Damien Diggs, a veteran federal prosecutor in Dallas and Washington, D.C., is the leading candidate to become the next U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, sources tell The Texas Lawbook.
Diggs, 46, would be the first person of color in the 165-year history of the Eastern District to serve as U.S. attorney there on a non-interim basis, according to U.S. Justice Department records. Nicholas J. Ganjei, now an aide to Sen. Ted Cruz on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was acting U.S. attorney in the Eastern District for 11 months last year.
Diggs was recommended to Cruz and Sen. John Cornyn by the Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee, a bipartisan panel of leading Texas attorneys that screens applications for judicial vacancies, according to multiple sources. The two Republican senators, both Judiciary Committee members, are said to have signed off on his nomination, now believed to be pending before the White House.
Neither Diggs nor a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office responded to a request for comment.
Diggs joined the U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of Texas in 2018 from the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, where he prosecuted homicides and other major crimes. Before that, he worked in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
Erin Nealy Cox, then the U.S. attorney in Dallas, brought Diggs to Texas to serve in the violent crimes section of her office’s criminal division. In 2020, she put him in charge of the office’s Election Day program, responsible for overseeing complaints of election fraud and of voting-rights violations related to that year’s general election.
“If he were the pick, it would be a great choice for Eastern District of Texas,” said Nealy Cox, now a partner with Kirkland & Ellis in Dallas.
“The only downside about his being selected for the Eastern District is that the Northern District will lose him, and that’s disappointing from my perspective. But I’m confident he’ll be great and he’ll give it his all,” she said, without confirming that Diggs is indeed the top candidate.
Diggs earned an undergraduate degree in political science and government in 1998 from Towson University in Maryland and his J.D. from American University’s Washington College of Law in 2003.
Others who know Diggs – again, without commenting on whether Diggs is indeed the front-runner – praised him as a respected, personable, outstanding trial lawyer.
Andrew Wirmani, a former colleague of Diggs’s in the U.S. attorney’s office and now a partner with Reese Marketos in Dallas, said: “Damien is an accomplished prosecutor. … He’s great in the courtroom and well-liked by both his colleagues and the defense bar.”
Jeff Ansley, another former U.S. attorney and now a Vedder Price shareholder specializing in white-collar defense work, called Diggs “a thoughtful prosecutor who is deliberative in his thought processes and case analysis, but also appropriately decisive when that analysis calls for action. … He brings the willingness to prosecute aggressively, but balanced by fairness and the desire to do the right thing.”
Ansley echoed concerns voiced by other seasoned litigators that the Biden administration has yet to permanently fill any of the four U.S. attorney positions in Texas – in the Northern, Eastern, Western and Southern Districts.
“When it comes to achieving goals in Washington, especially with important issues like getting additional resources or funding for the office, the ability of an appointed U.S. attorney to get things done compared to an interim really can’t be overstated,” he said.
The Lawbook reported earlier this week that Leigha Simonton, head of the appellate division in the Northern District, is poised to become the U.S. attorney there.
The Eastern District includes 43 counties, stretching from the Oklahoma border to the Gulf of Mexico. It encompasses, among other cities, Plano, Tyler, Sherman, Marshall, Texarkana, Lufkin and Beaumont.
Mark Curriden contributed to this report.