This district typically prosecutes more cases against more defendants than most other USAOs nationwide, representing 43 counties and more than nine million people and covering 44,000 square miles.
In 1845, Texas was admitted to the Union and the judicial district was formed in Galveston, covering the state. By 1902, the Southern Judicial District of Texas was created with courts in Galveston, Laredo, Brownsville and Houston. To learn more about the history of the District, go to History.
The Southern District of Texas (SDTX) currently comprises seven divisions with federal district courts in Houston, Galveston, Victoria, Corpus Christi, Brownsville, McAllen and Laredo. The SDTX, headquartered in Houston, has branch offices in Galveston, Corpus Christi, Brownsville, McAllen, Laredo and Victoria to staff all seven divisions.
Known as “Space City,” Houston was the first word spoken from the moon. Home to more than two million people within an area covering 600 square miles, the city of Houston is the fourth largest in the United States and a major hub of transportation. It has two major airports and is the second busiest port in America. With more than 90 languages spoken here, Houston is truly an intercultural city with one of the youngest populations in the nation, partly due to an influx of immigrants into Texas. An estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants reside in Houston.
The Houston Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office has been gradually formed as the other offices were split off, now covering the counties of Austin, Brazos, Colorado, Fayette, Fort Bend, Grimes, Harris, Madison, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Walker, Waller and Wharton with a total population of 5,530,000. Currently, the office is located in downtown Houston, three blocks from the Bob Casey federal courthouse. The offices contain the headquarters of the Southern District as well as nearly 200 attorneys and support staff personnel. For more information about the Houston Division and the respective concentrations, go to Divisions.
The Galveston Division covers the four counties of Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston and Matagorda. Due to its proximity to Houston, there had not been an Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) in residence in the Galveston Division since the Southern District was formed. However, that was changed in 2018 when a full-time AUSA was assigned to cover the Galveston docket.
Corpus Christi Division
The beautiful City of Corpus Christi, with its more than 305,000 people, looks out over Corpus Christi Bay. First staffed in 1975, the Corpus Christi Division is composed of Aransas, Bee, Brooks, Duval, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Live Oak, Nueces and San Patricio Counties, with a total population of more than 555,000. Although this division is approximately 150 miles from the U.S.-Mexico Border, this area includes more than 100 miles of coastline with the Gulf of Mexico, the Port of Corpus Christi - the nation’s 6th largest based upon tonnage of goods moved - and three heavily traveled highways (U.S. Highways 59,77 and 281) for smuggling aliens and drugs out of South Texas to San Antonio and Houston.
The division’s caseload is driven largely by the alien and narcotics smuggling trades which manifest themselves by the frequent arrest of alien transporters with their cargo of illegal aliens or the drivers of loads of all types of narcotics at or near the Falfurrias and Sarita Customs and Border Protection Checkpoints. The narcotics smugglers also utilize the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico and the Intracoastal Waterway Channel between the barrier islands and the mainland to transport drug shipments. For more information about the Corpus Christi/Victoria Divisions, go to Corpus Christi.
In 1994, John D. Rainey was the first U.S. District Judge to be permanently assigned to the Victoria Division as cases had previously been prosecuted in the Corpus Christi Division. The Victoria Division includes Calhoun, Dewitt, Goliad, Jackson, Lavaca, Refugio and Victoria Counties. Victoria is the largest city in the division with a population of 62,755, while the division itself has in excess of 177,000 people overall. Two major highway arteries, U.S. Highways 59 and 77, traverse this division and are used extensively by alien and drug smuggling organizations. In addition, Victoria has a port with access to the Gulf of Mexico 30 miles south of the city, which accommodates more than five million tons of cargo annually.
The majority of cases prosecuted in this division include alien and drug transportation, firearms violations and violent crimes. The area also has a large prison gang membership, which includes present and former members who are out of prison and contribute significantly to the area’s criminal activity. Criminal violations committed by federal inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution located at Three Rivers, Texas, are also prosecuted here. For more information about the Corpus Christi/Victoria Divisions, go to Corpus Christi.
Billed as the Gateway to Mexico, Laredo is the number one Land Port in the United States and is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. It has a population of more than 237,000 people along with more than 520,000 across the river in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Laredo is also the busiest inland port in the nation, handling more freight than all the U.S. ports of entry to its west combined.
The division covers the five counties of Webb, Zapata, La Salle, McMullen and Jim Hogg. It covers as much of the international border as McAllen and Brownsville combined and contains two normal Bridge crossings, one Railway Bridge crossing, the World Trade Bridge Crossing which deals exclusively with commercial traffic and the Columbia Bridge Crossing that deals with both commercial and passenger traffic.
Leading north from the Laredo division are the major smuggling routes of I-35 and Texas State Highway 16, both leading to San Antonio, and U.S. Highway 59, Texas State Highway 83, Texas State Highway 359 and U.S. Highway 59 which leads to Houston. The Laredo Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol has nine stations and six permanent traffic checkpoints in the division and together they make nearly 1,000 narcotics seizures annually. For more information about the Laredo Division, go to Laredo.
In 1988, the McAllen Office of the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Texas was opened. McAllen, a border town located 60 miles up the Rio Grande River from Brownsville, is a major gateway to Mexico. The McAllen office is responsible for all cases arising from Hidalgo and Starr Counties, which cover a 175-mile stretch of international border, with nine ports of entry and have a combined population of more than 786,000. Just across from McAllen is the Mexican city of Reynosa, with an estimated population of more than one million. Two hours south of Reynosa is the city of Monterey, Mexico, with a population of almost five million.
This vast population, combined with dozens of smuggling routes, leads to a huge volume of cases involving drugs and illegal aliens. These two areas alone comprise more than 90% of the volume in the McAllen Division. To learn more about the McAllen Division, go to McAllen.
The first branch office of the Southern District was established in Brownsville following the naming of Reynaldo G. Garza to the federal bench in 1961 by then president John F. Kennedy. The office was charged with the prosecution of federal offenses from Brownsville to Starr County and as far west as Laredo.
By 1978, the surge in drug trafficking swelled the docket to nearly 1000 felony cases per year in Brownsville and an additional 450 in Laredo.
Located literally at the tip of Texas on the northeast border with Mexico and along the Gulf coast, the Brownsville Division today primarily covers the two counties of Willacy and Cameron including the City of Brownsville which now has more than 150,000 people. To learn more about the Brownsville Division, go to Brownsville.
USAO Mission Statement
The United States Attorneys serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. There are 93 United States Attorneys stationed throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. United States Attorneys are appointed by, and serve at the discretion of, the President of the United States, with advice and consent of the United States Senate. One United States Attorney is assigned to each of the judicial districts, with the exception of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands where a single United States Attorney serves in both districts. Each United States Attorney is the chief federal law enforcement officer of the United States within his or her particular jurisdiction.
United States Attorneys conduct most of the trial work in which the United States is a party and have three statutory responsibilities under Title 28, Section 547 of the United States Code:
•the prosecution of criminal cases brought by the federal government;
•the prosecution and defense of civil cases in which the United States is a party; and
•the collection of debts owed the federal government which are administratively
Although the distribution of caseload varies between districts, each has every category of cases and handles a mixture of simple and complex litigation. Each United States Attorney exercises wide discretion in the use of his/her resources to further the priorities of the local jurisdictions and needs of their communities. United States Attorneys have been delegated full authority and control in the areas of personnel management, financial management and procurement.