United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas

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United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas
(S.D. Tex.)
Seal of the Southern District of Texas.svg
Southern District of Texas map.png
Location Houston, Texas
Appeals to Fifth Circuit
Established March 11, 1902
Judges assigned 19
Chief Judge Lee H. Rosenthal
U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick
Official court website

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas (in case citations, S.D. Tex.) is the Federal district court with jurisdiction over the southern part of Texas. The court's headquarters is in Houston, Texas and has six additional offices in the district.

Appeals from cases brought in the Southern District of Texas are taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (except for patent claims and claims against the U.S. government under the Tucker Act, which are appealed to the Federal Circuit).

Since January 8, 2018 the current United States Attorney is Ryan Patrick.


The oldest federal civil building in Texas, the 1861 Customs and Courthouse in Galveston, once housed the Southern District of Texas.
Federal Courthouse in Galveston that housed the court & its predecessor, from 1891–1917[1]

Since its foundation, the Southern District of Texas has been served by forty-one District Judges and six Clerks of Court. The first federal judge in Texas was John C. Watrous, who was appointed on May 26, 1846, and had previously served as Attorney General of the Republic of Texas. He was assigned to hold court in Galveston, at the time, the largest city in the state. As seat of the Texas Judicial District, the Galveston court had jurisdiction over the whole state.[2] On February 21, 1857, the state was divided into two districts, Eastern and Western, with Judge Watrous continuing in the Eastern district.[3] Judge Watrous and Judge Thomas H. DuVal, of the Western District of Texas, left the state on the secession of Texas from the Union, the only two United States Judges not to resign their posts in states that seceded. When Texas was restored to the Union, Watrous and DuVal resumed their duties and served until 1870. Judge Amos Morrill served in the Eastern District of Texas from 1872 to 1884. He was succeeded by Chauncy B. Sabin (1884 to 1890) and David E. Bryant (1890 to 1902). In 1902, when the Southern District was created by Act of Congress, Judge Bryant continued to serve in the Eastern District of Texas.

In 1917 the General Services Administration added courtrooms and judicial offices to the second floor of the 1861 U.S. Customs House in Galveston, and it became the new federal courthouse for the Southern District of Texas. This location would later become the seat of the Galveston Division, after Congress added a second judgeship in the 1930s.[3][4][5]

The Southern District of Texas started with one judge, Waller T. Burns, and a Clerk of Court, Christopher Dart, seated in Galveston. Since that time, the court has grown to nineteen district judgeships, six bankruptcy judgeships, fourteen magistrate judgeships, and over 200 deputy clerks.

Galveston Division[edit]

The U.S. federal building in Galveston, current home of the Galveston Division.

In 2007 criminal charges were filed against Judge Samuel B. Kent, the only District judge in the Galveston Division, who sat at the Federal Courthouse in Galveston, the oldest federal judgeship in the state.[6] Due to the litigation, Chief Judge Hayden Head transferred Kent and his staff to the Houston Division.[6][7] Judge Kent subsequently pleaded guilty, in February 2009, to obstruction of justice and, after being impeached by the House of Representatives, resigned in June 2009.[8] The next month, it was announced that Judge Kent's post would remain vacant for the time being, and a replacement judge would be assigned to McAllen, due to the increase in cases in the Texas border area concerning subjects such as drugs and immigration.[9]

Laredo Division[edit]

The United States Courthouse is the current home of the Laredo Division.

Laredo, Texas, is located on the northern bank of the Rio Grande River and is unique in its ability to operate international bridges between two Mexican states. The city presently maintains four border crossings and one rail bridge with the Mexican State of Tamaulipas at Nuevo Laredo and the Mexican State of Nuevo León at Colombia. Webb County also borders the State of Nuevo León and the State of Coahuila, Mexico, northwest of Laredo. Laredo is the largest inland port along the U.S.-Mexico border and the Pan American Highway leading into Mexico through Laredo stretches from Canada and continues into Central and South America. Because of its location and accessibility to Mexico, Laredo’s economy is primarily based on international trade with Mexico. According to the Laredo Development Foundation, more than 700 of the Fortune 1,000 companies do international business via Laredo and more than 9,000 trucks cross through town per day along with 1,800 loaded rail cars. Laredo is ranked first in growth in Texas and seventh in the country by the Milken Institute.[10]

The division encompasses five counties with the federal courthouse located in Laredo, Texas. There are three Laredo district court judges - Judge George P. Kazen, who has taken Senior Status but continues to carry a full docket, and Judges Diana Saldaña and Marina Garcia Marmolejo, who presided over more than 2,000 felony cases in 2013 - most of which involved charges of narcotics trafficking and alien smuggling. In addition, there are three federal magistrates who alternate duties every two weeks. Additionally, the federal grand jury convenes every other week where AUSAs rotate the responsibility of presenting felony cases.[10]


Bob Casey Federal Courthouse in Downtown Houston

The jurisdiction of the Southern District of Texas is divided as follows:

Current judges[edit]

# Title Judge Duty station Born Term of service Appointed by
Active Chief Senior
34 Chief Judge Lee H. Rosenthal Houston 1952 1992–present 2016–present G.H.W. Bush
25 District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa McAllen 1950 1983–present 2009–2016 Reagan
26 District Judge Lynn Nettleton Hughes Houston 1941 1985–present Reagan
29 District Judge Sim Lake Houston 1944 1988–present Reagan
30 District Judge Melinda Harmon Houston 1946 1989–present G.H.W. Bush
36 District Judge Vanessa Gilmore Houston 1956 1994–present Clinton
39 District Judge Keith P. Ellison Houston 1950 1999–present Clinton
40 District Judge Randy Crane McAllen 1965 2002–present G.W. Bush
41 District Judge Andrew S. Hanen Brownsville/Houston 1953 2002–present G.W. Bush
42 District Judge Micaela Alvarez McAllen 1958 2004–present G.W. Bush
43 District Judge Gray Hampton Miller Houston 1948 2006–present G.W. Bush
44 District Judge Diana Saldaña Laredo 1971 2011–present Obama
45 District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos Corpus Christi 1965 2011–present Obama
46 District Judge Marina Marmolejo Laredo 1971 2011–present Obama
48 District Judge Alfred H. Bennett Houston 1965 2015–present Obama
49 District Judge George C. Hanks Jr. Galveston/Victoria 1964 2015–present Obama
50 District Judge Jose Rolando Olvera Jr. Brownsville 1963 2015–present Obama
51 District Judge vacant
52 District Judge vacant
12 Senior Judge Carl Olaf Bue Jr. inactive 1922 1970–1987 1987–present Nixon
20 Senior Judge George P. Kazen Laredo 1940 1979–2009 1996–2003 2009–present Carter
24 Senior Judge Hayden Wilson Head Jr. Corpus Christi 1944 1981–2009 2003–2009 2009–present Reagan
27 Senior Judge David Hittner Houston 1939 1986–2004 2004–present Reagan
28 Senior Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt Houston 1948 1988–2013 2013–present Reagan
31 Senior Judge John David Rainey Victoria 1945 1990–2010 2010–present G.H.W. Bush
33 Senior Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. Houston 1936 1992–2006 2006–present G.H.W. Bush
35 Senior Judge Janis Graham Jack Corpus Christi 1946 1994–2011 2011–present Clinton
37 Senior Judge Nancy Friedman Atlas Houston 1949 1995–2014 2014–present Clinton
38 Senior Judge Hilda G. Tagle Brownsville/Houston 1946 1998–2012 2012–present Clinton

Vacancies and pending nominations[edit]

Seat Seat last held by Vacancy reason Date of vacancy Nominee Date of nomination
16 Janis Graham Jack Senior Status June 1, 2011
13 Gregg Costa Elevation to Fifth Circuit May 20, 2014 Fernando Rodriguez Jr. September 7, 2017

Former judges[edit]

# Judge State Born–died Active service Chief Judge Senior status Appointed by Reason for
1 Burns, Waller ThomasWaller Thomas Burns TX 1858–1917 1902–1917 Roosevelt, T.T. Roosevelt death
2 Hutcheson Jr., Joseph ChappellJoseph Chappell Hutcheson Jr. TX 1879–1973 1918–1931 Wilson, Wilson appointment to 5th Cir.
3 Kennerly, Thomas MartinThomas Martin Kennerly TX 1874–1962 1931–1954 1954–1962 Hoover, Hoover death
4 Allred, JamesJames Allred TX 1899–1959 1939–1942 Roosevelt, F.F. Roosevelt resignation
4.1 Allred, JamesJames Allred TX 1899–1959 1949–1959 Truman, Truman death
5 Hannay, Allen BurroughsAllen Burroughs Hannay TX 1892–1983 1942–1975 1954–1962 1975–1983 Roosevelt, F.F. Roosevelt death
6 Connally, Ben ClarksonBen Clarkson Connally TX 1909–1975 1949–1974 1962–1974 1974–1975 Truman, Truman death
7 Ingraham, Joe McDonaldJoe McDonald Ingraham TX 1903–1990 1954–1969 Eisenhower, Eisenhower appointment to 5th Cir.
8 Garza, Reynaldo GuerraReynaldo Guerra Garza TX 1915–2004 1961–1979 1974–1979 Kennedy, Kennedy appointment to 5th Cir.
9 Noel Jr., James LataneJames Latane Noel Jr. TX 1909–1997 1961–1976[Note 1] 1976–1997 Kennedy, Kennedy death
10 Singleton Jr., John VirgilJohn Virgil Singleton Jr. TX 1918–2015 1966–1988 1979–1988 1988–1992 Johnson, L.L. Johnson retirement
11 Seals, Woodrow BradleyWoodrow Bradley Seals TX 1917–1990 1966–1982 1982–1990 Johnson, L.L. Johnson death
13 Cox, Owen DeVolOwen DeVol Cox TX 1910–1990 1970–1981 1981–1990 Nixon, Nixon death
14 O'Conor Jr., Robert J.Robert J. O'Conor Jr. TX 1934–present 1975–1984 Ford, Ford resignation
15 Sterling, Ross N.Ross N. Sterling TX 1931–1988 1976–1988 Ford, Ford death
16 Cowan, Finis E.Finis E. Cowan TX 1929–present 1977–1979 Carter, Carter resignation
17 Cire, George EdwardGeorge Edward Cire TX 1922–1985 1979–1985 Carter, Carter death
18 DeAnda, JamesJames DeAnda TX 1925–2006 1979–1992 1988–1992 Carter, Carter retirement
19 Black, Norman WilliamNorman William Black TX 1931–1997 1979–1996 1992–1996 1996–1997 Carter, Carter death
21 McDonald, Gabrielle KirkGabrielle Kirk McDonald TX 1942–present 1979–1988 Carter, Carter resignation
22 Gibson, HughHugh Gibson TX 1918–1998 1979–1989 1989–1998 Carter, Carter death
23 Vela, Filemon BartolomeFilemon Bartolome Vela TX 1935–2004 1980–2000 2000–2004 Carter, Carter death
32 Kent, Samuel B.Samuel B. Kent TX 1949–present 1990–2009 Bush, G.H.W.G.H.W. Bush resignation[Note 2]
47 Costa, GreggGregg Costa TX 1972–present 2012–2014 Obama appointment to 5th Cir.
  1. ^ Recess appointment; formally nominated on January 15, 1962, confirmed by the United States Senate on March 16, 1962, and received commission on March 17, 1962.
  2. ^ Resigned June 30, 2009 after being impeached.

Succession of seats[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service Archaeological Field Inspection
  2. ^ U.S. Department of Justice: 2002 Centennial Report, pgs. 1, 10
  3. ^ a b Southern District of Texas: History of the District
  4. ^ General Services Administration: U.S. Custom House, Galveston, Texas
  5. ^ Galveston Historical Foundation: More About the Custom House
  6. ^ a b Paschenko, Chris (2012-04-27). "Senate confirms Costa for isle federal judgeship". Galveston County Daily News. Retrieved 2012-04-27. 
  7. ^ http://www.txs.uscourts.gov/district/genord/2007/2007-17.pdf Southern District of Texas General Order 2007–17
  8. ^ Flood, Marry (2009-02-23). "Judge Kent accepts plea deal and retires from bench". Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  9. ^ Rice, Harvey (2009-07-09). "Kent's judgeship in Galveston moving to McAllen". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-07-22. The Galveston federal courthouse where disgraced former U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent presided for 18 years will remain vacant and his replacement moved to McAllen, the chief judge of the Southern District said Thursday. [...] The decision to move the post from Galveston to McAllen was made because few cases are heard in Galveston while immigration and drug cases are swamping judges in courts near the border, Chief Judge Hayden Head said. (Archived by WebCite at https://www.webcitation.org/5iS6Y7PYp)
  10. ^ a b "Laredo". United States Department of Justice. Retrieved 11 October 2016.  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

External links[edit]