Only 19 months after he was confirmed to a district court judgeship, former Houston Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Costa has been nominated to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
A former clerk at the Supreme Court for Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 2001 and 2002, Costa has attracted bipartisan support at a time when partisan dischord has come to define the Senate. Now twice nominated by President Barack Obama, he came to the federal bench in 2012 with the support of Texas’s two Republican senators, John Cornyn and then-Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
He has received the American Bar Association’s top rating for judicial nominees, unanimously well qualified.
As a prosecutor in the Southern District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s office, Costa helped to win a conviction of Ponzi schemer R. Allen Stanford, who was sentenced in June 2012 to 110 years in prison for a fraud that misappropriated $7 billion in investor funds.
The Stanford case was led by the Fraud Section inside the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in Washington, D.C. It provided one of the few bright spots for then-Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer, who otherwise has been widely jeered for failing to prosecute the major banks and executives who contributed to Wall Street’s 2008 meltdown.
Last month, Costa was part of a team recognized for the Stanford prosecution with one of the Justice Department’s highest honors, the John Marshall Award for Trial of Litigation. Fraud Section deputies Jeffrey A. Goldberg and William Stellmach and trial attorney Andrew H. Warren were also honored for the case, along with Jason Varnado, a prosecutor in Houston.
Costa was confirmed to his current seat on the U.S. District Court in Galveston, Texas, in April 2012 after senators reached agreement to break a log-jam on judicial nominees. He had waited more than seven months for confirmation. Since then, the Democratic majority has changed the Senate rules to eliminate the 60-vote threshold to end debate on executive and judicial nominees, meaning his nomination is likely to move more quickly this time.
The New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals hears cases from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Costa was born in 1972 in Baltimore and raised in Richardson, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. He received his B.A. in 1994 from Dartmouth College, and then taught elementary school from 1994 to 1996 in Sunflower, Miss., through the Teach for America program.
At the University of Texas School of Law, from which he received his J.D. with highest honors in 1999, he served as Editor in Chief of the Texas Law Review. From 1999 to 2000, Costa served clerked for Judge A. Raymond Randolph of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Then he spent a year as a Bristow Fellow with the U.S. Solicitor General office in Washington before moving on to his clerkship for then-Chief Justice Rehnquist.
He moved to Texas as an associate at the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP in 2002. In 2005, he joined the Houston U.S. Attorney’s office.