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Obama Nominee Gregg Costa Confirmed to 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Oversees Texas

by: Joseph Vogas

Tue May 20, 2014 at 05:09 PM CDT

This afternoon, District Judge Gregg Costa was confirmed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Costa, nominated in December, is the third judge confirmed to the 5th Circuit under President Obama and replaces Clinton appointee Fortunado Benavides. Costa received Yes votes from every present Senator including Texas Republicans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. However, in his cloture vote to proceed, Costa received only 58 Yes votes. In cloture he earned Republican support from Senators Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Jeff Flake (AZ), and Texas' John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Judge Costa is the first confirmation to the federal Texas judiciary since Sen. Ted Cruz joined the Senate.

Judge Costa joined the federal judiciary in 2012 as a member of the Houston-based Southern District of Texas; he was stationed in Galveston. Before his appointment, Costa was a lead prosecutor in the US Attorney's Office for Texas' Southern District in the case against R. Allen Stanford, who was eventually convicted in the second-largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history. Costa is a native of Richardson and graduated from Dartmouth College. At the University of Texas law school, he served as editor in chief of the Texas Law Review. He also clerked for US Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 2001 and 2002.

The 5th Circuit has two more vacancies waiting to be filled, both are listed as judicial emergencies. The court is now made up of three Obama appointees, two Clinton appointees, four Reagan appointees, and six George W. Bush appointees. With Costa's confirmation, there are now four vacancies waiting to be filled on the Southern District of Texas Judiciary.

Progress Texas has been advocating for President Obama to fill the vacancies in the Texas Judiciary as fast as possible. Learn what their research has to say about the state of the Texas  judiciary after the jump.

Progress Texas' press release reads:
U.S. Senate Confirms Gregg Costa for 5th Circuit Court
Nomination shows Texas judicial vacancies can be filled, but ten more to go

(TEXAS) - Former Texas District Court Judge Gregg Costa was confirmed by the U.S. Senate today to fill one of ten judicial vacancies in Texas's federal courts - including one of three Texas-based seats in the 5th Circuit. Both Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz voted for Costa, who was confirmed with an overall vote of 97-0.

Phillip Martin, Deputy Director of Progress Texas, released the following statement:

"We worked hard to support Judge Costa's nomination, and will continue urging Senators Cornyn and Cruz to fill the remaining ten judicial vacancies in Texas."

Costa is the first Texas-based judge to be confirmed to the U.S. Senate since Senator Ted Cruz took office in January 2013. Texas still has 10 judicial vacancies in our federal court system, which have created a 12,000+ case backlog in our federal courts.

To learn about the case backlog and Progress Texas's work on judicial vacancies, please contact Phillip Martin at 512-473-4140, or visit www.ProgressTexas.org/WhyCourtsMatter.

The ten vacancies that remain in Texas, via Progress Texas, are on the following courts and have been vacant for the following days:

5th Circuit 624 days
5th Circuit 107 days
Western District 1,964 days
Eastern District 929 days
Eastern District 761 days
Southern District 1,051 days
Southern District 472 days
Southern District 411 days
Southern District 1 day
Northern District 288 days

Another vacancy is expected to emerge on the Southern District of Texas on June 20, 2014. The President has not named any replacement nominees for any of these ten judicial vacancies. This is remarkable because there are 68 current vacancies and 32 replacement nominations pending; but none of the pending nominations are for the 10 judicial vacancies that oversee Texas.

Per Senate tradition, any nominations President Obama makes to the federal judiciary must earn a "blue slip" from both of that nominee's home state Senators. This means, unless tradition changes, future Texas judicial nominees must have the blessing of both Sen. Cruz and Cornyn.

You can follow me on Twitter at @trowaman.

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