Will Mississippi Keep a 3rd Seat on 5th Circuit?

By George Khoury, Esq. on October 10, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In the most recent wave of federal court nominations handed down from the White House, the state of Mississippi was dealt an unexpected bit of bad news: a Mississippian wasn't nominated in the place of Judge Grady Jolly, the Mississippian that's retiring from the bench. Dropping the number of seats held by Mississippians to two.

The 17 judge judicial circuit covers Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. For the four Fifth Circuit nominations made by President Trump, none have been Mississippians. However, there is one more anticipated retirement on the circuit, Judge Edith Clement, which could potentially allow Trump to give the Mississippians what they want.

Circuit Geography and Nominations

Generally, when a circuit spans several states, like most do, nominations generally are made from the district courts within the circuit's jurisdiction. Additionally, care is usually taken to ensure that each state included in the circuit has adequate, and proportional, representation.

From the perspective of fairness and judicial economy, this just makes sense. If jurists must hear cases from all the jurisdictions, then having judges familiar with each will surely benefit judicial economy, as federal courts, even on the appellate level, must frequently decide state law questions.

However, when it comes to balance, Mississippi is the smallest of the three states within the circuit, with a population of just under 3 million, while Louisiana has almost 5 million, and Texas is pushing 28 million. Despite the actual courthouse being located in Louisiana, it would naturally make sense that Texan jurists hold the most seats.

Mississippi's Judge Problem Eclipsed by Twitter Fame

News of Mississippi potentially losing a seat on the circuit court was slow to filter in as the nomination of Justice Don Willett was celebrated in the aftermath of the judicial nominations announcement. The tweeting jurist has found himself a rather strong following among the legal Twitter world, and outpouring of support seemed to overshadow any other news for the circuit.

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