing these recommendations was "unlawful" and violated the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.[47] He also wrote that the coverage requirements violate employers' religious beliefs "by making them complicit in facilitating homosexual behavior, drug use, and sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman."[48]


  1. ^ a b Bryan, Bob (December 17, 2018). "Experts think the ruling that declared Obamacare unconstitutional is 'insanity in print' and will likely be overturned". Business Insider. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Moreau, Julie (December 20, 2018). "Texas judge who struck down ACA to weigh in on trans health case". NBC News. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Fernandez, Manny (December 15, 2018). "In Weaponized Courts, Judge Who Halted Affordable Care Act Is a Conservative Favorite". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  4. ^ Texas, Birth Indes, 1903-1997
  5. ^ a b "O'Connor, Reed Charles". Biographical Directory of Federal Judges. Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  6. ^ Goldstein, Amy (December 14, 2018). "Federal judge in Texas rules entire Obama health-care law is unconstitutional". The Washington Post.
  7. ^ Levey, Noam N. (September 5, 2018). "Texas judge questions which parts of Obamacare should stand in latest legal challenge to the law". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  8. ^ Krause, Kevin (December 18, 2018). "A look at the low-key Texas judge who tossed Obamacare shows a history of notable conservative cases". Dallas News. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  9. ^ Richardson, Matt (December 14, 2018). "Obamacare ruled unconstitutional by Texas judge". Fox News. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  10. ^ "Biography, Hon. Reed O'Connor, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas". Washington, DC: The Federalist Society. September 15, 2018. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
  11. ^ Mance v. Holder, 74 F. Supp. 3d 795 (N.D. Tex. 2015).
  12. ^ Mance v. Sessions, 896 F.3d 699 (5th Cir. 2018).
  13. ^ Texas v. United States, 95 F. Supp. 3d 965 (N.D. Tex. 2015).
  14. ^ Texas v. United States, No. 7:15-CV-00056-O, 2015 WL 13424776 (N.D. Tex. June 26, 2015).
  15. ^ Domonoske, Camila (August 22, 2016). "U.S. Judge Grants Nationwide Injunction Blocking White House Transgender Policy". NPR. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  16. ^ Hersher, Rebecca; Johnson, Carrie (February 22, 2017). "Trump Administration Rescinds Obama Rule on Transgender Students' Bathroom Use". NPR.
  17. ^ Texas v. United States, No. 16-11534, 2017 WL 7000562 (5th Cir. Mar. 3, 2017).
  18. ^ Zaveri, Mihir (December 31, 2016). "Texas judge blocks transgender policy". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  19. ^ State of Texas, et. al. v. United States of America, et. al., .4:20-cv-00283-O (UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS, WICHITA FALLS DIVISION August 4, 2016).
  20. ^ Texas v. Rettig, 987 F.3d 518 (5th Cir. 2021)
  21. ^ "Texas judge strikes down Indian Child Welfare Act in contested ruling". October 5, 2018. Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  22. ^ Haaland v. Brackeen, No. 21-376.
  23. ^ Mulvaney, Erin (October 31, 2021). "Religious Businesses Shielded From LGBT Bias Claims, Judge Rules". Bloomberg Law.
  24. ^ Bear Creek Bible Church v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, No. 4:18-CV-00824-O, 2021 WL 5052661 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 31, 2021).
  25. ^ Whitcomb, Dan (January 4, 2022). "U.S. judge blocks Pentagon from punishing Navy SEALs who refused COVID-19 vaccine". Reuters. Retrieved January 4, 2022.
  27. ^ Shepardson, David (October 22, 2022). "U.S. Judge: Passengers in fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes are 'crime victims'". Reuters.
  28. ^ a b c d Andrew Chung & John Kruzel, Biden administration asks US Supreme Court to block 'ghost gun' ruling, Reuters (July 27, 2023).
  29. ^ a b Ian Millhiser, A new Supreme Court case could allow criminals to get guns without background checks, Vox (August 1, 2023).
  30. ^ Ariane de Vogue, Federal ghost gun regulations temporarily revived by Justice Alito, CNN (July 28, 2023).
  31. ^ Garland v. Vanderstock, Order, July 28, 2023.
  32. ^ a b c d Sullivan, Peter (December 14, 2018). "Federal judge in Texas strikes down ObamaCare". The Hill. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  33. ^ Armour, Stephanie (December 14, 2018). "Federal Judge Rules Affordable Care Act Is Unconstitutional Without Insurance-Coverage Penalty". The Wall Street Journal.
  34. ^ de Vogue, Ariane; Luhby, Tami (December 14, 2018). "Federal judge in Texas strikes down Affordable Care Act". CNN.
  35. ^ Blackman, Josh (December 17, 2018). "Understanding the New Obamacare Decision, Texas v. United States: Part II". Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  36. ^ a b c d Barrett, Devlin (December 15, 2018). "Legal experts rip judge's rationale for declaring Obamacare law invalid". The Washington Post.
  37. ^ Demko, Paul; Cancryn, Adam (December 14, 2018). "Judge rules Obamacare unconstitutional, endangering coverage for 20 million". Politico. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  38. ^ Scott, Dylan (June 8, 2018). "The new anti-Obamacare lawsuit heads to court today. Scholars think it's 'absurd.'". Vox. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  39. ^ a b "Federal Judge Strikes Down Entire ACA; Law Remains In Effect". 2018. doi:10.1377/forefront.20181215.617096.
  40. ^ Trump, Donald J. [@realDonaldTrump] (December 15, 2018). "Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!" (Tweet). Retrieved December 15, 2018 – via Twitter.
  41. ^ Trump, Donald J. [@realDonaldTrump] (December 15, 2018). "As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions. Mitch and Nancy, get it done!" (Tweet). Retrieved December 15, 2018 – via Twitter.
  42. ^ Barnes, Robert (December 14, 2018). "Federal judge in Texas rules Obama health-care law unconstitutional". The Washington Post.
  43. ^ Adler, Jonathan H.; Gluck, Abbe R. (December 15, 2018). "Opinion | What the Lawless Obamacare Ruling Means". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  44. ^ Barnes, Robert (December 17, 2018). "Controversial ruling on health care law could face a skeptical Supreme Court — if it gets there". The Washington Post.
  45. ^ Stephen Breyer (majority opinion), Clarence Thomas (concurring opinion with the majority), and Samuel Alito (dissenting opinion) (June 17, 2021). "California et al, petitioners v. Texas, et al (Case 19–840)" (PDF). The Supreme Court of the United States.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  46. ^ Braidwood Management Inc., et. al. v. Xavier Becerra, et. al., .4:20-cv-00283-O (United States District Court Northern District of Texas Fort Worth Division March 30, 2023).
  47. ^ "Judge undercuts preventive care mandate in Affordable Care Act". CBS News. March 30, 2023. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
  48. ^ Ollstein, Alice Miranda (March 30, 2023). "Texas judge strikes down free HIV drugs, cancer screenings under Obamacare". Politico. Retrieved March 30, 2023.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas