Lowndes County Politics

Mississippi Senators Splits On Colom Appointment

Mississippi Senators Splits On Colom Appointment

Taylor Vance/Daily Journal

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker still supports President Joe Biden’s nomination of Scott Colom to a federal judicial seat in north Mississippi, despite the Magnolia State’s other U.S. senator blocking the appointment.

Wicker, a Republican from Tupelo, told the Daily Journal in a recent interview that he and other Republicans in the state believe Colom’s track record as a state prosecutor makes him a qualified candidate for the vacant position for a district judge in the state’s U.S. Northern District.

“He was elected in a contested race to begin with, but he was re-elected unopposed,” Wicker said. “There are quite a lot of mainstream Mississippi Republicans who tell me they think he’s been a strong law-and-order prosecutor.”

A native of Columbus, Colom is the elected district attorney of the 16th Circuit Court District, which includes Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay and Noxubee counties. He is the first Black prosecutor in the circuit court district, winning that seat in 2015 by defeating the long-serving incumbent Forrest Allgood.

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican from Brookhaven, announced that she would not approve of Colom’s elevation to the federal bench partly because New York billionaire George Soros indirectly supported his 2015 campaign.

Soros gave money to Mississippi Safety and Justice, a political action committee that supported Colom’s 2015 race for district attorney. Soros did not contribute to Colom’s personal campaign. The north Mississippi prosecutor in a letter told Hyde-Smith that he never had any contact with Soros during that campaign and never asked the billionaire to contribute to the PAC.

Hyde-Smith’s office did not respond to a request for comment, and Wicker largely declined to answer if he thought his Senate colleague should reverse her opposition to the nominee.

“That’s a decision that she has considered for a long time, and she’s entitled to make,” Wicker said. “It may yet be that she could reconsider that. She’s absolutely entitled to make that call based on her sound judgment.”

Hyde-Smith is able to thwart the nomination because of a longstanding tradition in the U.S. Senate that requires senators from a nominee’s home state to submit “blue slips” if they approve of the candidate. Wicker returned a blue slip, but Hyde-Smith did not.

If both senators don’t submit a blue slip, the nominee typically does not advance to a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, could upend the tradition and ignore Hyde-Smith’s opposition by conducting a confirmation hearing for Colom.

Though he supports Colom’s nomination, Wicker said he hopes Durbin will continue to honor the blue slip process for district court nominees.

U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills announced last year that he’ll take senior status, creating the post to which Biden nominated Colom. With senior status, Mills said he will remain on the bench and hear a reduced caseload.

If the U.S. Senate was to confirm Colom, he would be the second Black judge in Mississippi’s Northern District. Sitting District Judge Debra Brown is the first Black judge to serve in the Northern District and is only the third Black district court judge in Mississippi history.