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Federal court bench moving out of Galveston

Disgraced former judge Sam Kent may be the last federal judge to serve in Galveston, at least for the foreseeable future.

The state’s oldest federal bench, which remains vacant after the resignation of U.S. District Court Judge Samuel B. Kent, will be transferred from Galveston to McAllen, officials said Wednesday.

The move apparently was the result of a weekend meeting that ended Monday among federal judges presiding in the Southern District of Texas, which includes Galveston County.

The result means cases filed in the Galveston division from this county and three others will continue to be heard by Houston judges.

U.S. Rep. Gene Green, a Houston Democrat, said he learned of the decision late Monday and confirmed it Tuesday in a conversation with a judge from the district.

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The number of criminal case in the past 10 years along the U.S. border with Mexico has been overwhelming, Green said about the reason for the move.

“In our area, half of the cases are civil and half are criminal,” Green said. “But in southern Texas, 80 percent of the cases are criminal — drug smuggling and illegal immigration cases. It’s a hefty caseload.”

Green, who represents Houston and Harris County, is among six Texas congressmen who intend to submit to the White House a list of candidates to succeed Kent. A timetable of when President Barack Obama would appoint a nominee to fill the vacancy hasn’t been announced.

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Based on an agreement among the six congressmen, and because the president’s appointment would sit in McAllen, the three representatives from the Rio Grand Valley will decide on a name or list of names to submit to the White House. The remaining three congressmen from the northern part of the district are expected to support the list, Green said.

This story was sent to me by Judge Susan Criss, who had been Rep. Green’s choice to replace Kent. Seems to me a logical choice to serve on the bench in McAllen is Judge Linda Yanez, who defeated Criss for the Democratic nomination for a State Supreme Court seat last year. Criss told me she has encouraged Judge Yanez to apply. We’ll see what happens.

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