Today's Texas Lawyer has a front page article by John Council about the Sherman bar's plea for an appointment to the vacancy at the Paul Brown courthouse. Of note, it appears they are joined by Mark Twain, who has risen from the grave in indignation over this issue.
The article doesn't detail what happened to Sherman's judgeship, but here's a brief rundown. Judge Brown took senior status in 2001, and his vacancy was filled by now-Chief Judge Davis ... who was then stationed in Tyler. Judge Schell, who had moved from Beaumont to Sherman in 2003 to help cover the burgeoning criminal docket then moved to Plano in 2008 when the new courthouse was opened there, leaving the Sherman courthouse with no resident district judge for the first time siunce President Reagan appointed Judge Brown in 1985.
The district judges then reassigned former Chief Judge Thad Heartfield's vacancy from Beaumont to Sherman in 2010 after he took senior status in 2009 - but when it was filled by Judge Rodney Gilstrap in 2011 he was stationed in Marshall to replace Judge Ward, who had retired earlier in 2011. Thus the existing vacancy really dates back at least to 2009, and depending on how you count it, to 2001.
The article has an interesting chart (reproduced at right) that shows that for all the attention paid to the patent docket in Marshall and Tyler, the heaviest docket (in unweighted terms) in the district is actually in the Sherman Division, which has a criminal docket that verges on the apocalyptic, and requires three district judges from Beaumont and Tyler to cover it.
And this brings up another fact that is rarely discussed (we try to note it in the bench/bar each year because it's a not insignificant characteristic of the district's docket), and that is that the Sherman docket benefits (if you can call it that) from a substantial number of filings from the adjacent Northern District of Texas. Prosecutors there can choose to file in either the Northern or Eastern districts, and in many cases they choose the Eastern District, contributing to the heavy docket in the Sherman Division, which includes the suburban areas north and east of Dallas, such as Plano, Richardson, Frisco, and Allen before even getting to older communities such as McKinney and Sherman further up State Highway 75. Much attention is paid to plaintiff's preference for the Eastern District in civil cases - but criminal prosecutors have an affinity for the district as well.