President Donald Trump promised to appoint judges to all levels of the federal bench who will faithfully follow the law according to its original meaning, including at the Supreme Court.
Across the political spectrum, from the establishment to the grassroots, Texas Republicans are rallying to a slate of legal stars to help Trump keep that promise and set an example for the nation.
Texas is in the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, along with Louisiana and Mississippi. The Fifth Circuit is comprised of 17 judicial seats, three of which are currently vacant. For two of those three seats, the president traditionally nominates someone from the Lone Star State.
A recurring issue in the Republican Party is the unremitting tension between the GOP base and the GOP establishment. Not this time in Texas, however.
Republicans are flocking to the banner of several hopefuls to fill those seats, and in doing so may sketch a template for the rest of the nation. Over 100 federal judicial seats nationwide are currently vacant, including over a dozen on the U.S. courts of appeals.
Judges on the federal district courts are essentially chosen by the home-state senators of that district, especially when those senators are of the same party as the president. They make recommendations to the White House, where the recommended names are almost always adopted by the president, so long as they first pass a thorough vetting process involving the Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice and the White House Counsel’s Office.
For the courts of appeals, home-state senators make recommendations, though the president has the final say. In Texas, two of the most prominent senators in the nation—Majority Whip John Cornyn and conservative darling Ted Cruz—have a committee that interviews and evaluates potential judges for Cornyn and Cruz to recommend to President Trump. They are considering six names.
Cornyn is a former justice on the Texas Supreme Court and the former attorney general of the Lone Star State. Cruz is one of the most renowned constitutional lawyers in America, having clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist on the U.S. Supreme Court, served as Texas solicitor general, and won several historic cases before the nation’s highest court.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is a favorite among conservatives, having taken on Barack Obama in lawsuits covering the gamut of hot-button issues, from immigration, to transgender issues, to Planned Parenthood, to voter ID.
Speaking of the current vacancies on the federal bench, Paxton exclusively tells Breitbart News, “No one has more at stake in how we fill these Fifth Circuit vacancies than the men and women who defend the State of Texas in court every single day at the Texas Attorney General’s Office.”
“I was delighted to see the list of six names the senators are considering, because it includes my top choices for jurists who understand the legal issues we face,” Paxton continued. “Judge Reed O’Connor is a nationally respected federal judge who has a proven track record. Likewise, Justice Don Willett and Jim Ho are among our very best legal talents committed to conservative principles.”
O’Connor is currently a district judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. Willet is currently a justice on the Texas Supreme Court. And Ho is a partner at the global powerhouse law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, a former law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas on the U.S. Supreme Court, and the former solicitor general of Texas.
Breitbart News also spoke with another leading Texas Republican who insisted on speaking anonymously, because he personally knows each of the six candidates for the federal appellate bench and could not afford to show favorites.
“O’Connor is incredible—a great judge who is exactly what the country needs,” he began. “But even more so then O’Connor, I am ecstatic by the prospect of Jim Ho on the Fifth Circuit. He’s a man of incredible intellect, principle, and devotion to the Constitution—exactly the sort that President Trump promised to nominate, and that will make the president and the nation proud.”
“Jim Ho is my number-one pick,” he added, then went on to praise several of the other contenders as well.
President Trump will make his final selections in the coming months on seats for the Fifth Circuit and other federal courts of appeals, even as the U.S. Senate considers his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to take the seat of Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.