President Trump announced his nominations for the vacant seats on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday. The slots are going to two Texans and two Louisianans. This apparently includes the seat held by the retiring Judge Grady Jolly, whose chambers are in Jackson. Louisiana gained a seat.
Here is a link to a How Appealing Blog post that links articles covering the nominations. This A.P. report confirms that one nomination is for the seat held by Judge Jolly. Here is the A.P.’s blurb on the picks:
The White House on Thursday announced the nominations of U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt of New Orleans and Kyle Duncan, a Washington lawyer and former solicitor general in the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Also nominated were James C. Ho, a Texas lawyer who has served in the U.S. Attorney General’s Office; and Don Willett, a justice on the Texas Supreme Court.
Could someone please wake up Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker? They just had their pockets picked.
Justice Willett is probably the most expected of the four, since he was a finalist for the U.S. Supreme Court nomination that went to Justice Gorsuch. Willett probably has a decent shot of getting a Supreme Court nomination later.
The major story in Mississippi is that a Mississippian was not nominated to fill Judge Jolly’s seat. It’s hard to interpret this as anything other than an abject failure by Mississippi Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker to protect their turf.
With a Republican in the White House, Cochran and Wicker should have viewed the Jolly seat as their seat to fill. They apparently just let it go to Louisiana. That’s weak.
It will be interesting to see if Chris McDaniel pounces on this as a campaign issue in the looming Republican civil war primary with Senator Wicker. While most people don’t know or care about Fifth Circuit seats, McDaniel will have a war chest to educate voters on why it’s important for Mississippi to be represented on the Fifth Circuit.
It’s easy to envision a scenario where McDaniel could have hand-picked Judge Jolly’s replacement if he had beaten Cochran in the last senate race. He could have staked out a position to the right of establishment republicans and threatened to vote ‘no’ on the A.C.A. repeal unless he got to pick a Fifth Circuit nominee to fill Jolly’s seat.
If the President refused, he could have joined Rand Paul in voting ‘no’ from the right camp. So what if he alienated the President. That didn’t hurt Roy Moore.
Jim Eastland is rolling over in his grave. As long time chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, there is no way this happens on his watch.
Mississippi is a one party state. But that doesn’t mean that political leaders can’t be challenged from within the party. Maybe it’s time for some new blood in the Senate.
Update: Within minutes of this post going up I received word that Judge Clement is taking senior status, meaning that there will be a Louisiana slot open on the Fifth Circuit. Cochran and Wicker need to get back in the ball game and get a Mississippian appointed to fill that seat.