By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
WASHINGTON – Jackson attorney Debra Brown faces a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee vote on her federal judgeship nomination, perhaps before the Aug. 2 recess.
If confirmed, the Yazoo City native would fill an 18-month Greenville courthouse vacancy after the death of Judge W. Allen Pepper Jr. She also would become Mississippi’s first black female federal judge.
She must gain a majority vote of the U.S. Senate to win confirmation to the lifetime appointment.
Under questioning Wednesday from Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Brown admitted she had no criminal litigation experience but promised to “immerse” herself in criminal procedure, study and consult with other Mississippi federal judges who came to the bench facing similar circumstances.
Brown, in her late 40s, was introduced by Mississippi Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, Republicans who strongly endorsed her nomination by Democratic President Barack Obama in May.
Cochran of Oxford expressed “confidence that she will reflect great credit and serve with distinction” on the federal bench.
Tupeloan Wicker termed Brown’s hearing “an especially profound moment for me” and said “we are making history here” with her nomination.
Citing her first career as an architect, Wicker put in a plug to fund a new courthouse in Greenville, saying the current facility “is not up to speed.”
Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who presided, laughed and told Wicker, “I’m sure your pleas will be listened to” by two senior members of the Appropriations Committee present at the hearing.
Chris Gallegos, a Cochran aide, said he’s been told there’s “a chance” Brown’s nomination could come for a vote by the full Judiciary Committee before the August recess.
In answer to a Schumer question, Brown said becoming a federal judge “is one of the highest honors I could imagine.”
Responding to a Grassley question about a law school paper she wrote about changes in the Electoral College, Brown said she believes American society “should have a thoughtful look at race,” and that her long-ago “backdrop” comments were disliked equally by conservatives and liberals.
“I think we need to meet in the middle on that regard,” she said of her views now.
The American Bar Association rated Brown as “qualified” to be a federal judge. Its highest rating is “well qualified.”