By Patsy R. Brumfield
WASHINGTON – Jackson attorney Debra Brown is one step away from becoming Mississippi’s first black female federal judge.
Thursday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved her May nomination by President Barack Obama to the Greenville-based judgeship vacated in January 2012 by the sudden death of Judge W. Allen Pepper Jr.
Brown’s approval came on a voice vote, along with two other district court judgeships.
She must gain approval from the full Senate before assuming the lifetime post.
Nomination-watcher Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, said it’s unlikely the Senate will take up Brown’s nomination until after it returns from the August recess, which began later Thursday.
The House is due to recess today.
Mississippi’s senators expressed their satisfaction with the vote on Brown. When she was nominated, Sens. Thad Cochran of Oxford and Roger Wicker of Tupelo spoke strongly of their support for her confirmation.
“I appreciate the Judiciary Committee’s work on her nomination, and will urge my colleagues in the Senate to confirm Debra Brown as a member of the United States federal judiciary,” Cochran said later Thursday. “Debra Brown is well-qualified to serve Mississippi and the nation in this position on the federal bench.”
Wicker’s reaction was similar.
“The Judiciary Committee’s swift approval of Judge Brown is a testament to her character and high qualifications as a jurist,” Wicker said. “Her appointment to the federal bench is a historic moment, and I consider it a personal and high honor to assist in her confirmation.”
Brown earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Mississippi State University and her law degree from the University of Mississippi.
The Yazoo City native won a “qualified” ranking by the American Bar Association. Its top score is “well qualified.” Her legal practice has focused only on civil law but she promised the committee weeks ago during her nomination hearing that she would immerse herself in legal areas she now lacks experience.
U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock of Tupelo, who presides in Aberdeen, is the state’s first female district federal judge.