On Oct. 1, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans got a new chief judge. Former Chief Judge Carl Stewart’s term as chief ended and Priscilla R. Owen, a judge appointed in 2005 by President George W. Bush to a circuit judge position based in Austin, has taken over. Before this, Owen was a justice on the Supreme Court of Texas from 1995 to 2005.
Owen received a B.A. from Baylor University, cum laude, and a J.D. from Baylor University Law School in 1977, where she served on the Baylor Law Review. After law school, she joined Andrews & Kurth LLP in Houston. In 2009, Owen was part of a key decision affirming the ruling of Judge Martin Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Residents of the suburban New Orleans neighborhood of Clipper Estates filed a lawsuit against the President of the New Orleans Home Builders Association, claiming that he had used money that should have been put towards revamping the neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina for personal aims. However, Feldman dismissed the case after determining that it had no standing under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. When the plaintiffs appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circut, Owen and two other judges sided with Feldman and the case was closed.
The Fifth Circuit has responsibility for federal appeals cases that arise in the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The court, one of 13 circuit courts of appeals, is one step below the Supreme Court of the United States.