This Sid Salter column in the Clarion-Ledger does an excellent job explaining why Thad Cochran will likely pick the replacement for retiring 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Grady Jolly. The column includes a fascinating story on how then Rep. Trent Lott tried to influence the appointment that went to Judge Jolly in 1981.
In a nutshell, senators recommend to the president who to appoint for federal judge slots. This dates back to at least the days that James Eastland was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Lott tried to influence the pick in 1981, but Senator Cochran got his man: Judge Jolly.
Salter expects it to be the same this time:
Clearly, there will be many Mississippi Trump supporters who believe they will exert great influence over who get the judicial nomination. But history suggests we can expect Jolly’s successor, as was Jolly in 1982, to be an appointee approved by Cochran.
Salter’s column did not speculate who Cochran might want in that position. The most obvious person is District Judge Dan Jordan. It is believed that Senator Cochran was instrumental in Jordan’s appointment to the bench.
I don’t think members of the Bar would quibble with Jordan’s appointment. District Judge Sul Ozerden would also be a good choice. Both are fairly young and were appointed by Republicans. Jordan probably has an advantage over Ozerden because Ozerden is from Lott’s backyard on the Coast.
In any event, whoever gets appointed will have big shoes to fill. Lawyers can always count on a hot bench when they draw Judge Jolly on their panel. He seems to love his job and his enthusiasm makes oral argument fun for the lawyers.
Judge Jolly also gave the best speech to Jackson Young Lawyers that I ever heard. This was over 20 years ago. He went down the list of all the judges on the 5th Circuit and identified who their political connection was that led to their appointment. It was fascinating on multiple levels.