By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – North Mississippi federal court will be realigned into three divisions 60 days after President Barack Obama signs the bill passed Saturday by the U.S. Senate.
The district currently has four divisions, including one out of Clarksdale, where the federal courthouse was closed in 1996.
“This realignment will solve various problems,” said Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills on Monday.
One, which is procedural, requires filings in a division in which at least one of the parties lives. When that residence was in the Clarksdale-based Delta Division, appeals occurred because technically, that requirement could not happen, although the appeals rarely succeeded.
With the congressional action, the Northern District will include only three divisions, named for their courthouses:
• Aberdeen Division encompassing Alcorn, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Clay, Itawamba, Lee, Lowndes, Monroe, Oktibbeha, Prentiss, Tishomingo, Webster and Winston counties.
• Oxford Division incorporating Benton, Calhoun, DeSoto, Lafayette, Marshall, Panola, Pontotoc, Quitman, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tippah, Tunica, Union and Yalobusha counties.
• Greenville Division including Attala, Bolivar, Carroll, Coahoma, Grenada, Humphreys, Leflore, Montgomery, Sunflower and Washington counties.
Each division has a sitting judge – Sharion Aycock in Aberdeen, Mills in Oxford and a vacancy in Greenville after W. Allen Pepper Jr. died last January.
Mills said the addition of DeSoto County into the Oxford Division is probably the biggest change, making it an easier trip for parties to Oxford rather than Greenville, where they must handle cases now.
He also said that naming the districts for their courthouse will help jurors know where to report. The realignment is supported by judges in the Northern District, the 5th Judicial Circuit and Northern District U.S. Attorney Felicia Adams.
Mills thanked the state’s senators and representatives for pushing this change to passage. Missouri’s Eastern District also was realigned in the legislation.
The House measure, passed May 30, was introduced by Rep. Bennie Thompson of Bolton and co-sponsored by Reps. Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo and Gregg Harper of Rankin County. Sens. Thad Cochran of Oxford and Roger Wicker of Tupelo co-sponsored the Senate companion bill.