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The White House has announced the nominees to fill four vacant seats on the U.S. Fifth Circuit and two seats in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

The nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit are:

Don R. Willett

Don Willett has been a Justice on the Texas Supreme Court since he was appointed by Governor Rick Perry in 2005. Prior to that appointment, he served as Deputy Attorney General and chief legal counsel to the Attorney General of Texas. He has also served previously as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice and as Special Assistant to the President and Director of Law & Policy in the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives during the George W. Bush administration. Justice Willett is a graduate of Baylor University and received his J.D., M.A. and L.L.M. from Duke University. Prior to his public service he practiced labor and employment law at Haynes and Boone, LLP.

James C. Ho

Mr. Ho is the former solicitor General of Texas in the Office of the Attorney General of Texas. Prior to that position, Mr. Ho served as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and as Chief Counsel to U.S. Senator John Cornyn. He has also served as a special assistant to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and as an attorney-advisor in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice. Mr. Ho is a graduate of Stanford University and received his J.D. with high honors from the University of Chicago Law School. He is currently working as a partner in the Dallas office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP as part of the appellate and constitutional law practice group.

S. Kyle Duncan

Mr. Duncan is the former Solicitor General and Appellate Chief of the Louisiana Department of Justice. Prior to that position, he spent several years as a professor at the University of Mississippi Law School and an associate-in-law as Columbia University Law School. Mr. Duncan has also served as an Assistant Solicitor General in the Office of the Solicitor General in the Texas Attorney General’s Office and worked in private practice at the firm Vinson & Elkins LLP. Mr. Duncan has also recently acted as general counsel for Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and was lead counsel on behalf of Hobby Lobby in the recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).  Mr. Duncan received his undergraduate and law degrees from Louisiana State University and earned an L.L.M. from Columbia University Law School. He is currently a partner at Schaerr Duncan LLP.

Kurt D. Englehardt

Judge Englehardt currently serves as the Chief Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Judge Englehardt was nominated to the seat by George W. Bush in 2001. He was appointed to the Judicial Conference Committee of Federal-State Jurisdiction by Justice William Rehnquist in 2004 and became chief judge of the Eastern District in 2015.  Prior to joining the bench, he practiced commercial litigation at Hailey, McNamara, Hall, Larmann & Papale LLP and Little & Metzger. Judge Englehardt has also served as the Chairman of the Louisiana Judiciary Commission, the state body that adjudicates ethics complaints against judges. Judge Englehardt is a graduate of Louisiana State University and received his J.D. from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University.

The nominees to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana are:

Wendy Vitter

Wendy Vitter has been serving as the general counsel for the Archdiocese of New Orleans since 2012. Prior to taking that position, she served as a prosecutor in the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office where she served as chief of felony trials and prosecuted more than 100 jury trials. Mrs. Vitter received her undergraduate degree from San Houston State University in Texas and earned her law degree from Tulane University Law School.

Barry Ashe

Barry Ashe is currently a partner at Stone, Pigman, Walther, Wittmann where he chairs the firm’s Appellate Practice Group. Mr. Ashe practices appellate, products liability, class action and complex commercial litigation at his firm. He received his undergraduate degree from Tulane University and then served as a line officer in the U.S. Navy. Mr. Ashe returned to Tulane for his law degree and clerked for Judge Carolyn Dineen King at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

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