The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas (in case citations, W.D. Tex.) is a federal district court. The court convenes in San Antonio with divisions in Austin, Del Rio, El Paso, Midland, Pecos, and Waco. It has jurisdiction in over 50 Trans-Pecos, Permian Basin, and Hill Country counties of the U.S. state of Texas. This district covers over 92,000 square miles (240,000 km2) and seven divisions.
Along with the District of New Mexico, Southern District of Texas, and District of Arizona, it is one of the busiest district courts in terms of criminal felony filings.
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. On February 21, 1857, the state was divided into two districts, Eastern and Western, with Judge Watrous continuing in the Eastern district. 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 federal 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.
Appeals from cases brought in the Western 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).
The divisions of the Western District of Texas are:
John H. Wood Jr. Federal Courthouse, home of the court's San Antonio Division
The federal courthouse in Austin is the court location of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division.
- Austin Division comprises the following counties: Bastrop, Blanco, Burleson, Burnet, Caldwell, Gillespie, Hays, Kimble, Lampasas, Lee, Llano, Mason, McCulloch, San Saba, Travis, Washington and Williamson.
- Del Rio Division comprises the following counties: Edwards, Kinney, Maverick, Terrell, Uvalde, Val Verde and Zavala.
- El Paso Division comprises the following counties: El Paso and Hudspeth.
- Midland-Odessa Division comprises the following counties: Andrews, Crane, Ector, Martin, Midland and Upton.
- Pecos Division comprises the following counties: Brewster, Culberton, Jeff Davis, Loving, Pecos, Presidio, Reeves, Ward and Winkler.
- San Antonio Division comprises the following counties: Atascosa, Bandera, Bexar, Comal, Dimmit, Frio, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Karnes, Kendall, Kerr, Medina, Real and Wilson.
- Waco Division comprises the following counties: Bell, Bosque, Coryell, Falls, Freestone, Hamilton, Hill, Leon, Limestone, McLennan, Milam, Robertson and Somervell.
The United States Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas represents the United States in civil and criminal litigation in the court. As of February 7, 2021Acting United States Attorney is Ashley Chapman Hoff.
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.