Applause practically rattled the roof of courtroom at the Paul Brown United States Courthouse Thursday afternoon as the career of a local attorney came full circle. Amos Mazzant III came to Sherman more than 20 years ago to serve as a law clerk for Federal District Judge Paul Brown. Thursday, Mazzant succeeded his friend and mentor as the newest judge in the Eastern District of Texas and the sitting judge for the Sherman Division.

Applause practically rattled the roof of courtroom at the Paul Brown United States Courthouse Thursday afternoon as the career of a local attorney came full circle. Amos Mazzant III came to Sherman more than 20 years ago to serve as a law clerk for Federal District Judge Paul Brown. Thursday, Mazzant succeeded his friend and mentor as the newest judge in the Eastern District of Texas and the sitting judge for the Sherman Division.


"Judge Brown was my mentor, my boss and then my friend. I stand here today because of his influence and his wisdom and I wish he was here," Mazzant said as he looked around the ornate federal courtroom where he took his oath as an attorney. Brown died in November of 2012.


Mazzant was nominated to the bench by President Barack Obama in June and was approved by the full Senate in December. His confirmation marked the end of what had been a grassroots effort to fill the bench that has been vacant in the Sherman division of the Eastern District of Texas since Judge Brown took senior status in 2001. Sherman attorney Roger Sanders was roundly praised Thursday for his part in bringing together politicians from both the Republican and Democratic parties and from all over North and East Texas to create a list of possible judges to fill the open bench in Sherman. Sanders said there were eventually five names on a list of possible candidates and Mazzant’s name was the one that kept on rising to the top.


"We have every reason to say today is a day to celebrate," Sanders said, but then he said the work isn’t done by a long shot.


He said it is now time to take the next step, "which will result in greater evenness in the distribution of judicial resources," Sanders said. He said the judges of the Eastern District of Texas work hard and some of them drive long distances to sit in courts that don’t have resident justices so that cases can be heard in those areas. But that, he said, has to stop. Those vacancies have to be filled.


Leonard H. Gilbert, a member of the American Bar Association standing committee on the federal judiciary, told the audience everyone he talked to about Mazzant agreed he would make a great federal judge. Gilbert explained that the standing committee performs the only non-partisan, non-ideological peer review of all of the judicial nominees. He said in the case of a sitting judge being nominated, such as Mazzant, who was a magistrate judge, the investigation consists of interviews of various judges of the federal and state courts, lawyers with whom the potential nominee has litigated, prosecutors and defense attorneys, educators, and other professionals.


Gilbert said he contacted more than 180 people about Mazzant and received responses from more than 100.


"In addition we review the potential nominees legal records and try to speak to current and former colleagues," he said. From all of that information the investigator then prepares a report that is then shared with the committee. He said the investigation can take up to 150 hours or more.


"I had the pleasure of speaking with many of you who are in this room. Everyone with whom I spoke had high praise for Amos Mazzant. He was uniformly supported by the attorneys who worked with him, those who opposed him in court, the judges before whom he appeared as well as the judges with whom he served. They expressed the view that he possess all of the qualities necessary to be an outstanding judge: keen intellect, sound judgment, outstanding character and excellent temperament. You also told me that he is smart, a good listener and a good human being," Gilbert said. He added that one of the lawyers he spoke to said," Mazzant embodies everything you want in a trial court judge. He is extremely diligent, engaged and prepared. He is no ideologue and does not bring an agenda to the bench."


Gilbert said a federal judge is the only life-time appointment in the American government and it therefore matters a great deal it is important that the investigation of those nominated for such appointments be thorough.


The next person who spoke at the investiture was a friend of Mazzant’s who also served as a law clerk for Judge Brown. Brett Johnson praised Mazzant as a professional, but more than that, he praise him as a person. He said Mazzant is known for being the first one there to cheer on a peer in their time of triumph and for being the first one there to offer condolences and support in their time of trouble or sorrow. He is also known, as many said, for his skill in baking cookies and his tendency to share them with friends, co-workers, church members, and any one else in need of good cheer. Johnson said Mazzant is also known as a man who dearly loves and respects his wife, Michelle, and a doting and dedicated father to his daughters Katelyn and Alexandra.


Looking toward Mazzant’s children, Johnson said, as pleased as Mazzant was to be celebrating his investiture as a federal district judge, it gave him no where near the joy he expressed at being their father. Once Johnson finished speaking, the judges Mazzant joins in the Eastern District of Texas each took some time to offer him advice on his new job. One told him to hold on because the time and cases would fly by quickly. Several told him if he ever doubted over what to do, he could do no better than to think what Paul Brown would have done.


After being robed by his family and former Sherman resident and Eastern District Chief Judge Ron Clark, Mazzant took the time to thank everyone who traveled to share the day with him. He thanked his father and stepmother and said he wished with all of his heart that his mother, who died 12 years ago, could have been with him as he celebrated. He also thanked his aunt who has traveled to Texas a number of times to watch him be sworn in to positions in his adopted home state.


Mazzant also thanked his Baylor Law School family for giving him the scholarship that brought him to Texas from Pennsylvania. He thanked the group of attorneys, past and present at Wolf, Henderson, Clark and Bryant who gave him a job and helped him try his first cases. He said Judge Clark encouraged him to get involved in the community that Mazzant now calls home. Clark sponsored him in the Sherman Kiwanis Club and the Knights of Columbus. Mazzant thanked Judge Robert Faulkner for his job as Faulkner’s clerk and for teaching Mazzant the role of a federal magistrate judge and encouraged him to become involved in the Texas Young Lawyers Association. Mazzant also thanked the judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals who helped him navigate his first job on the bench.