Trump to nominate Texas Supreme Court Justice Jeff Brown to the federal bench

If the U.S. Senate confirms Brown, the state's highest civil court would see its second vacancy in a period of months.

Justice Jeff Brown listens to Philip Durst during the Texas Supreme Court hearing in the case of Texas Department of Criminal Justice v. Maurie Levin, et al.
Justice Jeff Brown listens to Philip Durst during the Texas Supreme Court hearing in the case of Texas Department of Criminal Justice v. Maurie Levin, et al.  Emree Weaver/The Texas Tribune

Texas Supreme Court Justice Jeff Brown is to be nominated to the federal bench, potentially opening a vacancy on the state’s highest civil court.

President Donald Trump announced Friday that he intends to nominate Brown, along with Texas' Deputy First Assistant Attorney General Brantley Starr, to federal district judgeships in Texas. Both will need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Brown, a Republican, has served on the high court since former Gov. Rick Perry appointed him in 2013, and he was re-elected in November. Previously, he had been an appellate judge in Houston. Starr has most recently overseen the attorney general's office's civil and criminal litigation.

If Brown is confirmed, the high court would see its second vacancy in a period of months. Gov. Greg Abbott can appoint a judge to fill vacancies on the Texas Supreme Court until the next election year for statewide officers, in this case 2020.

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After Friday's announcement, Abbott applauded Trump's decisions.

“I have had the privilege to work with both Jeff and Brantley and have witnessed firsthand their sharp legal minds and commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law. I look forward to the Senate confirming their nominations," he said in a statement.

Late last year, Texas Supreme Court Justice Phil Johnson announced he would resign effective Dec. 31, sparking a quiet campaign in Texas legal circles to fill his post. Abbott ultimately selected Brett Busby, a Republican judge in Houston who lost re-election in November in a Democratic rout of urban-area appellate courts, for that position.