By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
Jackson attorney Debra M. Brown’s nomination to the federal bench may wrap up Mississippi’s high-profile legal appointments by the Obama Administration.
Brown must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate to take her lifetime appointment in the Northern District’s Greenville courthouse. That vacancy occurred in January 2012 with the sudden death of Judge W. Allen Pepper Jr.
If Brown is confirmed, she will become the state’s first black female federal judge. North Mississippi’s Sharion Aycock became the state’s first female federal jurist with an appointment by President George W. Bush in 2007.
After taking office in 2009, Obama faced decisions about two U.S. attorneys, two U.S. marshals, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and two district judges, among many others in Mississippi.
All of his legal nominees are black.
“This is good news,” said Northern District Chief Judge Michael P. Mills on Friday about Brown’s nomination. “We need a judge in Greenville and for the community in the Delta.”
He and Aycock, along with two senior judges and three magistrate judges, have shepherded Pepper’s old cases and taken on new ones that the Greenville-based judge would have handled.
Longtime appointment-watcher Professor Carl Tobias at the University of Richmond in Virginia predicts a speedy process for her.
“Brown resembles most Obama nominees. She is well-qualified, noncontroversial and diverse,” Tobias said Friday. “Given the relatively few nominees ahead of her, she should move rather quickly.”
He predicts a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this summer and the full Senate vote in the fall.
Brown earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Mississippi State University and a law degree from the University of Mississippi. She is a partner in the Wise Carter Child & Caraway P.A. law firm and worked more than 14 years at Phelps Dunbar LLP.
Some local court-watchers were caught by surprise when Obama announced Brown’s nomination, but a few said Mississippi’s Republican senators may have felt some pressure from voters closest to the court to get the Greenville slot filled.
Sen. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker hailed Brown’s selection Thursday.
Tobias agreed the nomination push likely came from Mississippi’s U.S. senators pressed by local forces.
He also said he sees growing frustration by Democrats in the U.S. Senate to vote on more nominees.
Current U.S. Attorney Felicia Adams of Oxford was considered an early front-runner for the judgeship, but her bid apparently lost traction with time. The office recently was embarrassed by arresting an innocent man in a highly publicized scheme to send poison-laden letters to Obama and two other elected officials.
Thursday, Obama also nominated two other women to fill district court vacancies in Tennessee and New York.
Nationally, the U.S. Court system lacks 107 judges. The Senate has confirmed 178 of Obama’s nominees and rejected two.