Trump taps Abbott’s top legal adviser for U.S. appeals court


Andy Oldham has been the governor’s general counsel since early January.

Oldham is Trump’s fifth nominee to the appeals court that covers Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Gov. Greg Abbott can expect to be looking for a new chief legal adviser for the second time in two months after President Donald Trump on Monday nominated Andy Oldham to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Oldham became Abbott’s general counsel Jan. 2 — replacing Jimmy Blacklock, who was appointed by Abbott to fill a vacancy on the Texas Supreme Court.

Like a game of political dominoes, the vacancy on the Texas court had opened after Trump nominated Supreme Court Justice Don Willett to the 5th Circuit Court.

Abbott praised Trump’s pick.

“This is an excellent choice of a strict construction constitutionalist. I think he’s even better than Gorsuch,” Abbott wrote on Twitter, referring to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump nominee who joined the high court last April.

Oldham’s nomination must be confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate.

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Oldham, a graduate of Harvard Law School, was previously Abbott’s deputy general counsel and also served as deputy solicitor general in the Texas attorney general’s office, where he represented the state in federal courts, including twice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

He had also served as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and as an attorney-adviser in the office of legal counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice.

While recommendations for federal judge typically come from home-state senators — particularly with a Republican in the White House and Texas represented by GOP Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz — Abbott last year began pressing Trump to nominate Oldham to one of several vacant positions on the 5th Circuit Court, the American-Statesman reported in May.

For his first picks for the appeals court, however, Trump nominated Texans who had been recommended by the state’s senators, Willett and Dallas lawyer Jim Ho, and both were confirmed by the U.S. Senate in December.

Another 5th Circuit Court position opened after Trump nominated Judge Edward Prado to be ambassador to Argentina in January, and Cornyn and Cruz praised the selection of Oldham in a joint statement Monday.

“Andy’s distinguished record of public service at the state and federal level makes him eminently qualified to serve on the 5th Circuit,” Cornyn said. “I look forward to working with Senator Cruz and the rest of my colleagues to swiftly confirm him.”

Trump had previously nominated two from Louisiana to fill the remaining vacancies on the 17-judge 5th Circuit Court, which handles federal appeals from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Its judges serve lifetime appointments.

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