Documents fill in more dots about U.S. attorney nominee

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Felicia Colette Adams isn’t such a mystery woman anymore.
She recently submitted a 24-page questionnaire to the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee, which will consider her nomination by President Barack Obama be the next U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi.
If confirmed by the full Senate, she will become Mississippi’s first female in that post, although not the first black.
Adams’ nomination became public a couple of weeks ago, but until now, little has been publicly revealed about her background and views. Now some of those who know her are speaking, while others aren’t.
Adams especially declined, on orders from the U.S. Department of Justice, which closely scrutinized her background before Obama decided she would be his choice.
In looking over her questionnaire answers, some new information emerges:
n She’s written scores, perhaps hundreds, of legal opinions since she became an attorney in 1984. But she’s never written a book, an article or a letter to the editor. She’s also never written any reports, memos or policy statements for any Bar association or other organization she’s belonged to.
- She’s never taught a course, but she mentored disadvantaged youths and sponsored some to Law Camp, a Magnolia Bar Association program to encourage young people to consider legal careers.
- She’s never been in the military.
- She’s made a few speeches but she says she didn’t keep her notes.
n And she’s never held a private-sector job. It’s always been for the federal or Mississippi state government.
When Adams’ nomination will move farther down the process isn’t immediately clear, although both of Mississippi’s senators, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, announced their support for her.
A U.S. attorney is the federal government’s top lawyer in a specific region and he or she manages a staff of attorneys, who handle criminal and civil cases on the government’s behalf.
The Holly Springs native, a single woman who’s also been known as Lisa Adams, is the acting first assistant among assistant U.S. attorneys and manages a staff of 72 across two offices in the Southern District.
She previously spent 11 years as an assistant and deputy civil chief.
From 1989 to April 2000, she was an assistant U.S. attorney in the city where she hopes to serve as the leader – Oxford.
Before that she was legal counsel to Gov. Ray Mabus and a special assistant attorney general, after a year of law clerking for a federal judge in Memphis.
During her three years in the University of Mississippi School of Law, she was recognized and monetarily rewarded as a James O. Eastland Scholar. That award goes to state students who have demonstrated academic ability, good moral character and good motivation for the study and practice of law, the law school’s website states.
She says she’s tried about 150 cases in court, 70 percent of the time as chief counsel. Ninety percent of her practice has been in federal courts, and 80 percent of those cases have been civil.
Her law practice reflects wide-ranging responsibilities and a willingness to take on extra duties, including most recently the Southern District’s ethics officer and criminal duties on top of her civil caseload.
At the Senate committee’s behest, she also describes the 10 “most significant” cases she’s personally handled.
Among them: three death-penalty cases in which she was part of the state’s Execution Task Force and prepared various stages of legal work until they were executed.
A fourth was a notorious Rankin County case in which a man threw his girlfriend’s infant repeatedly onto the concrete pavement, killing the child.
Adams said she presented oral arguments to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which affirmed the man’s conviction and life sentence.
She also was part of the federal legal teams in the historic Ayers v. Fordice lawsuit, which broke up the racially dual system of public higher education in Mississippi, and in the precedent-setting Lipscomb v. Columbus Municipal Separate School District, which determined that their school trust land leases were valid at original terms.
Adams tells the committee that she’s “had the privilege” of representing the United States during citizen naturalization programs, as well as handling claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act.
“Often these matters were resolved without litigation,” she writes. “They were immensely satisfying because a good result which impacted a citizen’s everyday life was obtained.”
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.