U.S. Senate confirms Texas Supreme Court Justice Jeff Brown to the federal bench

Texas Tribune Blue Government News

Texas Supreme Court Justice Jeff Brown is an appointee of former Gov. Rick Perry.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Jeff Brown is an appointee of former Gov. Rick Perry.
Emree Weaver/The Texas Tribune

The U.S. Senate confirmed Texas Supreme Court Justice Jeff Brown to the federal bench Wednesday. He is one on a slate of six Texas nominees approved this week as the chamber fills a number of long-open vacancies across the state.

Brown’s 50-40 confirmation to a post in Galveston will open a vacancy on the Texas Supreme Court, giving Gov. Greg Abbott his third opportunity to appoint a judge to the court where he launched his own political career. Abbott’s appointee, who will not require Texas Senate confirmation, would serve until the end of 2020 and be required to run for reelection next November.

Former Gov. Rick Perry appointed Brown, then an appeals court judge in Houston, in September 2013. A former trial judge and an attorney in private practice, Brown had also worked as a law clerk at the Texas Supreme Court, to Abbott, who was a justice, and to former Justice Jack Hightower, a Democrat.

Brantley Starr, a top aide to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, was also confirmed Wednesday by a 51-39 vote to a post in Dallas.

Starr has often been the face of the Texas Attorney General’s Office at the Legislature, testifying before numerous committees on the agency’s behalf. He also worked on the agency’s lawsuit challenging Obama-era guidance advising that Title IX protected against discrimination against transgender individuals, and he worked to defend a state law prohibiting “sanctuary cities.”

Both of Texas’ U.S. senators praised the nominees as fair and qualified.

“Each of these seven nominees are highly qualified individuals who have demonstrated their strong commitment to the rule of law,” said U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in a statement. “I have every confidence Texans will be well served with their confirmation.”

And U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said one new judge, Jason Pulliam, “will finally break down … barriers” as the first African American judge in the Western District of Texas. Pulliam was confirmed Wednesday 54–36.

The Senate had been expected to confirm one other nominee, Ada Brown, but did not come to her Wednesday.

The other nominees are James Wesley Hendrix, who was confirmed 89-1 Tuesday; Sean D. Jordan, who was confirmed 54-34 Tuesday; and Mark T. Pittman, who was confirmed 54–36 Wednesday.

President Donald Trump has been prolific in filling federal judicial vacancies, surpassing records set by previous presidents early in his first term. Those appointments have been particularly notable in Texas, where seats sat open for years during the presidency of Barack Obama. In some cases, judges tapped by Obama — whose nominations were left to die without a vote — were approved by the Senate after being reappointed by Trump.