United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas
(S.D. Tex.)
More locations
Appeals toFifth Circuit
EstablishedMarch 11, 1902
Chief JudgeRandy Crane
Officers of the court
U.S. AttorneyAlamdar S. Hamdani
U.S. MarshalT. Michael O'Connor

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas (in case citations, S.D. Tex.) is the federal district court with jurisdiction over the southeastern part of Texas. The court's headquarters is in Houston, Texas, and has six additional locations in the district.

Appeals from cases brought in the Southern District of Texas are taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (except for patent claims and claims against the U.S. government under the Tucker Act, which are appealed to the Federal Circuit).

As of December 12, 2022, the United States attorney is Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Along with the Western District of Texas, District of New Mexico, and District of Arizona, it is one of the busiest district courts in terms of criminal felony filings.[1]


The oldest federal civil building in Texas, the 1861 Customs and Courthouse in Galveston, once housed the Southern District of Texas.
Federal Courthouse in Galveston that housed the court & its predecessor, from 1891–1917[2]

Since its foundation, the Southern District of Texas has been served by forty-one District Judges and six Clerks of Court. The first federal judge in Texas was John C. Watrous, who was appointed on May 26, 1846, and had previously served as Attorney General of the Republic of Texas. He was assigned to hold court in Galveston, at the time, the largest city in the state. As seat of the Texas Judicial District, the Galveston court had jurisdiction over the whole state.[3] On February 21, 1857, the state was divided into two districts, Eastern and Western, with Judge Watrous continuing in the Eastern district.[4] Judge Watrous and Judge Thomas H. DuVal, of the Western District of Texas, left the state on the secession of Texas from the Union, the only two United States Judges not to resign their posts in states that seceded. When Texas was restored to the Union, Watrous and DuVal resumed their duties and served until 1870. Judge Amos Morrill served in the Eastern District of Texas from 1872 to 1884. He was succeeded by Chauncy B. Sabin (1884 to 1890) and David E. Bryant (1890 to 1902). In 1902, when the Southern District was created by Act of Congress, Judge Bryant continued to serve in the Eastern District of Texas.

In 1917, the General Services Administration added courtrooms and judicial offices to the second floor of the 1861 U.S. Customs House in Galveston, and it became the new federal courthouse for the Southern District of Texas. This location would later become the seat of the Galveston Division, after Congress added a second judgeship in the 1930s.[4][5][6]

The Southern District of Texas started with one judge, Waller T. Burns, and a Clerk of Court, Christopher Dart, seated in Galveston. Since that time, the court has grown to nineteen district judgeships, six bankruptcy judgeships, fourteen magistrate judgeships, and over 200 deputy clerks.

Galveston Division

The U.S. federal building in Galveston, current home of the Galveston Division.

In 2007, criminal charges were filed against Judge Samuel B. Kent, the only District judge in the Galveston Division, who sat at the Federal Courthouse in Galveston, the oldest federal judgeship in the state.[7] Due to the litigation, Chief Judge Hayden Head transferred Kent and his staff to the Houston Division.[7][8] Judge Kent subsequently pleaded guilty, in February 2009, to obstruction of justice and, after being impeached by the House of Representatives, resigned in June 2009.[9] The next month, it was announced that Judge Kent's post would remain vacant for the time being, and a replacement judge would be assigned to McAllen, due to the increase in cases in the Texas border area concerning subjects such as drugs and immigration.[10]

Laredo Division

The United States Courthouse is the current home of the Laredo Division.

Laredo, Texas, is located on the northern bank of the Rio Grande River and is unique in its ability to operate international bridges between two Mexican states. The city presently maintains four border crossings and one rail bridge with the Mexican State of Tamaulipas at Nuevo Laredo and the Mexican State of Nuevo León at Colombia. Webb County also borders the State of Nuevo León and the State of Coahuila, Mexico, northwest of Laredo. Laredo is the largest inland port along the U.S.-Mexico border and the Pan American Highway leading into Mexico through Laredo stretches from Canada and continues into Central and South America. Because of its location and accessibility to Mexico, Laredo’s economy is primarily based on international trade with Mexico. According to the Laredo Development Foundation, more than 700 of the Fortune 1,000 companies do international business via Laredo and more than 9,000 trucks cross through town per day along with 1,800 loaded rail cars. Laredo is ranked first in growth in Texas and seventh in the country by the Milken Institute.[11]

The division encompasses five counties with the federal courthouse located in Laredo, Texas. There are two Laredo district court judges⁠—Judges Diana Saldaña and Marina Garcia Marmolejo, who presided over more than 2,000 felony cases in 2013⁠—most of which involved charges of narcotics trafficking and alien smuggling. In addition, there are three federal magistrates who alternate duties every two weeks. Additionally, the federal grand jury convenes every other week where AUSAs rotate the responsibility of presenting felony cases.[11]


Bob Casey Federal Courthouse in Downtown Houston

The jurisdiction of the Southern District of Texas is divided as follows:

Current judges

As of January 12, 2024:

# Title Judge Duty station Born Term of service Appointed by
Active Chief Senior
40 Chief Judge Randy Crane McAllen 1965 2002–present 2022–present G.W. Bush
25 District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa McAllen 1950 1983–present 2009–2016 Reagan
34 District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal Houston 1952 1992–present 2016–2022 G.H.W. Bush
39 District Judge Keith P. Ellison Houston 1950 1999–present Clinton
41 District Judge Andrew Hanen Houston 1953 2002–present G.W. Bush
44 District Judge Diana Saldaña Laredo 1971 2011–present Obama
45 District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos Corpus Christi 1965 2011–present Obama
46 District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo Laredo 1971 2011–present Obama
48 District Judge Alfred H. Bennett Houston 1965 2015–present Obama
49 District Judge George C. Hanks Jr. Houston 1964 2015–present Obama
50 District Judge Rolando Olvera Brownsville 1963 2015–present Obama
51 District Judge Fernando Rodriguez Jr. Brownsville 1969 2018–present Trump
52 District Judge David S. Morales Corpus Christi 1968 2019–present Trump
53 District Judge Jeff Brown Galveston 1970 2019–present Trump
54 District Judge Charles R. Eskridge III Houston 1963 2019–present Trump
55 District Judge Drew B. Tipton Corpus Christi 1967 2020–present Trump
56 District Judge John A. Kazen Laredo 1964 2024–present Biden
57 District Judge vacant
58 District Judge vacant
24 Senior Judge Hayden Wilson Head Jr. inactive 1944 1981–2009 2003–2009 2009–present Reagan
26 Senior Judge Lynn Hughes Houston 1941 1985–2023 2023–present Reagan
27 Senior Judge David Hittner Houston 1939 1986–2004 2004–present Reagan
28 Senior Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt Houston 1948 1988–2013 2013–present Reagan
29 Senior Judge Sim Lake Houston 1944 1988–2019 2019–present Reagan
30 Senior Judge Melinda Harmon inactive 1946 1989–2018 2018–present G.H.W. Bush
31 Senior Judge John David Rainey Victoria 1945 1990–2010 2010–present G.H.W. Bush
33 Senior Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. Houston 1936 1992–2006 2006–present G.H.W. Bush
35 Senior Judge Janis Graham Jack Corpus Christi 1946 1994–2011 2011–present Clinton
38 Senior Judge Hilda G. Tagle inactive[12] 1946 1998–2012 2012–present Clinton
42 Senior Judge Micaela Alvarez McAllen 1958 2004–2023 2023–present G.W. Bush
43 Senior Judge Gray H. Miller Houston 1948 2006–2018 2018–present G.W. Bush

Vacancies and pending nominations

Seat Prior judge's duty station Seat last held by Vacancy reason Date of vacancy Nominee Date of nomination
4 Houston Lynn Hughes Senior status February 12, 2023
9 McAllen Micaela Alvarez June 8, 2023

Former judges

# Judge State Born–died Active service Chief Judge Senior status Appointed by Reason for
1 Waller Thomas Burns TX 1858–1917 1902–1917 T. Roosevelt death
2 Joseph Chappell Hutcheson Jr. TX 1879–1973 1918–1931 Wilson elevation to 5th Cir.
3 Thomas Martin Kennerly TX 1874–1962 1931–1954 1954–1962 Hoover death
4 James Burr V Allred TX 1899–1959 1939–1942 F. Roosevelt resignation
4.1 James Burr V Allred TX 1899–1959 1949–1959 Truman death
5 Allen Burroughs Hannay TX 1892–1983 1942–1975 1954–1962 1975–1983 F. Roosevelt death
6 Ben Clarkson Connally TX 1909–1975 1949–1974 1962–1974 1974–1975 Truman death
7 Joe McDonald Ingraham TX 1903–1990 1954–1969 Eisenhower elevation to 5th Cir.
8 Reynaldo Guerra Garza TX 1915–2004 1961–1979 1974–1979 Kennedy elevation to 5th Cir.
9 James Latane Noel Jr. TX 1909–1997 1961–1976[Note 1] 1976–1997 Kennedy death
10 John Virgil Singleton Jr. TX 1918–2015 1966–1988 1979–1988 1988–1992 L. Johnson retirement
11 Woodrow Bradley Seals TX 1917–1990 1966–1982 1982–1990 L. Johnson death
12 Carl Olaf Bue Jr. TX 1922–2020 1970–1987 1987–2020 Nixon death
13 Owen DeVol Cox TX 1910–1990 1970–1981 1981–1990 Nixon death
14 Robert J. O'Conor Jr. TX 1934–2023 1975–1984 Ford resignation
15 Ross N. Sterling TX 1931–1988 1976–1988 Ford death
16 Finis E. Cowan TX 1929–2023 1977–1979 Carter resignation
17 George Edward Cire TX 1922–1985 1979–1985 Carter death
18 James DeAnda TX 1925–2006 1979–1992 1988–1992 Carter retirement
19 Norman William Black TX 1931–1997 1979–1996 1992–1996 1996–1997 Carter death
20 George P. Kazen TX 1940–2021 1979–2009 1996–2003 2009–2018 Carter retirement
21 Gabrielle Kirk McDonald TX 1942–present 1979–1988 Carter resignation
22 Hugh Gibson TX 1918–1998 1979–1989 1989–1998 Carter death
23 Filemon Bartolome Vela TX 1935–2004 1980–2000 2000–2004 Carter death
32 Samuel B. Kent TX 1949–present 1990–2009 G.H.W. Bush impeachment and resignation
36 Vanessa Gilmore TX 1956–present 1994–2022 Clinton retirement
37 Nancy Atlas TX 1949–present 1995–2014 2014–2022 Clinton retirement
47 Gregg Costa TX 1972–present 2012–2014 Obama elevation to 5th Cir.
  1. ^ Recess appointment; formally nominated on January 15, 1962, confirmed by the United States Senate on March 16, 1962, and received commission on March 17, 1962.

Chief judges

Chief judges have administrative responsibilities with respect to their district court. Unlike the Supreme Court, where one justice is specifically nominated to be chief, the office of chief judge rotates among the district court judges. To be chief, a judge must have been in active service on the court for at least one year, be under the age of 65, and have not previously served as chief judge.

A vacancy is filled by the judge highest in seniority among the group of qualified judges. The chief judge serves for a term of seven years, or until age 70, whichever occurs first. The age restrictions are waived if no members of the court would otherwise be qualified for the position.

When the office was created in 1948, the chief judge was the longest-serving judge who had not elected to retire, on what has since 1958 been known as senior status, or declined to serve as chief judge. After August 6, 1959, judges could not become or remain chief after turning 70 years old. The current rules have been in operation since October 1, 1982.

Succession of seats

List of U.S. attorneys

Main article: United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas

See also


  1. ^ Jock Pan (May 20, 2010). Federal Government of the United States.
  2. ^ "Southeast Archeological Center (U.S. National Park Service)". www.nps.gov.
  3. ^ "U.S. Department of Justice: 2002 Centennial Report, pgs. 1, 10" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 1, 2009. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
  4. ^ a b "Southern District of Texas: History of the District". Archived from the original on September 17, 2009. Retrieved October 4, 2009.
  5. ^ General Services Administration: U.S. Custom House, Galveston, Texas
  6. ^ "Galveston Historical Foundation: More About the Custom House". Archived from the original on February 20, 2009. Retrieved October 3, 2009.
  7. ^ a b Paschenko, Chris (April 27, 2012). "Senate confirms Costa for isle federal judgeship". Galveston County Daily News. Retrieved April 27, 2012.
  8. ^ http://www.txs.uscourts.gov/district/genord/2007/2007-17.pdf Southern District of Texas General Order 2007–17
  9. ^ Flood, Marry (February 23, 2009). "Judge Kent accepts plea deal and retires from bench". Retrieved February 23, 2009.
  10. ^ Rice, Harvey (July 9, 2009). "Kent's judgeship in Galveston moving to McAllen". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on July 12, 2009. Retrieved July 22, 2009. The Galveston federal courthouse where disgraced former U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent presided for 18 years will remain vacant and his replacement moved to McAllen, the chief judge of the Southern District said Thursday. [...] The decision to move the post from Galveston to McAllen was made because few cases are heard in Galveston while immigration and drug cases are swamping judges in courts near the border, Chief Judge Hayden Head said.
  11. ^ a b "Laredo". United States Department of Justice. April 30, 2015. Retrieved October 11, 2016. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  12. ^ "History of District Judges | Southern District of Texas".
  13. ^ "Former Leaders". April 30, 2015.