President Trump announced on April 10 the nomination of former Texas Deputy First Assistant Attorney General David Morales to fill a federal judge vacancy at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Corpus Christi. He is currently a partner in the litigation, administrative law and public law practice groups of Kelly Hart & Hallman LLP in Austin.
From 2007-2011, Morales served as then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s deputy first assistant attorney general and deputy attorney general for civil litigation. He led all trial and appellate matters for the state of Texas, managing more than 300 civil litigation attorneys and over 15,000 litigation matters.
The judicial seat in Corpus Christi has been vacant for about seven years and is one of several in the state to be declared as “judicial emergencies.” “Judicial emergencies” are defined as a vacancy where the current caseload per judge is very high.
Morales spent three years as general counsel to the governor of Texas, acting as chief counsel on more than 1,600 legislative bills passed during the 83rd legislative session. He also advised then-Gov. Rick Perry on all criminal justice issues. Prior to entering private practice, Morales was deputy general counsel to the University of Texas System Board of Regents.
“All of us at Kelly Hart are very supportive of the President’s nomination of our partner, David S. Morales, to serve as a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Texas,” said Marianne Auld, managing partner at Kelly Hart & Hallman.
“David’s extensive litigation background, his ability to manage both attorneys and substantial litigation dockets, and his calm courtroom demeanor will be a perfect match for the district bench. David’s abilities have served Kelly Hart’s clients well, and we wish him the best as he returns to public service,” Auld said.
Morales’ practice focuses on complex litigation, administrative law, as well as public and higher education law.
Both Texas senators issued statements on the nomination, with Sen. Ted Cruz having worked with Morales in the Attorney General’s Office.
“David Morales will make an outstanding federal judge,” Cruz said in a statement. “Having worked side-by-side with David in the Texas Attorney General’s Office defending the constitutional rights of Texans, I know firsthand that he will be a principled, passionate defender of the Constitution and the rule of law, which is why I was proud to join Sen. [John] Cornyn in recommending that the President nominate David to this position. He should be swiftly confirmed.”
Morales earned his bachelor of business administration from St. Edward’s University in Austin, and his J.D. from St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio. Upon graduation from law school, Morales joined the Office of the Attorney General of Texas, where he served for more than 17 years, ultimately rising to the rank of deputy attorney general for civil litigation and deputy first assistant attorney general.
As deputy attorney general for civil litigation, Morales supervised all trial and most appellate matters for the State of Texas, managing more than 300 civil litigation attorneys and more than 15,000 litigation matters. From 2012-2014, Morales served as an ex officio member of the Texas Access to Justice Commission.
“I applaud the President for nominating such an experienced attorney to serve the people of south Texas,” said Sen. John Cornyn. “David has spent his career mastering complex legal issues in both public service and private practice, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure his swift confirmation.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised Morales as “an accomplished attorney with a proven record of excellence and an unwavering fidelity to the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution.”
“David will respect the proper role of a judge in our constitutional system and will not engage in legislating from the bench,” Paxton said. “I am confident he will excel as a federal judge, and I urge the U.S. Senate to quickly confirm him to the bench.”
Trump’s nomination of Morales will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where both Cruz and Cornyn are members. If approved, the nomination will face a confirmation vote before the full Senate.
The Corpus Christi division of the district serves s 10 counties: Aransas, Bee, Brooks, Duval, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Live Oak, Nueces and San Patricio. The judicial seat was previously held by U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack, who took senior status, a form of semi-retirement, in 2011.