El Paso District Attorney Yvonne Rosales is stepping down, almost halfway into her four-year term. Her resignation was announced Monday and is effective Dec. 14.
Rosales serves as district attorney for El Paso, Hudspeth and Culberson counties, known as the state’s 34th Judicial District. The family law attorney made history as the first woman elected to the office.
The resignation caps off a months-long effort to oust her, spurred by defense attorney Omar Carmona’s Aug. 24 legal petition to remove the first-term district attorney from office for alleged incompetence and official misconduct. By resigning, Rosales avoided a March jury trial that would have determined her fate.
Here’s what to know about what happens next:
Who will serve the remainder of Yvonne Rosales’ term?
Because Rosales is a state employee, Gov. Greg Abbott will appoint someone to serve out the remainder of her term through December 2024. The Republican governor will almost certainly appoint a Republican for the seat, which has long been Democratically held.
Nothing precludes the governor’s appointee from running for the seat in the March 2024 primary election. That election will determine each party’s candidate for the November 2024 general election.
There is no definite time by which the governor must make the appointment. Once he does so, the Texas Senate must approve the appointment, though the appointee will serve until the Senate votes on confirmation.
Abbott’s spokesperson has not returned an email seeking comment on his intended timeframe for naming Rosales’ successor.
Who can be appointed the next El Paso DA?
Abbott must choose a licensed attorney to carry out the remainder of Rosales’ term. That person must also be a registered Texas voter, have lived in Texas for more than a year and in the 34th Judicial District for at least six months, and be a practicing attorney. The person can not have been convicted of a felony.
Does the resignation agreement include a severance package?
The resignation agreement Rosales’ private attorney worked out with the El Paso County Attorney’s Office does not include any lump payment.
Rosales will continue to be paid her salary until the governor appoints her successor. She earns $140,000 annually from the state, in addition to an annual $83,801 supplemental salary from El Paso County, for a combined $223,801.
Who is in charge of the DA’s Office right now?
Until her replacement is appointed, Rosales will still be responsible for all duties and powers of the 34th Judicial District. However, in her resignation letter, she delegated those responsibilities to First Assistant District Attorney Salah George Al-Hanna “effective immediately.”
Al-Hanna and Rosales joined the District Attorney’s Office in October 2020 as part of a transition from long-time DA Jaime Esparza. Al-Hanna and Rosales previously worked together in private practice for 16 years, according to his LinkedIn profile. Al-Hanna started his legal career as an assistant district attorney, working in the El Paso office from 1999 through 2004.
What will happen to pending criminal cases?
El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal told the media Monday that her office has “every reason to believe that the criminal cases pending won’t be adversely affected” by Rosales’ resignation. In a subsequent statement, Bernal emphasized that the resignation “does not mean the automatic dismissal of any criminal cases.”