Martha Deller Special to the Business Press
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, a prosecutor and government counsel before his 2007 judicial appointment, will give the keynote address at the Fort Worth Business Press Power Attorneys awards dinner Oct. 9. O’Connor began his legal career at Vinson & Elkins in 1989 after graduating summa cum laude at Southern Texas College of Law, where he was second in his class. He taught briefly after earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston.
After five years as an associate at Vinson and Elkins, a 96-year-old civil firm with 16 offices around the world, the Houston native joined the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office as an assistant district attorney. O’Connor served four years as a misdemeanor and felony prosecutor before joining the United States Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Texas in May 1998. After five years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, O’Connor accepted assignments from the Justice Department – as counsel to the majority staff of the Senate Justice Committee, then to the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship, where he worked for subcommittee chair Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
O’Connor also served as Cornyn’s chief counsel before being appointed by former President George W. Bush as a U.S. district judge in the Northern District of Texas’ Dallas division. Since assuming the federal bench, O’Connor has presided over numerous cases including a 2012 lawsuit challenging President Obama’s policy of stopping the deportation of some young immigrants in the U.S. illegally. In July, O’Connor dismissed for “lack of subject-matter jurisdiction” the lawsuit by 10 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to stop implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The ICE agents argued that the policy forces agents to break the law by not arresting thousands of young undocumented immigrants the policy protects from deportation. But O’Connor ruled that the suit did not fall within his jurisdiction because it was essentially a conflict between federal employees and their government employer.
He also presided over the end of a 43-year-old Richardson Independent School District desegregation case; a gender discrimination case against Wal-Mart; and a lengthy legal dispute between the city of Dallas and solid waste firms. In dismissing the 1970 desegregation case against Richardson ISD in July, O’Connor rejected arguments by the Department of Justice’s civil rights division that the district’s policies still contribute to racial segregation. In 2012, he dismissed a complaint that Wal-Mart was discriminating against women in pay and promotions, ruling that the Texas class action complaint was filed too late. The U.S. Supreme Court had previously rejected a similar national gender discrimination complaint. In May, O’Connor settled a dispute between the city of Dallas and the solid-waste industry by enjoining the city from enforcing a 2012 ordinance that would have required trash haulers to direct all waste to one southeast Dallas landfill despite contracts that allowed them to dump trash elsewhere.