Attorney Trey Wilson - RL Wilson Law

15 July 2009

Dems back S.A. judges for fed seat

The Texas Democratic congressional delegation has submitted to President Barack Obama the names of three local women for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench, sources have told the San Antonio Express-News.

And according to these sources, 144th District Judge Catherine Torres-Stahl, 42, is the early favorite to replace U.S. District Judge W. Royal Furgeson who last year took senior status and moved to Dallas.

Before Torres-Stahl or anyone else becomes the nominee, he or she must still gain the support of Republican Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, who have their own judicial selection committee and can block any candidate.

Courthouse sources familiar with the congressional delegation's discussions said that Torres-Stahl, along with 407th District Judge Karen Pozza and San Antonio civil law attorney Sonia Rodriguez, were recommended to the White House.

“It is truly a short list, even shorter than that (the three),” one source told the Express-News on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions. “She (Torres-Stahl) is the list.”

Another source said it was important to nominate a woman in San Antonio, the headquarters of the Western District of Texas, which includes Waco, Austin, Del Rio, Alpine, Midland/Odessa and El Paso. The San Antonio division has no female district judges.

Despite reportedly being told that she is the delegation's first choice, Torres-Stahl proceeded as normal last week, holding a Thursday fundraiser at the Tower of the Americas that kicked off her re-election campaign.

“I haven't heard anything” regarding the federal seat, she told the Express-News.

The sources, however, say she's been ordered to stay quiet until the White House's official announcement. The head of the delegation, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, declined to comment on any recommendations.

“Consultations between the President and the Texas Democratic delegation are ongoing,” Doggett said in a statement. “No name will be formally released until the process is completed.”

Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, likewise declined to talk about any candidates.

“I am not at liberty to discuss specific names that the delegation has forwarded to the White House for consideration,” he said. “We (the delegation) agreed with the White House that we'd keep that private.”

Before Torres-Stahl's name is submitted to the Senate, she must be vetted by the White House and by the Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee, which recommends candidates to Sens. Hutchison and Cornyn, who have the final say on the nomination.

If confirmed, Torres-Stahl will be among the youngest candidates named to the federal bench in San Antonio. Before becoming a state judge, she served three and a half years as a prosecutor on juvenile cases and appeals with the Bexar County district attorney's office.

She also served as a municipal judge for the city of San Antonio, where she ruled on ordinance violations and Class C misdemeanors for nine years.

In 2006, she took on longtime incumbent Mark Luitjen for the 144th District bench and won. She has been hearing felonies, including capital murder cases, ever since.

“We had supported Luitjen when he ran, but she has been just very, very fair on everything I've had before her,” said lawyer Van Hilley. “She has a very patient demeanor. ...I've been impressed with her judicial temperament.”

By Guillermo Contreras and Guillermo X. Garcia - Express-News

Trey Wilson --Named By Scene in SA Magazine As One of San Antonio's Best Real Estate Litigation Attorneys -- September 2008 -- As voted on by peers