Veteran El Paso lawyer Bill Hicks is the new El Paso district attorney, the governor’s office announced Wednesday – the same day embattled District Attorney Yvonne Rosales’ resignation went into effect.
“We will bring integrity back to the office,” Hicks told El Paso Matters Wednesday. (Read more of our interview with Hicks.)
The appointment took effect at 5 p.m. MST Wednesday.
Hicks, who is currently in private practice, worked as an assistant district attorney under Jaime Esparza from 1998 until 2010, when Texas Gov. Rick Perry appointed him to fill a vacancy as judge of the 243rd District Court.
Hicks could not be reached for comment. He will serve the remaining two years of Rosales’ term, which ends in 2024.
In the announcement, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he knows Hicks will take the office in the right direction.
“I have no doubt that he will restore confidence in the office as he serves honorably and faithfully in this new role,” Abbott’s statement said.
Hicks is the first Republican to serve as district attorney for an area that includes El Paso, Hudspeth and Culberson counties.
Texas Sen. César Blanco, D-El Paso, whose district covers the counties Hicks will serve, applauded the choice.
“I have had conversations with Judge Hicks and with his more than 22 years of legal experience as a judge, assistant district attorney, and criminal and injury defense attorney, I am confident he will bring order, competence, and trust back into the District Attorney’s Office while being a steward of office for the people of El Paso, Culberson, and Hudspeth counties,” Blanco said.
State law gives Abbott the power to fill vacancies in the District Attorney’s Office, but state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, said it’s unfortunate that the choice of a top prosecutor wasn’t in the hands of El Pasoans.
“It’s such a shame that one man in Austin who doesn’t know El Paso or share our values gets to make this decision. I can only hope this appointment returns some semblance of professionalism and effectiveness to the office until we have an opportunity to make our own decision,” said Moody, who is considering a run for district attorney in 2024.
Hicks takes over a prosecutor’s office facing enormous challenges after two years under Rosales.
Facing a March trial on a court petition to remove her from office on grounds of incompetency and official misconduct, Rosales announced Nov. 28 that she would leave office effective Dec. 14.
In recent months, hundreds of criminal cases were dismissed because prosecutors had not sought indictments in the time allowed by law.
Rosales and her associates also have faced disturbing accusations that they used the family of a man killed in the 2019 Walmart terror attack to criticize the judge overseeing the case, Sam Medrano Jr., and a former prosecutor on the case. When the family began asking questions, Rosales and her associates allegedly made threats and took steps to block them from testifying about what had happened, according to testimony and court filings.
Rosales asserted her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked about the allegations at a Dec. 1 court hearing.
5:23 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14: This story was updated to include a comment from Texas Rep. Joe Moody.
6:45 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14: This story was updated to include a comment from new District Attorney Bill Hicks.