Confirmed with a 53-43 vote Thursday in the U.S. Senate, former Texas Solicitor General James Ho now has a seat on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ho is President Donald Trump's 12th circuit court nominee to be confirmed — a record Republicans tout as highly effective and Democrats criticize as frenzied. Ho's 5th Circuit post has been vacant since 2013; partisan gridlock left it unfilled during President Barack Obama's administration, but a rules change in the U.S. Senate, along with the current Republican majority, has allowed Trump to shepherd his nominees through the upper chamber fairly quickly.

Ho's confirmation comes on the heels of a confirmation vote on Don Willett, a longtime Texas Supreme Court justice who will also serve on the 5th Circuit. Willett was approved 50-47 on Wednesday.

Ho brings rare racial diversity to a federal bench long dominated by white men. He'll be the first Asian-American judge on the 5th Circuit and one of only a handful of Asian-American judges serving on federal appeals courts across the country. A Taiwanese immigrant and naturalized citizen, Ho has written consistently over two decades about birthright citizenship — an issue on which he opposes the president who appointed him.

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Ho, a lower-profile name than his Texas colleague on the bench, leads the appellate practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's Dallas office. He has more than a decade of experience working in the public sector, including as counsel to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and a stint as Texas' top appellate lawyer. 

During his confirmation hearing last month, Ho faced questions about his contributions to the the infamous 2002 “Bybee memo,” a product of then-President George W. Bush's administration that authorized the use of torture against certain detainees. Ho wrote a memo that is cited in that document, but Ho's writing has not been made public due to attorney-client privilege, he told the committee. 

Like Willett, Ho received the American Bar Association's highest ranking of "well qualified" and is well-regarded in the legal sphere, at the state level and nationally.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • The U.S. Senate confirmed Don Willett, a Texas Supreme Court justice, to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday. A confirmation vote on Jim Ho, a former state solicitor general, is expected later this week. [Full story]

  • Last month, President Donald Trump said he is nominating Dallas attorney James Ho to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Years of his writing show a strong interest by Ho in the thorny issue of birthright citizenship. [Full story]

  • Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, a nominee of President Donald Trump to a federal court, defended past tweets about transgender people and same-sex marriage as jokes at a confirmation hearing Wednesday. [Full story]

  • President Donald Trump is nominating two Texans to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett and Dallas attorney James Ho. [Full story]

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