Editor's note: This article has been updated throughout.
Grayson County District Attorney Joe Brown has been nominated as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. President Donald Trump announced Brown’s nomination Wednesday morning as part of the eighth wave of nominations to attorney posts.
If confirmed, Brown would represent the U.S. in cases for a 43-county area in Texas extending from Cooke County east to the state border and south to the gulf coast. The Eastern District includes divisions in Beaumont, Lufkin, Marshall, Sherman, Texarkana and Tyler.
“It is a great honor to be nominated for this position,” Brown said in a press release issued Wednesday morning. “I am grateful of President Trump’s confidence in me, and I am excited to be considered to join an outstanding group of lawyers in the United States Attorney’s Office.”
Previously, the position was held by Malcolm Bales, who was nominated as U.S. Attorney by President Barack Obama in 2009. In September 2016, Bales retired following 34 years of work with the government, the Beaumont Enterprise reported. Since that time, Brit Featherston has served as the acting-U.S. Attorney for the eastern district.
In addition to Brown, Trump also nominated Ryan Patrick to serve as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas. Patrick previously served as a judge on the 177th District Court in Houston from 2012 to 2016.
Brown said he was still uncertain of the process and time frame for the confirmation and referred questions on the topic to the White House press office, which did not return requests for comment Wednesday afternoon. Brown said he is uncertain where in the eastern district he will be based, but said he would like to remain in Sherman, if possible.
“It has been such a privilege to serve Grayson County as district attorney,” he said in the press release. “If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed, I have loved every minute of my time as D.A., and I feel so fortunate to have worked with such good people in law enforcement, in the court system and in the county government. This is such a great place to live, and I have tried as hard as I can to make it better.”
If he is confirmed for the position, Brown said the Grayson County Commissioners Court has the authority to appoint a replacement to the district attorney position until an election can be held late next year. If the position is vacated by Dec. 6, Brown said a primary election could be held to determine the candidates for the election. If Brown’s departure comes after that date, the political parties will pick their candidates for the position, he said.
Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said he was unable to speak for the commissioners court itself, but said he feels there would not be a need for county leaders to appoint an interim or acting district attorney if Brown leaves the position. Instead, he said he feels confident that the office can function on its own until voters are given the chance to decide.
“My personal preference would be to let the voters decide what is best for the district attorney’s office,” he said.
Following the announcement of the nomination, state and area representatives spoke out in support of the choice of Brown for the U.S. attorney position. Rep. John Ratcliffe released a statement Wednesday morning commending Brown as the man for the position.
“I commend President Trump for nominating Joe Brown as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas,” Ratcliffe said in the statement. “I’ve been in constant contact with Senators (Ted) Cruz and (John) Cornyn over the past several months to provide input on this nomination. I firmly believe that Joe will serve our region with high integrity and a strong commitment to the rule of law, and I’m hopeful the Senate will move quickly to confirm him to this post.”
For his part, Cornyn applauded both Brown and Patrick for their service that led to these nominations.
“Both Joe Brown and Ryan Patrick have demonstrated clear reverence and respect for the law throughout their careers as public servants, and I was proud to join Sen. Cruz in recommending them to the White House,” Cornyn said in a emailed statement. “I look forward to moving their nominations forward and getting them confirmed as soon as possible.”
Brown started his legal career in 1995 while working with the firm of Cowles & Thompson. In 1999, Brown started his own law office focused on criminal, civil and family law.
Brown has represented Grayson County for the past 17 years, starting in 2001 when he was elected as Grayson County Attorney. The position was abolished in 2005 and Brown then took on the role of Criminal District Attorney of Grayson County, which he retains to this day. In total, Brown has been elected to represent Grayson County five times, most recently in 2016.
Outside of his role as district attorney, Brown also served on the state board for the Texas Juvenile Justice Department from 2009 through 2014 following his appointment by then Gov. Rick Perry. In this role, Brown was responsible for the oversight of a $330 million budget, 2,500 employers and the treatment of 1,500 youth offenders.
Locally, Brown has also been active with the Children’s Advocacy Center of Grayson County, the Boy Scouts of America, the Grayson County Bar Association and other organizations.