By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Felicia C. Adams, Mississippi’s first female U.S. attorney, is under consideration for a lifetime federal judgeship to replace W. Allen Pepper Jr., who died suddenly in January.
Pepper held court in Greenville over the Delta and Greenville divisions. Only the president, with U.S. Senate approval, can fill a federal court vacancy.
“She’s being reviewed by a 5th Circuit (Court of Appeals) selection committee,” said a person close to the process, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The committee scrutinizes suggested judicial candidates with the American Bar Association and the U.S. Department of Justice. Adams did not respond to questions about her consideration.
Questions about Adams’ vetting also went unanswered by the Justice Department.
Adams, a 52-year-old Holly Springs native, is the state’s first female U.S. attorney, who is the federal government’s top lawyer in a given region and oversees a staff of attorneys and their work on criminal and civil cases for the government.
She is not the first African-American U.S. attorney.
Federal judges serve for life and cannot be replaced until they retire or otherwise leave the bench.
If confirmed, Adams would be the state’s first black female federal judge.
“I’ve heard it rumored and I think it’s probably true,” said an Oxford attorney with experience in the federal courthouse.
Another person with similar credentials also confirmed he was told that Adams is in the early stages of “vetting” for the judge’s seat.
Each asked not to be identified.
Mississippi’s U.S. senators, both Republicans, must be involved in the selection process, too, because traditionally they make the official suggestions to the president, then support the nominee through votes in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor.
Spokesmen for Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker did not respond to Daily Journal questions about a possible Adams nomination.
But when Adams was approved as U.S. attorney June 30, 2011, both senators were highly complimentary of her.
For Adams, two other issues are most important to judicial success – first, that the Obama administration can get her vetting and Senate approval done before the Nov. 6 election, but if not, that President Obama is re-elected to keep the nomination alive.
If he is not, a new Republican president is likely to replace Adams, who gained the job with strong support from the state’s only Democrat in the U.S. House – 2nd District Rep. Bennie Thompson of Bolton.
Northern District federal court-watchers speculate that Thompson would want input into the nomination of the next judge, who will preside over much of his congressional district.
Thompson’s Washington, D.C., office did not respond to questions there.
Adams replaced Bush appointee James Greenlee, although it took about 18 months to fill the post through controversy about candidates.