It is safe to assume that most practicing lawyers and judges in the state of Texas have dreamed of retiring on the Hawaiian Islands at some point in their lives. And Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra (pictured) is planning a similar journey, except in reverse. On Jan. 2, he’ll relocate his chambers from the U.S. District of Hawaii in Honolulu and set up shop in the Western District of Texas’ San Antonio Division.
Ezra, a 1988 appointee of then-President Ronald Reagan and former chief judge of the District of Hawaii, explains that he comes from a jurisdiction with a “moderate caseload.” When he took senior status on July 26 after turning 65 years old, he wanted to relocate to a district that could really use his help: the Western District of Texas.
Ezra is no stranger to San Antonio. He earned his law degree in 1972 from St. Mary’s School of Law at a time when Hawaii did not have a law school and says he is very fond of his alma mater. He also met his wife Judy in San Antonio, and his kids and grandkids all live in Texas, Ezra says.
“And they were actually looking for new senior judges — in other words, judges that were willing to come down and assist in a meaningful way with the enormous caseload in the Western District,” he says.
Ezra notes that the Western District’s heavy criminal dockets make its per-judge caseload among the busiest in the nation. But he didn’t “just get to go” and move his chambers, Ezra says; he had to be “invited,” in a way.
To relocate his judgeship, Ezra says he had to secure the approval of both the chief judge of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Former 5th Circuit Chief Judge Edith Jones and current 5th Circuit Chief Judge Carl Stewart, as well as U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, all have signed off on the move, Ezra says.
He’ll start by picking up a full load of civil cases in the San Antonio division, he explains.
“It frees up the judges in San Antonio. . . . it will give them some breathing room that they don’t already have. That’ll be important,” Ezra says.
And he’ll regularly travel to the Western District’s Del Rio Division on the Texas/ Mexico border to help with the criminal docket, he says.
Yet the question remains: How can a judge consider leaving the gentle island breezes of Hawaii for the brutally hot Texas summers?
“Naturally, since I grew up and was raised in Hawaii, it’s a difficult thing to leave. But, on the other hand, I am coming to San Antonio where I have friends. And I’m coming to the Western District where the judges have been so welcoming; they have been tremendous. And I’m looking forward to helping,” he says.
Fred Biery, chief judge of the Western District of Texas, is delighted with Ezra’s decision to join him in San Antonio. And he’s happy that Ezra is keeping a long-ago promise to Ezra’s wife, Judy, a San Antonio native.
“When he drug her away from her home some 40 years ago, he promised he would follow her back someday,” Biery says with a laugh. “And so ‘someday’ has arrived.”
-- John Council