On Tuesday, the Smith County Commissioners Court selected an acting County Judge in wake of the suspension of Judge Joel Baker.

Commissioners Warr, Nix and Phillips said they had narrowed their choices down to one.  The finalists included former Justice Sam Griffith and former Commissioner David Stein.

The court named Nathaniel Moran, an attorney with Ramey Flock, as acting Smith County Judge.

Moran’s current practice involves both transactional work and litigation. His primary areas of practice revolve around representing businesses in all facets – from formation to transactional work to litigating disputes, especially on behalf of creditor-clients. Moran also has significant experience in real estate, commercial lending, oil and gas, labor and employment, personal injury litigation, and municipal law. He has also served as counsel to large oil and gas service companies enforcing mineral liens and collecting from debtors. His practice spans both state and federal courts, including bankruptcy court. Moran’s litigation experience representing individuals, business clients, and bankruptcy trustees has prepared him for all types of civil litigation.
 
Moran began his legal career with Ramey & Flock in 2002, but then joined the firm of Snow, Fogel, Spence LLP when his family relocated to Houston in 2009 so that his son could attend a specialized school for the deaf. Moran has since returned to Tyler and Ramey & Flock, bringing with him additional substantial experience in creditors’ rights/bankruptcy. He has been named a Texas Super Lawyers Rising Star by Texas Monthly Magazine in the practice area of Creditors’ Rights & Bankruptcy and Business Litigation.
 
Before moving to Houston, Moran was elected three times as a councilman for the City of Tyler, served as Mayor Pro Tem and has worked on various legislative and economic development issues for municipalities. He is married to Kyna, and they have three children; Caleb, Victoria and Juliette.
 
“The county judge is an intersection between both the legal and administrative governmental duties and my background with the city council and also as being an attorney for the past 14 years i believe has prepared me for this position,” Moran tells KETK.
 
Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith says he is confident in Moran’s ability to lead Commissioner’s Court.
 
“I’ve known Nathaniel for a long time,” Smith says.  “I attend the Tyler Chamber of Commerce board meetings with Nathaniel, I’ve known him in the community, I know his family, he comes from a great family.”

Commissioner JoAnn Hampton said no women applied for the position and a few people called on behalf of African Americans, but they did not submit their names.
 
Moran says he will be the man to move Smith County forward with transparency. 
 
“I’l listen to you, and I’ll respect what you have to say, and I can also guarantee along the way we’re gonna differ, we’re gonna differ and we’re gonna disagree without being disagreeable and we’re gonna do the best thing for this county and I know that great things stand in the future,” says Moran.
 
The Court also considered the item to “consider and take appropriate action on whether or not to waive the attorney/client privilege between the Commissioners Court and the attorneys representing the Commissioners.”  They tabled the motion until further discussion next week.
 
On June 21, Baker was suspended without pay by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
 
The Friday, prior to his suspension, Baker turned himself in to Smith County authorities on three counts of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act stemming from an alleged illegal executive session meeting on August 12, 2014, in which the commissioners agreed to purchase traffic cameras.
 
Baker released the following statement after posting bond:
 
“Today the Texas Attorney General’s Office has informed me they have secured a misdemeanor indictment against me regarding their perceived technical violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act by the Smith County Commissioners Court. As the Attorney General and his supporters will agree, an indictment alone is no evidence of guilt or wrong doing. I am not guilty of these charges.  At no time did I or any member of the court knowingly violate the Texas Open Meetings Act.  I maintain this was not a mission to find the truth, rather a political witch hunt.  I look forward to producing the true facts to a jury. I am confident a jury will find these charges to be frivolous. In order to protect the integrity of the judicial process I will not be trying this case in the media. I will prove my innocence and not allow a certain political faction to label me as a criminal for adhering to advice of legal counsel, who is assigned to advise the Commissioners Court by the Smith County Criminal District Attorney, the county’s chief law enforcement officer. I’m thankful any and all criminal investigations into the actions, conduct and procedures of the Smith County Commissioners Court are now closed.”