In honor of Women's History Month, we recognize our first female AUSA - Mary L.C. Sinderson, who also served as the first Civil Rights Division Chief. She was responsible for multiple prosecutions which later curbed police-related shootings.
During her tenure, there was a barrage of police shootings and arrest-related deaths in the Houston area and 28 police officers were convicted of civil rights-related crimes. The prosecutions included police ‘throw down’ weapon cases and prisoner-in-custody death cases. These prosecutions substantially curbed police-related shootings during the 1980s.
“The Killing of Randy Webster” was a movie based on one of her prosecutions in which a high-speed police chase ended in the shooting death of the 17-year-old. In that case, the police officers later admitted to planting a firearm at the scene of the shooting.
In another of her cases, HPD Officers tossed an intoxicated Hispanic male (Joe Campos Torres) into the Bayou in order to sober him up. He later drown. This sparked what came to be known as the Moody Park Riots. The defendants were convicted.
She was also later named as Senior Litigation Counsel, one of only 30 so designated out of 2000 AUSAs nationwide at the time.
The second female AUSA was Mary A. Daffin who also the first African America female for this Office. She served the district for eight years and was also a bankruptcy law expert.
"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the State of Texas is divided into four judicial districts, which shall be called the northern, the eastern, the southern and the western judicial districts of the State of Texas."
With these words the 57th Congress of the United States of America created the Southern Judicial District of Texas in 1902.
As promised in his campaign platform, President James Polk signed legislation annexing Texas and making it the 28th state on Dec. 29, 1845. Texas was originally considered one judicial district under the leadership of Judge John C. Watrous. The court was also granted circuit court powers meaning appeals went straight to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1857, congress created the Eastern and Western District of Texas and appointed Thomas Duval to be the judge of the Western District. Texas continued to grow, and in 1879, congress formed the Northern District. As the railroads continued to expand and fuel the Texas economy, congress created the Southern District on July 1, 1902, appointing Waller T. Burns to the bench as the district’s first judge.
The federal statute which created the new southern district specified that “The district attorney for the Eastern Judicial District shall continue to be the district attorney for the Southern Judicial District.” By this act, Marcus McLemore, who had served as the USA for the Eastern District of Texas, became the first USA for the new Southern District. In 1906, President Roosevelt named Lodowick “Lock” McDaniel of Grimes County, Texas, to be the first man appointed as the United States Attorney for the SDTX.
Originally, the SDTX covered 36 counties. The court and the U.S. Attorney rotated between Galveston, Laredo, Brownsville and Houston which was a new seat for the court. Over the years, divisions were added, counties were transferred and divided and more judges and U.S. Attorney’s offices were opened.
Currently, the Southern District consists of six divisions covering 43 counties with 200 attorneys on staff.
Each division has a federal courthouse and a sitting judge. The USAO now has permanently staffed field offices in every division.
To learn about the former leaders of the district, go to USAs.