Trump Announces First Judicial Picks of New Year

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced six new candidates for jobs on federal courts in Texas, Louisiana, Arizona and North Dakota, his first new batch of judicial nominations since October.

Half of the nominees Trump announced are to seats on federal courts in Texas, including two who would serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas if confirmed.

Justice Mark Pittman currently sits on the Texas Second Court of Appeals, having taken the seat in 2017 after a stint as a judge on the Tarrant County District Court from 2015 to 2017.

The vice president and one of the founders of the Tarrant County, Texas chapter of the conservative Federalist Society, Pittman was listed in the 2018 election as a Republican and won re-election to his seat on the appeals court unopposed.

Before taking the bench, Pittman was an attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission and also spent time as a federal prosecutor in the Lone Star State.  

Pittman would be joined on the court by James “Wes” Hendrix, who currently works as a federal prosecutor for the Northern District of Texas, leading the office’s appellate division. Former President Barrack Obama nominated Hendrix to the same seat on the court in 2016, though he never received a vote before the full Senate amid a Republican-led blockade of Obama judicial nominees.

Before starting as a prosecutor in 2007, Hendrix, who is also associated with the Federalist Society, worked at the Dallas office of the law firm Baker Botts, primarily representing companies in complex commercial litigation matters.

The final Texas nominee Trump announced Wednesday is Sean Jordan, who is currently a partner at the Austin, Texas firm Jackson Walker, serving as co-chair of the appellate practice group. If confirmed, he would join the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

The former principal deputy solicitor general of Texas, Jordan has weighed in on a number of high-profile court cases, including the landmark gun rights case District of Columbia v. Heller, in which he submitted a friend of the court brief on behalf of 31 states advocating the court overturn a Washington, D.C., restriction on gun ownership.

Jordan also worked on a case stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, helping convince the Fifth Circuit to uphold a district court’s decision to dismiss claims brought by three Mexican states who sought damages as a result of the spill.

Texas U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, both Republicans, praised Trump’s nominations on Wednesday. Cornyn and Cruz suggested the nominees to Trump based on the recommendation of a bipartisan judicial evaluation group, according to a statement.

“I was happy to recommend Wes, Mark and Sean to the president,” Cruz said in a statement. “They each bring to the bench a proven record of professionalism and excellence. I commend the president for these nominations and urge my colleagues to quickly confirm them to the bench.”

Trump also nominated Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Greg Guidry to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Guidry has served on the court since 2009 and won re-election in 2018 after running unopposed in the primary.

Guidry has been a judge for nearly two decades, having first taken a seat on the 24th Judicial District Court for the Parish of Jefferson in 2000. He also spent time as an attorney with the firm Liskow & Lewis and as a federal prosecutor in the state.

A graduate of Louisiana State University Law Center, Guidry also spent a year on a scholarship studying Roman law at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. 

The final two nominees Trump announced Wednesday come from private practice, though they also spent time as attorneys in government.

Michael Liburdi, who is nominated to a seat on Arizona federal bench, currently works as a shareholder at the Phoenix office of Greenberg Traurig and previously served as general counsel for Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. Liburdi has a focus in campaign finance and elections law and once represented a group of voters in a challenge to Arizona’s legislative districts.

Liburdi also defended the Arizona Legislature in a challenge to a bill that increased campaign contribution limits under the state’s campaign finance laws.

The final attorney nominated Wednesday was Peter Welte of North Dakota, who currently works as a shareholder with the Vogel Law Firm, where he focuses on criminal defense and agricultural law. Prior to joining the firm, Welte spent 13 years as the state’s attorney for Grand Forks County.

The nominees are the first Trump has put forward in the new Congress and each will have to receive confirmation from the Senate before taking their seats on the bench.

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