For the second time in the past half-year, Gov. Greg Abbott will fill a vacancy on the Texas Supreme Court with a Republican who was ousted from a Houston-based appeals court by voters in 2018.
Abbott announced Monday that he will tap Jane Bland, who served on the 1st Court of Appeals for 15 years until her election defeat last year, to replace Justice Jeff Brown once he formally resigns from the court to become a federal judge.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Brown, President Donald Trump's choice to sit on the federal bench in Galveston, on a 50-40 vote on July 31.
Brown told the American-Statesman that his letter of resignation to Abbott will be dated Sept. 3, when the Supreme Court's next term begins, giving him time to close out the current term on the state's highest civil court.
Bland will serve the remainder of Brown's six-year term, which expires at the end of 2020, and she is expected to run in the 2020 elections as an incumbent.
A Democrat has not won an election to the two statewide courts — the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the Supreme Court — since 1994.
Court appointees do not need confirmation by the Texas Senate if they are appointed while the Legislature is out of session and win election before lawmakers return. The next scheduled session of the Legislature begins in January 2021.
Abbott said Texans can expect Bland to uphold the rule of law.
“Jane Bland is an experienced and proven legal expert whose respect for the Constitution is unmatched,” he said.
A judge for more than 20 years, Bland also began her tenure on two other courts with appointments by Republican leaders. In 1997, then-Gov. George W. Bush selected Bland as a Harris County district judge, and then-Gov. Rick Perry followed by appointing her to the 1st Court of Appeals in 2003.
Bland won elections to the appeals court in 2004, 2006, and 2012 — writing more than 1,200 signed opinions in the process — before a Democratic sweep of Harris County judicial offices in 2018 ended her tenure, and Bland joined the Houston office of Vinson & Elkins as a partner focusing on civil appeals and litigation.
Bland received her law degree from the University of Texas in 1990 after getting a bachelor’s degree in accounting and honors business from UT.
Abbott has appointed two other justices on the nine-member Supreme Court:
• In February, Abbott named Brett Busby to the Supreme Court after a Democratic candidate ousted him from the 14th Court of Appeals, which also is based in Houston, in 2018. Busby replaced Phil Johnson, who retired from the court at age 74, and is running for a full six-year term in 2020.
• Jimmy Blacklock joined the court in January 2018 after serving as Abbott's general counsel and in the attorney general’s office when Abbott led the agency. Replacing Don Willett, who was a Trump nominee to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Blacklock was elected to a six-year term in November 2018.