WASHINGTON — An Austin lawyer who dropped the state of Texas’ investigation of Trump University in 2010 may get a lifetime post as a federal judge.
President Donald Trump named former Texas Deputy Attorney General David Morales on Tuesday to a trial bench in Corpus Christi. Morales had been recommended to the White House by Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.
Morales made headlines during the presidential campaign when news outlets learned that in May 2010 the state’s consumer protection division had sought permission to pursue what it believed was a strong case against Trump and Trump University. Investigators asserted that Texas taxpayers had been bilked out of more than $2.6 million, and sought to file a $5.4 million lawsuit.
Morales rejected the recommendation. Texas dropped its investigation. Trump University voluntarily ceased operations in Texas.
Morales said in June 2016 that the decision had not been political. He told news outlets that he had not discussed the matter with Attorney General Greg Abbott — now the governor — before rejecting the recommendation, but had told him afterward.
Trump nominated Morales to fill one of three vacancies in the Southern District of Texas, which extends from Houston to Laredo and Brownsville.
“David has spent his career mastering complex legal issues in both public service and private practice,” Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said in a statement.
Cruz, who worked with Morales in the state attorney general’s office, called for quick confirmation.
“I know firsthand that he will be a principled, passionate defender of the Constitution and the rule of law,” Cruz said in a statement.
Both Texas Republicans sit on the Judiciary Committee, which reviews judicial nominations.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called Morales an accomplished attorney.
“David will respect the proper role of a judge in our constitutional system and will not engage in legislating from the bench,” he said in a statement.
Texas Democrats had not yet weighed in on the nomination. Other Trump picks for federal courts in Texas have faced opposition.
The White House dropped the nomination of Jeff Mateer, first assistant to Paxton, after his remarks describing transgender children as evidence of “Satan’s plan” came to light in September. Mateer had made the remarks in speeches while serving as general counsel for the Plano-based First Liberty Institute.
Trump nominated Mateer on Sept. 7 to fill a vacancy based in Sherman, in the Eastern District of Texas, which handles cases from Plano to Beaumont.
Matthew Kacsmaryk, another religious conservative who previously worked for First Liberty, drew scrutiny from gay-rights advocates after his nomination for a judgeship.
The Judiciary Committee approved Kacsmaryk in January despite calls by gay-rights advocates to kill the nomination. He is still awaiting a vote of the full Senate. If confirmed, Kacsmaryk would fill a seat in the Northern District, based in Amarillo.
Eleven of 12 vacancies in Texas’ federal district courts have been designated “judicial emergencies,” including the one that Trump nominated Morales for. An emergency can be determined by caseload or how long the seat has been vacant.