By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Two new names have surfaced as possible nominees to fill the U.S. District Court’s Northern Mississippi vacancy created by the death of W. Allen Pepper Jr.
Both Jackson attorneys, they are Debra Brown of the Wise Carter Child & Caraway firm and La’Verne Edney with Baker Donelson.
Multiple sources familiar with the process confirm they are under scrutiny, in addition to U.S. Attorney Felicia Adams in Oxford.
Pepper died suddenly in January 2012.
If any of the three is nominated and confirmed, she will become the state’s first black female federal judge. U.S. District judges serve until they resign, die or are removed from office.
Brown did not respond to Daily Journal requests for comment Monday but Edney did and declined to comment.
Only the president can nominate the replacement to the U.S. Senate for confirmation, although traditionally he confers with key members of the Mississippi congressional delegation.
As recently as a few weeks ago, aides to Republican Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker said they have had no contact from the White House about the nomination.
Support from Mississippi senators will be crucial, since it’s in that chamber where the nominee gets the final scrutiny.
But Cochran and Wicker are Republicans, while Obama is a Democrat, and it’s widely believed he will look to Rep. Bennie Thompson of Bolton, the state’s only Democratic congressman, for the names of suitable nominees who can be supported by Cochran and Wicker.
One Jackson attorney, who asked not to be identified, said the judgeship has proved difficult to fill because some potential candidates do not want to live in Greenville, where the judge’s courthouse is located.
Brown, admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 1997, is a partner at Wise Carter specializing in premises liability, product liability, intellectual property and insurance defense.
Before she attended the University of Mississippi Law School, she was an architect in the Washington, D.C. area.
Edney, admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 1996, is a partner at Baker Donelson and concentrates her practice in products liability, tort liability, commercial litigation and health care litigation.
She is a graduate of Mississippi College School of Law.
Until the vacancy is filled, Pepper’s former load of cases is being handled by two district judges, two senior judges and in some instances, the district’s three magistrate judges.