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History of the Western District of Texas

When Texas came into the United States in 1845, federal court was authorized in only one city of Texas: That city was Galveston. The first presiding federal judge was John C. Watrous. In 1851, Congress authorized federal court to be held in four cities in Texas. They were Galveston, Brownsville, Austin and Tyler (1).

Court is currently authorized in seven divisions in the Western District.

  • Austin Division – established in 1857
  • San Antonio Division – established in 1879
  • El Paso Division – established in 1884
  • Waco Division – established in 1900
  • Del Rio Division – established in 1906
  • Pecos Division – established in 1913
  • Midland/Odessa Division – established in 1967

The Western District of Texas is indeed the most unique district in the state of Texas, and perhaps even in the United States. It is the largest district in the United States court system where a state has more than one district. For example, Alaska has only one district that comprises the entire state. The Western District encompasses over 92,000 square miles, which is 4,000 miles larger than the state of Utah. It is rich in history, and it has a fast-growing population.

The District is so large that it is in two time zones. Most of the Western district is in the central time zone, but the two western-most counties, Hudspeth and El Paso, are in the mountain time zone.

The geographical location of the Western District of Texas results in a very heavy criminal docket. The El Paso, Pecos and Del Rio Divisions all border the Rio Grande River and Mexico, which is the principal source of supply for marijuana and cocaine.

(1)   –   “A History of the Western District of Texas ” written by Lucius D. Bunton, III