President Donald Trump has nominated David S. Morales, an Austin attorney who previously served as general counsel to former Gov. Rick Perry, to become a U.S. District Court judge in the Southern District of Texas.
Morales, currently a partner in the Austin office of Kelly Hart & Hallman, served as Perry’s chief attorney from 2011 until 2014. From 2007 until 2011, Morales served as assistant Texas attorney general and rose to deputy first assistant under Greg Abbott, then Texas attorney general and now governor.
Morales did not immediately return a call for comment.
Lawyers at Fort Worth-based Kelly Hart were pleased with Morales’ nomination.
“All of us at Kelly Hart are very supportive of the president’s nomination of our partner, David S. Morales, to serve as a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Texas,” said Marianne Auld, Kelly Hart’s managing partner.
“David’s extensive litigation background, his ability to manage both attorneys and substantial litigation dockets and his calm courtroom demeanor will be a perfect match for the district bench. David’s abilities have served Kelly Hart’s clients well, and we wish him the best as he returns to public service.”
Texas Republican U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz also praised Morales’ nomination.
“David Morales will make an outstanding federal judge,” Cruz said. “Having worked side by side with David in the Texas Attorney General’s Office defending the constitutional rights of Texans, I know firsthand that he will be a principled, passionate defender of the Constitution and the rule of law, which is why I was proud to join Sen. Cornyn in recommending that the president nominate David to this position. He should be swiftly confirmed.”
“I applaud the president for nominating such an experienced attorney to serve the people of south Texas,” said Cornyn. “David has spent his career mastering complex legal issues in both public service and private practice, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure his swift confirmation.”
Morales also has a connection to the president on his resume. In 2010, he was the lawyer who made the call to end the state’s investigation into Trump University while serving as a deputy Texas attorney general. In 2016, during the heat of the presidential campaign, John W. Owens, a former assistant Texas attorney general, accused Abbott of rejecting a proposed $5.4 million lawsuit in 2009 against Trump University for political reasons. Owen noted that Trump later donated to Abbott’s campaign fund after the investigation was concluded in 2010, while Abbott was serving as AG.
“It had to be political, in my mind, because Donald Trump was treated differently than any other similarly situated scam artist in the 16 years I was at the consumer protection office,” Owens told The New York Times at the time.
Abbott maintained that he had no role in ending the investigation.
“Story is bogus,” Abbott tweeted at the time. “A few journalists peddling their agenda rather than getting all the facts tank the profession.”
And Morales issued a statement in 2016 corroborating his old boss’s recollection, clarifying that it was he, not Abbott, that made the call to end the investigation into Trump University.
After the investigation got underway in 2009, Trump University agreed to suspend its operations in Texas, and then, in 2010, the school agreed to permanently exit the state, ending the probe, Morales explained in the statement.
Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel of San Diego signed off on a $25 million settlement deal between Trump and 6,000 Trump University students who claimed the courses they took were worthless.