AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Gov. Rick Perry has tapped his chief of staff for an open seat on the Texas Supreme Court, again proving that serving in the governor's office can be a key stepping-stone to powerful state positions.
Perry announced Monday that Jeffrey Boyd will join the state's highest civil court Dec. 3 and finish a term that expires at the end of 2014, though he could seek another term during that year's election.
Boyd replaces Dale Wainwright, who resigned Sept. 30 to join the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani LLP in Austin — sparking widespread speculation that he will run for another elected office.
Boyd has never served as a judge. He took over as Perry's chief of staff last October and before that served as the governor's general counsel. In 2000, he was appointed deputy attorney general in charge of civil litigation by then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, and remained in the position under Greg Abbott until 2003.
"Being appointed to the Texas Supreme Court is of course the greatest professional honor I could ever receive," Boyd said in a statement released by Perry's office. "But, more importantly, it is a tremendous responsibility to the people of Texas, and I intend to fulfill it with everything I have. "
In his own statement, Perry said Boyd's "addition to the court will continue to protect the rule of law and further the tradition of defending the freedoms that Texans so vigorously uphold."
"He has earned my confidence, and the confidence of those he has worked with in all his endeavors because he has a brilliant legal mind," the governor said.
Perry made a similar move in November 2004, when he named then-general counsel David Medina to the state Supreme Court, filling a vacancy when Wallace Jefferson assumed the court's chief justice position. Medina was re-elected in 2006, but lost in this summer's Republican primary to former state District Judge John Devine.
Indeed, Perry tapping his inner political circle for top state appointments stretches beyond the high court.
"This is a governor that puts a tremendous value on loyalty and likes to appoint loyalists to state positions far and wide," said Andrew Wheat, research director for the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice.
Perry chose former chief of staff Michael McKinney to be chancellor of the Texas A&M University system from 2006 until McKinney's retirement last year. The governor's former deputy chief of staff, Phil Wilson, was once picked as secretary of state and now heads the Texas Department of Transportation.
Perry looked to still another of his ex-chiefs of staff, Deidre Delisi, when naming her as the head of the Transportation Commission in 2008. She stepped down in October 2011, amid Perry's unsuccessful run for president.
While Perry's chief of staff is usually considered his chief political adviser, the general counsel helps the governor review death penalty cases.
By law, Perry can only issue a one-time, 30-day reprieve or act on a recommendation of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant a stay, commute a sentence or issue a pardon. Still, Perry appoints the board.
Since taking office when then-Gov. George W. Bush left for the White House, Perry has presided over 253 executions. The board has recommended clemency 35 times, but 30 of those were in response to decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Of the remaining five, Perry approved only one, granting life in prison to a death row inmate who drove the getaway car during a robbery and murder.