On his 42nd birthday, Nathaniel Moran raised his right hand and took the oath of office as the acting Smith County judge with his family watching from the front row of the Smith County Courthouse Annex courtroom.
His left hand rested on a Bible held by his wife Kyna, while their three children – Caleb, 11, Victoria, 9 and nearly 8-month-old Juliette – watched.
Federal Judge Michael Schneider administered the oath.
“Smith County has a bright future, and I look forward to serving as long as they will have me,” Moran said after his oath was affirmed.
Moran was surrounded by family during the affair and holding its youngest member with ease as he smiled and shook hands with the audience. He only put her down to take the oath.
Friday’s ceremony was short, lasting four minutes from beginning to end – including the opening prayer, pledges of allegiance, oath of office and Moran’s comments.
Moran was appointed by a unanimous vote by the Smith County Commissioners Court on Tuesday to replace suspended County Judge Joel Baker.
Baker was suspended in late June by the Commission on Judicial Conduct following his indictment on three counts of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act, a misdemeanor. Open meeting violations are considered official misconduct, so if convicted Baker would automatically be removed from office.
It’s unclear how long Moran will serve in the seat. Baker’s suspension is valid until the commission issues a new order, either reinstating him or changing terms of his suspension. Baker has filed a formal appeal, scheduled for Aug. 11, in Austin. Depending on the outcome of that, Moran could serve until Baker’s court case is closed.
If Baker is convicted of the open meeting violations, he will automatically be removed from office, and Moran could continue to serve through Baker’s term.
He has not yet decided whether he will run for the seat when it comes open in 2018.
Moran is a former Tyler City Councilmember and a partner at the law firm Ramey & Flock. His last day with the law firm was Thursday.
Moran was first elected to the Tyler City Council in 2005 at the age of 30. He served until 2009. He’s a graduate of Whitehouse High School, Texas Tech University and the Texas Tech School of Law.
Baker attended Friday’s ceremony, standing quietly in the back of the room. As the swearing in concluded a line of people shook Baker’s hand, and local media interviewed Moran.
Moran will conduct his first Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday and is being brought up to speed on the county’s budget, which has to be filed by the end of next week.