Karen Gren Scholer, Carter Scholer Arnett Hamada & Mockler ()
While Texas’ Senior U.S. Senator John Cornyn has pledged to block President Barack Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court, the influential Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he’ll work with the White House to seat five Texans on U.S. District Court benches.
Before the Senate adjourned for a two-week break, Cornyn joined other Republicans who want to deny Obama the chance to replace conservative icon Antonin Scalia—an appointment that would change the ideological balance of the Supreme Court for generations—by refusing to grant Garland a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Instead, Cornyn wants to hand that nomination over to a new president next year.
But Cornyn made it clear that his objection of Garland won’t get in the way of filling the 12 current and future vacancies on U.S. District Court benches in Texas—replacements that are desperately needed in some of the state’s busiest jurisdictions due to a rash of retirements by older judges.
“This disagreement over the Supreme Court is not going to stop my commitment to work across the aisle to help Texas and Texans. And to that end, we’ve been working with White House on five judicial nominations,” Cornyn said.
The five White House nominees for the Texas benches include three sitting U.S. magistrate judges, an assistant U.S. Attorney and a civil litigator and former state court judge.
All were vetted by the Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee, a bipartisan panel set up by Cornyn and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to screen candidates for U.S. District Court benches in Texas.
The nominees include:
• David Counts, a U.S. magistrate judge in the Western District of Texas who was named to a U.S. District Court bench in Midland. Counts has served as a U.S. Magistrate judge in Midland since 2009. Counts previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Western District from 1995 to 2009. Before that he served as an assistant Travis County district attorney from 1987 until 1995. He’s also a colonel in the Texas National Guard where he serves as the state judge advocate.
• Scott Frost, a U.S. magistrate judge in the Northern District of Texas who was named to a U.S. District Court bench in Lubbock. Frost has served as a U.S. magistrate judge in Abilene and San Angelo since 2011. Prior to becoming a judge, Frost was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District from 1990 until 2011. From 1988 until 1990, Frost worked as an associate for McLean, Sanders, Price, Head & Ellis, which is now Brackett & Ellis.
• James Wesley Hendrix, chief of the appellate division for the U.S. attorney’s office in the Northern District of Texas who was named for a U.S. District Court seat in Dallas. Hendrix has served as a federal prosecutor since 2007 after leaving a job at Baker Botts where he practiced commercial litigation. Hendrix served as a clerk to U.S. Fifth Circuit Judge Patrick Higginbotham and graduated from the University of Texas School of Law with high honors.
• Irma Ramirez, a U.S. magistrate judge in the Northern District of Texas who was named to a U.S. District Court bench in Dallas. Ramirez has served as a U.S. magistrate judge since 2002. Before she became a judge, Ramirez served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Texas working in the civil division from 1995 until 1999 and in the criminal division from 1991 until 1995. She began her career as an associate at Locke Purnell Rain Harrell, which is now Locke Lord.
• Karen Gren Scholer, a civil litigator and co-managing partner of Dallas’ Carter Scholer Arnett Hamada & Mockler for a U.S. District Court bench in Plano. Scholer was previously a partner in the Dallas office of Jones Day from 2009 until 2013. From 2001 until 2008, Scholer served as civil state district court judge in Dallas. If confirmed, Scholer would be the first Asian-American U.S. District Court judge in Texas.
“I was able to speak with each of these nominees and congratulate them …” Cornyn said. “And my main goal in all of this is to make sure that we get the best and brightest legal minds on the bench that are not partisans, but are people we can be proud of and who are well-qualified. So I look forward to assisting those nominations going forward.”