El Paso federal judge Leon Shidler is close to being confirmed by the U.S. Senate

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Prominent El Paso federal judge Leon Shidlauer is close to being confirmed as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas after raising questions about border issues before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

On Wednesday, January 24, Sheidlauer and US Department of Justice Senior Legal Counsel Ernesto Gonzalez, who has also been nominated to fill the vacant federal district court bench in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas, appeared in court. US Senate Committee on the Judiciary To answer questions regarding their legal expertise and issues affecting the U.S.-Mexico border.

President Joe Biden nominated both to fill the vacant positions on December 19.

El Paso federal judge Leon Shidler speaks before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary on Wednesday, January 24, 2024, at a hearing in Washington, D.C., on his nomination to serve as U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Texas.

El Paso federal judge Leon Shidler speaks before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary on Wednesday, January 24, 2024, at a hearing in Washington, D.C., on his nomination to serve as U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Texas.

Shidelauer, who currently serves as a federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, has been nominated to fill the judicial seat remaining vacant from the federal judge seat on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. Longtime El Paso federal judge Philip Ray Martinez dies In 2021. Gonzalez is filling a vacancy in the Del Rio district.

“I am honored to be nominated to fill the seat of U.S. District Judge Philip R. Martinez, who we lost tragically and prematurely at the age of 63 in 2021,” Shidelauer said. “I thank President Biden for nominating me to fill the position of Judge Martinez and I have known from the beginning that I would never fill it.”

The nominees were introduced at the hearing by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who praised the legal expertise of both men.

“El Paso and Del Rio have some heavy agendas because of their proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border, so these are two very important positions being nominated today,” Cornyn said.

more: El Paso Judge Leon Shidler has been nominated by Biden to serve as a federal district court judge

Cornyn said Shidlauer has a “unique and highly impressive resume that demonstrates his long-standing commitment to the rule of law and the people of this great country.”

“As a judge, (Scheidleware) has helped resolve complex discovery matters, held hundreds of hearings, and earned the respect of the El Paso Bar Association for his work. As if being a judge isn’t enough responsibility, especially one located on the U.S.-Mexico border,” he added. Judge Shedlower has also served as a US Air Force Reserve Judge Advocate [General’s] Legion since 2010.”

Cornyn emphasized Gonzalez’s decades of experience prosecuting high-profile drug and criminal cases.

“(Gonzalez) served for two decades as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Texas, where he managed one of the largest cases of any federal prosecutor in the Department of Justice,” Cornyn said. Mr. Gonzalez has investigated and prosecuted some of the most dangerous cartel members around the world. He became one of the country’s most prolific cartel prosecutors in the process.

U.S. Department of Justice Senior Counsel Attorney General Ernesto Gonzalez speaks before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Wednesday, January 24, 2024, at a hearing in Washington, D.C., on his nomination to serve as U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Texas.

U.S. Department of Justice Senior Counsel Attorney General Ernesto Gonzalez speaks before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Wednesday, January 24, 2024, at a hearing in Washington, D.C., on his nomination to serve as U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Texas.

A senior Texas state senator said Gonzalez has shown a commitment to helping train young prosecutors and law enforcement officers.

“His temperament, knowledge of the law and ability to handle a large file will serve the Del Rio Department and the Western District well,” Cornyn added.

The US District Court for the Western District of Texas includes El Paso, Austin, San Antonio and Del Rio.

Other candidates – Susan M. Pazis, Anne Marie McIff Allen, Kelly Harrison Rankin, and Robin Michelle Meriwether – also appeared before the committee for other US federal judicial district seats.

Legal experts expect both candidates to receive full approval from the US Senate. U.S. District Court judges earn about $243,300 annually, according to Administrative Office of the United States Courts. Federal judges are appointed for life.

Criminal cases make up the majority of federal cases at the U.S.-Mexico border

The biggest question the two candidates faced centered on the difficulties facing the federal courts along the US-Mexico border compared to other areas.

Border crimes are the majority of cases heard by judges in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Shidelauer and Gonzalez testified.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduces El Paso Federal Judge Leon Shidellower and U.S. Department of Justice Senior Counsel Attorney General Ernesto Gonzalez during a hearing Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary in Washington.  Capital

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduces El Paso Federal Judge Leon Shidellower and U.S. Department of Justice Senior Counsel Attorney General Ernesto Gonzalez during a hearing Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary in Washington. Capital

“We’re on the Texas-Mexico border, and El Paso is the center of a lot of what’s going on there,” Shidelauer said. “Our agenda is largely criminal, as you might imagine, and always has been since dating back to the 1970s. It’s probably 75 to 80 percent criminal, so what we as judges have to do is keep that in mind. We have to take cases Also come to us.

“We’re processing it and closing it keeping in mind that there’s a civil docket on the other side that we have to get to and we’ve got to get those cases done. So it’s two-fold – dealing with a huge criminal docket, which doesn’t stop but at the same time, we’re taking care to make sure that our responsibility The handling of the civil case has been completed.”

Gonzalez said federal judges and prosecutors must make great sacrifices, including putting themselves and their families at risk, to ensure justice is served when dealing with some of the most dangerous drug cartel criminals.

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“I have personally been threatened on five occasions,” Gonzalez told the committee. “On two occasions, I had to move out of my home with my wife and two children, and live outside my home for several months at a time. My wife and daughter were always supportive and never questioned my dedication to public service,” she said. But it is a dangerous mission.”

Gonzalez explained that he twice had to “be authorized as a U.S. Marshal to carry a gun, wear a bulletproof vest at all times, accompany him to court and home, change my lifestyle, take a different route home, and turn home.” “I get anxious when we’re at home, not just at night. Yes, it’s a dangerous role to be a narcotics prosecutor on the border.”

Confirmation by the US Senate is expected to be quick

Carl Tobias, Williams, said the confirmation process for Shidelauer and Gonzalez should be relatively smooth, as they presented well at the Jan. 24 hearing, have years of experience, are not controversial nominees and have the support of Cornyn and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Chair in Law at the University of Richmond School of Law.

“I thought (the listening) went very well,” Tobias said. “I noticed that Senator Cornyn was very supportive of both candidates for the Western District. They both did very well. They were well received. Cornyn was supportive and I think the other senators were supportive. They answered the questions in a direct and clear way. No” It’s all very positive. “I think they will be confirmed easily.”

The U.S. Senate could confirm Shidelauer and Gonzalez within the next few months, said Tobias, a leading national law scholar who focuses on federal judicial selection. It includes the following steps US Senate Committee on the Judiciary Vote to approve the nominees and then send them to the US Senate to be debated and voted on. Tobias said the commission could vote as early as February.

“They could be confirmed this spring, which of course would be great for the western district of Texas, because they’re always underwater and have such a huge agenda, which both candidates talked about,” Tobias said. “It would be great if these emergency vacancies could be filled because the caseload is so large. I think the judges are really overwhelmed with cases.”

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Tobias said the 2024 election should not affect the nominations.

“For these candidates, I don’t think so,” Tobias said. “I don’t think the election is going to change it. Traditionally in the old days, it would slow down as the election got closer, but given the support of the local state senators and what I saw today, I think they really want me to get these two candidates and have them sit down and decide the issues.” .

“It didn’t shock me that they were controversial in any way, but they would be hard-working, hard-working, smart, wonderful judges. They both have a lot of relevant experience. It’s a bird in the hand and both Texas senators are happy about that.” To fill those seats.”

Who are Sheidlauer and Gonzalez?

Sheidlower, a Hank High School graduate, has served as a federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas since 2015.

He worked as a private attorney from 2002 to 2015. He was a partner and associate attorney at the Kemp Smith law firm in El Paso from 2000 to 2002. Sheidlower served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii from 1998 to 2000.

Shidelauer also has decades of military legal experience as a member of both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force. He worked as a lawyer and judge in the Army for more than a decade.

He served as an active duty trial attorney on the US Navy Judge Advocate General Corps from 1996 to 1998. He was in the US Navy Reserve from 2000 to 2004 and has served on the US Air Force Reserve Judge Advocate General Corps since 2010, where he currently holds Rank of lieutenant colonel.

Shidelauer received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1995. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1993.

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Gonzalez currently serves as Senior Counsel for the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Section.

He previously served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas from 2000 to 2003. He then served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas from 2003 to 2023.

Gonzalez served as an assistant district attorney in Bexar County in San Antonio from 1994 to 2000. He earned his law degree from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston in 1993 and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio. In 1987.

Aaron Martinez can be reached at amartinez1@elpasotimes.com or on Twitter @AMartinezEPT.

This article originally appeared in the El Paso Times: Judge Shidelauer appears in El Paso before a Senate committee

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