Ex-Texas SC Judge Who Clerked for Abbott
Gives DOJ Ammo for Court Shopping Inquiry
March 20, 2023
As the Department of Justice targets Texas in a probe on the cherry-picking of judges for lawsuits against President Joe Biden's administration, the state scored a favorable ruling on Sunday from one of Governor Greg Abbott's former law clerks as the presiding jurist now in a high-stakes environmental case.
"Texas beats Biden. Again!" Abbott exclaimed in a Twitter post on Monday on a tentative victory that the state secured in the case the day before.
Attorney General Ken Paxton elaborated on the decision in the lawsuit that he filed initially before enlisting his counterpart in Idado as a co-plaintiff in the bid to block new federal standards for the protection of wetlands and waterways across the U.S.
"Big victory against Biden: Last night a federal court blocked the Admin’s radical “waters of the US” rule, which imposes a leftist environmental agenda on Texas, crushing new regs, and oppressive economic costs," Paxton declared in a tweet on Monday morning. "I will always fight to keep Biden’s boots off the necks of Texans!"
Paxton sued the Environmental Protection Agency in January based on a revised interpretation of the Clean Water Act in December. Paxton amended the lawsuit on February 28 to Include Idaho in the Texas corner. The move sparked tensions among top Republicans in the Gem State where Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador signed on to the Texas challenge without first informing Governor Brad Little.
Little had thought that Idaho would be part of a separate challenge that two dozen other states have filed to stop the new EPA standard from taking effect.
The suit landed in the hands of federal Judge Jeff Brown in the Southern District of Texas. Brown handed Texas and Idaho a victory on Sunday with a ruling that delays the implementation of the so-called Waters of the United States standard until a U.S. Supreme Court decision that's expected later this year in a separate case.
Brown is a former state district and appellate judge who served six years on the Texas Supreme Court before his nomination to his current post in 2019 by then-President Donald Trump. He worked as a clerk to both Abbott and Democrat Jack Hightower when they were state Supreme Court members.
Brown was serving on the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston when he won a promotion to the Supreme Court in 2013 when Republican Rick Perry appointed him to the state's highest civil bench as the governor at the time. Brown ran for the high court initially in 2010 - finishing in the GOP primary election that year.
The timing of Brown's ruling in the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) case seemed ironic on the same that that the Washington Post published an extensive report on the DOJ's fight against judge shopping in Texas for suits against the Biden administration. But the Post story focused on three other suits that Paxton is pursuing in fights against a $1.7 trillion federal spending bill, a new immigration policy and a separate environmental rule.
While Brown ruled in favor of the state in the suit Paxton filed on the water regulations, he rejected a similar move by industry groups in a separate petition.
more to come ...