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David Hittner

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David Hittner
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Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas
Title:   Senior Judge
Position:   Seat #10
Station:   Houston, TX
Appointed by:   David Hittner
Active:   06/09/1986 - 11/10/2004
Senior:   11/11/2004 - Present
Preceded by:   George Cire
Succeeded by:   Micaela Alvarez
Past post:   Texas District 133, Judge
Past term:   1978 - 1986
Personal History
Born:   1939
Hometown:   Schenectady, NY
Undergraduate:   New York U., B.S., 1961
Law School:   New York U. Law, J.D., 1964
Military service:   U.S. Army 1965 - 1966

David Hittner is an Article III federal judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Hittner joined the court in 1986 after being nominated by Ronald Reagan. He assumed senior status on the court in 2004.

Early life and education

A New York native, Hittner graduated from New York University (NYU) with his bachelor's degree in 1961 and his J.D. in 1964.[1]

Professional career

From 1965 to 1966, Hittner served in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1966. After law school, Hittner was a private practice attorney in Texas from 1967 to 1978. In 1978, Hittner became a district court judge in the 133rd District Court based in Harris County, Texas, serving in this position through 1986.[1]

Judicial career

Southern District of Texas

On the recommendation of Texas U.S. Senator Phil Gramm, Hittner was nominated to the Southern District of Texas by President Ronald Reagan on April 22, 1986 to a seat vacated by George Cire. Hittner was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 6, 1986, receiving commission on June 9, 1986. He assumed senior status on November 11, 2004.[1]

Notable cases

Famed "Big Tobacco" litigator accused of fraud (2009-2010)

     United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas (William Roberts Wilson Jr. et al., v. Richard F. Scruggs, et al., 09-cv-00006)

Judge Hittner presided in the civil trial of a famed trial lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, who gained national notoriety for his representation of the state of Mississippi during the litigation against big tobacco companies in the 1990s. Scruggs was charged separately with attempted bribery of a judge after being sued by his former colleagues, who allege he cheated them out of fees stemming from their class action suits against asbestos companies.[2]

Hittner presided in the case after the Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit, Edith Jones, reassigned the case to Hittner from Robert Wilson. The reassignment was based on evidence that Wilson and Scruggs once worked together suing companies over asbestos claims. This comes in the long line of recusals in the case from judges that used to work with the disgraced lawyer.[3]

Hittner dismissed the last two defendants in the case in August 2010.[4]

Billionaire financier convicted for Ponzi scheme (2009-2010)

     United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas (United States, v. Robert Allen Stanford, 4:09-cr-00342)

Judge Hittner presided over the trial of billionaire financier R. Allen Stanford in Texas. In early 2009, Stanford was arrested by federal agents and alleged to have swindled billions of dollars from investors around the globe.[5]

On June 30, 2009, Hittner said that Stanford is a serious flight risk and must remain in jail through his trial on charges of masterminding an elaborate Ponzi scheme.

Hittner's order reversed an earlier ruling issued by Frances Stacy, a federal magistrate judge, who had granted Stanford a $500,000 bond. After Stacy's ruling, federal prosecutors immediately went into court to ask that the bond be revoked on the grounds that Stanford poses an unusually high flight risk because:

  • He has high-placed connections in foreign governments.
  • He has friends willing to lend him large sums of money.
  • He may have access to tens of millions of dollars in investors' missing money.[5]

On July 21, 2009, attorneys for the financier filed an appeal over Judge Hittner's order to keep Stanford in jail. Stanford's attorneys believed that the judge relied on inaccurate information from prosecutors and ignored evidence that proved Stanford is not a flight risk.[6] Also, attorneys believed that Judge Hittner's ruling to keep Sanford in jail prevented him from preparing for his trial.[6]

On August 26, 2009, former Stanford Group CEO James Davis entered a guilty plea to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice in connection with his alleged role in masterminding a $7 million Ponzi scheme.[7] As part of the plea agreement, Davis will present testimony for federal prosecutors against Stanford.[7]

On September 15, 2009, Judge Hittner ordered a public defender to represent Allen Stanford. The judge ordered a court-appointed attorney after his previous attorneys did not want to represent Stanford any more during the trial. The major reason for the switch was that Stanford's assets were frozen, which caused his previous attorneys not to be paid for their work.[8]

On January 26, 2010, Lloyd's of London was ordered by Judge Hittner to pay for Stanford's legal representation within ten days of the judge's order. The order came from the judge after finding evidence that legal representation bills on Stanford's behalf were not paid since August of 2009 and Lloyd's claimed that they needed to not pay Stanford's lawyers because former executives engaged in money laundering. The judge found that Lloyd's must pay Stanford's legal defense team because the judge found evidence that former Chief Financial Officer James Davis did not plead guilty to charges of money laundering.[9]

Judge Hittner granted an attorney switch to Standford on April 6, 2010. However, during the hearing the judge said that he would not grant any more requests for additional counsel. Court records shown that Stanford has been represented by ten different attorneys during his trial.[10]

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
George Cire
Southern District of Texas
Seat #10
Succeeded by:
Micaela Alvarez

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