Ken Paxton

Friday, December 10, 2010

Attorney General Abbott Appoints Texas Solicitor General, New Executive Staff

AUSTIN Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today announced several senior staff appointments, including a new Solicitor General, Director of Defense Litigation, and Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice.

Effective immediately, Jonathan Mitchell will serve as Solicitor General of Texas. As the State’s chief appellate lawyer, Mitchell will oversee both criminal and civil litigation before state and federal appeals courts and will represent the State of Texas before the U.S. Supreme Court. As a senior member of the executive leadership team, Mitchell will also serve as a top legal advisor to Attorney General Abbott.

Mitchell succeeds outgoing Solicitor General James C. Ho, who departed the agency to return to private practice after nearly three years of dedicated service.

A true legal scholar, Jonathan Mitchell is an outstanding lawyer with a tremendous legal mind, Attorney General Abbott said. After graduating with high honors from top-ranked University of Chicago Law School, Jonathan distinguished himself as a law clerk to one of the nation’s most highly respected appellate judges before earning a prestigious clerkship at the U.S. Supreme Court. Since then, as Jonathan dedicated himself to public service and the study of law, he has quickly earned a reputation as a brilliant lawyer who very ably represents Texas before the highest courts in the land.

After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School, Mitchell served as a law clerk to Judge Michael Luttig on the Fourth Circuit federal appeals court. Mitchell later earned a rare and prestigious clerkship at the U.S. Supreme Court, where he ably served Justice Antonin Scalia. After completing his year-long tenure at the nation’s highest court, Mitchell spent three years in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S Department of Justice. In 2006, the State’s new Solicitor General returned to the University of Chicago Law School as a visiting assistant professor, where he taught until 2008.

With his appointment as Solicitor General, Mitchell departs George Mason University in Virginia, where he was an assistant professor of law. An expert in federal habeas corpus jurisprudence, Mitchell has authored articles in the fields of criminal law and procedure, national security law, and constitutional law. He and his wife, Anne, have a two-month-old son, Nathaniel.

Mitchell succeeds James Ho, who served with distinction as Solicitor General of Texas for nearly three years. His record as the State’s chief appellate lawyer is marked by a string of high-profile victories, including his successful defense of Texas tort reform and open government laws.

As the State’s chief litigator before the U.S. Supreme Court, Ho achieved a rare unanimous summary reversal in Thaler v. Haynes. More recently, he argued Sossamon v. Texas, a significant case concerning state sovereignty and Congressional power. He is also the first state solicitor general in the nation that the U.S. Supreme Court invited to submit briefing expressing the State’s legal view on a case. In addition, Ho has briefed, argued and won numerous cases before the Texas Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He plans to return to private practice in Dallas later this month.

As Solicitor General, Jim Ho was a forceful and highly successful legal advocate for the State of Texas, Attorney General Abbott said. For the last three years, the Attorney General’s Office and our state agency clients have benefitted tremendously from Jim’s expert legal counsel. Jim is a remarkable legal talent, and we are grateful for his dedicated service to the State.

Attorney General Abbott also appointed David Mattax, who has been with the Attorney General’s Office since 1992, as the agency’s Director of Defense Litigation. Prior to the appointment announced today, Mattax served as the Financial Litigation Division Chief. In his new role, Mattax will be responsible for overseeing the following divisions: Financial Litigation, General Litigation, Law Enforcement Defense, Taxation, Tort Litigation, and Transportation.

With Mattax’s promotion to the Attorney General’s leadership team, Assistant Attorney General Jeff Graham will serve as Acting Chief of the Financial Litigation Division. Graham has been with the Attorney General’s Office since 1997 and with the Financial Litigation Division since 2000.

For nearly two decades, David Mattax has been an institution at the Attorney General’s Office, Attorney General Abbott said. Not only is David a very sharp lawyer and cunning litigation strategist, but equally important, he is a revered manager. With David as Director of Defense Litigation, his longtime state agency clients will continue to benefit from his good counsel while at the same time he fulfills an important role as one of my top legal advisors.

Mattax succeeds Ruth Hughs as Director of Defense Litigation. A six-year veteran of the Attorney General’s Office, Hughs filed the agency’s first legal action enforcing state right-to-work laws. As Director of Defense Litigation, Hughs oversaw six divisions and 283 employees.

Ruth Hughs is not only an expert litigator, she is also a terrific manager, Attorney General Abbott said. Throughout her legal career first as a local prosecutor and more recently as a civil litigator Ruth has demonstrated remarkable commitment to public service. We are truly grateful to Ruth for her good counsel, adept leadership and tireless commitment to the State.

In another significant appointment announced today, veteran OAG prosecutor Don Clemmer was named Acting Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice. With more than 15 years of service to the Attorney General’s Office including previous stints as the Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice and chief of the Criminal Prosecutions Division Clemmer brings a wealth of experience to the job. As the Acting Criminal Justice Deputy, Clemmer will oversee the Attorney General’s criminal prosecutions, crime victim compensation, and Medicaid fraud prevention divisions.

For more than a decade, Don Clemmer has ably served the Attorney General’s Office as a senior prosecutor and manager, Attorney General Abbott said. The consummate public servant, Don has once again agreed to step up and fill a critically important role as the agency’s top prosecutor. With Don overseeing our criminal prosecutors and crime victim services teams, we are fortunate to have not only a career prosecutor but also a demonstrated manager in this very important criminal justice position.

Clemmer assumes his new role in the wake of Eric Nichols’ departure as Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice. For the last four years, Nichols has overseen the Attorney General’s efforts to crack down on sexual predators, uncover Medicaid fraud, and defend appeals by convicted criminals.

Nichols, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, has also overseen the agency’s successful prosecution of several defendants at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in West Texas. Under Nichols’ leadership, seven of 12 YFZ Ranch defendants have been convicted on child sexual assault or bigamy charges and sentenced to a total of more than 150 years in prison. The remaining five defendants are still awaiting trial.

A dedicated prosecutor with a remarkable record of success in the courtroom, Eric Nichols did a tremendous job as our top prosecutor, Attorney General Abbott said. Under Eric’s steady and tireless leadership, the State has won a string of guilty verdicts in our most difficult criminal cases. Considering his tenure as a federal prosecutor and more recently as our agency’s top prosecutor, Eric has demonstrated a tremendous commitment to both public service and law enforcement.

Attorney General Abbott also appointed veteran Texas Ranger David Maxwell as the Deputy Director of Law Enforcement. Maxwell joins the Attorney General’s Office after 38 years at the Texas Department of Public Safety, including 20 years with the Rangers. The Attorney General also welcomed Lauren Bean, former communications director for U.S. Congressman Michael C. Burgess, to serve as Deputy Communications Director.

Several key members of Attorney General Abbott’s leadership team were also reappointed, including First Assistant Attorney General Daniel Hodge; Deputy First Assistant Attorney General David Morales; Deputy Attorney General for Civil Litigation William Cobb; Deputy Attorney General for Child Support Alicia Key; Deputy Attorney General for Legal Counsel David Schenck; Deputy Attorney General for Government and External Affairs Jay Dyer; Deputy Attorney General for Administration Diane Smith; Senior Counsel to the Attorney General Stacey Napier; Communications Director Jerry Strickland; and Director of Law Enforcement Clete Buckaloo.