Before winning a presidential nomination for one of the four U.S. Attorney positions in Texas, a candidate must first meet with a committee of 35 lawyers who vet applicants for the state’s two Republican senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.
So it wasn’t much of a surprise recently when President Donald Trump nominated Erin Nealy Cox to be the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. A former federal prosecutor who is currently a senior adviser at a cybersecurity firm, Cox served as a member the senators’ Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee (FJEC) until she resigned to apply for the U.S. Attorney position. And she’s not the only FJEC member to make that move.
“Erin Nealy Cox will be a stellar United States attorney,” Cruz said. “She is smart, principled and dedicated to the just enforcement of the law, and her background as a federal prosecutor, senior official at the Department of Justice, and cybersecurity expert makes her uniquely qualified to be the chief federal law enforcement officer for the Northern District of Texas.”
Cornyn also praised Cox’s appointment.
“As a former federal prosecutor and cybersecurity expert, Erin is the perfect choice to lead the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Dallas,” Cornyn said. “I was proud to recommend Erin, and I’m confident she will serve North Texans well.”
Cox declined to comment.
David Prichard, a San Antonio attorney who chairs FJEC, said Cox is one of four members who have left the committee to apply either for U.S. attorney positions, Texas U.S. District Court benches or the state’s two open seats on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit: all positions the committee reviews before the senators make their recommendations to the White House.
Other FJEC members who’ve stepped down in order to pursue federal appointments include James Ho, a partner the Dallas office of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher; Larry Finder, a partner in the Houston office of Baker & McKenzie; and Michael Truncale, a partner in Beaumont’s Orgain Bell & Tucker.
“These are all great folks and each of them brings a lot. They were obviously well thought of by the senators that appointed them to the committee. I’m just glad to see people of this quality get to serve,” Prichard said.
“The committee put Erin through the same sort of questioning that the other candidates went through,” Prichard added. “There is a misconception that we select people. We don’t select people, the senators select people. She got asked a lot of hard questions just like a lot of people.”
Matt Orwig, who served as a federal prosecutor with Cox in Dallas and is currently a member of FJEC, said she is well-suited for the position in addition to already having the trust of the senator’s committee. In addition to cybersecurity work, Cox sat on the board of Denton-based Sally Beauty Supply, a publically traded company.
“She’s highly qualified and very professional. She’s done different things and has been successful at all of it. She’s been a successful manager and shown it,” Orwig said. “I think people are looking to her to professionalize the office.”
The Northern District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s office was handed a stinging defeat earlier this year when jurors acquitted Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price of bribery and conspiracy charges, a prosecution that was marked by problems and resulted in U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn chastising prosecutors for failing to turn over Brady evidence to Price’s defense attorneys.
In addition to nominating Cox, Trump nominated John F. Bash to become U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas last month. Bash currently serves as special assistant and associate counsel to Trump. From 2012 to 2017, Bash served as an assistant to the solicitor general in the U.S. Department of Justice.