By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
Felicia Collette Adams will make state history if she’s confirmed as the Northern District’s next U.S. attorney.
She’ll be the first woman to hold that Mississippi post.
She will not be, however, the first African-American in the job – Buck Buchanan was the region’s top federal lawyer during the Clinton Administration.
Adams, 51, was nominated to the job last week by President Barack Obama to succeed Jim Greenlee, appointed by President George W. Bush.
George Cochran, constitutional law professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law, is among those who say Adams is a good choice.
“Very strong selection,” he said when asked what he thought about his former student.
The U.S. attorney is the top federal attorney in a given region and generally manages an office of lawyers who handle civil and criminal cases on behalf of the government.
Since Greenlee retired in early 2010, Bill Martin and John Marshall Alexander have served as “acting” in the post with special judicial appointments.
Adams won’t be moving into foreign territory – the Coldwater native worked 11 years in the Northern District’s Oxford office until she was recruited to the Southern District in Jackson.
Federal nominees are instructed not to speak publicly about themselves or the process, so others have had to share Adams’ story.
Brad Pigott of Jackson was the Southern District U.S. attorney when Adams moved south.
“I recruited her to move in early 2000 to work in our civil division,” he said.
“She has shown a reputation for being smart, strong, calm and reliable – a really steady, fine lawyer,” Pigott recalled.
Adams moved up through the ranks to deputy chief of the Civil Division and recently was chosen by acting U.S. Attorney John Dowdy to be his first assistant or top U.S. attorney, which is one step higher than a division chief.
She made history, there too, as the first African-American in that post.
Adams’ new nomination comes more than two years since Obama took the oath of office, and he’s been widely criticized for taking so long to fill the positions, which change with presidential administrations.
The Southern District still does not have an Obama-nominated chief.
Bob Anderson, a private attorney in Jackson, worked with Adams during the five years he was chief of the Civil Division. He selected her to be his deputy.
“I know Felicia very well,” he said. “I think she will make an excellent U.S. attorney.”
Before she began her federal justice career, she was legal counsel in 1988 and 1989 to then-Gov. Ray Mabus, now the U.S. Navy secretary.
Adams earned a bachelor’s degree from Jackson State University in 1981 and a law degree from Ole Miss in 1984.
She’s a single woman who’s focused on her career across those 27 years.
“She’s a quiet, serious person,” Pigott noted.
Adams should benefit from her extensive service in Mississippi’s two U.S. Attorney offices.
She’s pretty much done it all through the years – civil and criminal work in Oxford, and civil and appellate work in Jackson.
What her potential colleagues in Oxford think about the change isn’t known. Typically, that office doesn’t make public statements unless it’s about a specific case.
But John Hailman in Oxford, retired as Criminal Division chief there, praised her as good brief writer with a pleasant personality.
“I think everybody will like her very much,” he said soon after he learned of her nomination.
She also brings another specialty to the region, which has suffered under high-profile scandals involving members of the legal community: She is the Southern District’s ethics officer.
Pigott said he has no doubts Adams will be confirmed for the job by the full U.S. Senate, saying she’s been in “very serious consideration for a long time.”
Indeed, Adams’ name was one of the first to be publicly discussed for the job soon after Obama’s election in 2008.
Pigott also said it’s possible for her to move into the office sooner than later, with special appointment from the U.S. Department of Justice.
He cited his own experience with an August 1993 nomination, placed into the post by the attorney general in November and confirmed in May 1994.
“I know she’s going to do a great job,” Pigott said.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.