Jessica M. Karmasek Jul. 24, 2013, 3:15pm

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, both Texas Republicans, announced this week they are accepting applications for six federal judicial vacancies in the state.

In April, the senators established a bipartisan panel of Texas attorneys to help identify the most qualified candidates to fill the vacancies.

This panel, known as the Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee, will review applications, interview candidates and make recommendations to the senators.

The vacancies are in the Southern (Houston, Corpus Christi, Brownsville), Eastern (Sherman, Texarkana) and Western (San Antonio) districts.

"Texans deserve the finest legal minds and ablest professionals to serve as U.S. district judges throughout our state's federal judicial districts," Cornyn said in a statement Monday.

"Public service is a great calling, and, as a former judge, I encourage everyone who is interested in serving in these important positions to apply."

Cruz agreed.

"We have an abundant pool of qualified legal experts in Texas who would serve our state well, and I look forward to seeing an exceptional group of applicants pursue these important judicial positions," he said, adding that the FJEC panel will ensure Texans have the "best, most qualified judges and prosecutors defending their rights in court."

Cornyn and Cruz, who are both members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, invite qualified attorneys to seek appointment by submitting their resumes and completed questionnaires to both lawmakers' offices. The questionnaire is available here.

Completed application packets must be received via email no later than Aug. 19.

Four of the six vacancies have been deemed "judicial emergencies" by the Federal Judicial Conference because there are too few judges to handle the caseload.

In fact, some of the seats have been vacant for nearly 1,600 days, and judges from outside the state have been flown in to help.

Texans for a Fair Judiciary, a coalition of nonprofits, is urging the senators to suggest judicial candidates who are fair and impartial, but also to move the nominees through the confirmation process quickly.

"Our federal courts hear cases on issues important to each and every Texan -- from appeals on social security to employment rights to determining individuals' constitutional rights," Phillip Martin, co-chair of the coalition and deputy director for Progress Texas, said in a statement Monday.

"We need to fill these judicial vacancies with qualified, fair-minded judges that represent the diversity of Texas as quickly as possible. Our coalition will be promoting a broad and diverse pool of applicants for consideration."

He added, "The longer we go without filling these vacancies, the longer justice will be denied for the people of Texas."

The coalition includes the following organizations: Progress Texas, Mi Familia Vota, Texas Freedom Network, La Fe, Texas Watch, Texans Together, National Council of Jewish Women, Texans for Public Justice, Texas League of Conservation Voters, Equality Texas, The League of Young Voters, and Empower The Vote Texas.

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