BRIAN PERRY / Judicial patronage conflict

U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge E. Grady Jolly notified President Donald Trump on March 1 that he will vacate his seat as an active judge, effective October 3, his eightieth birthday. Jolly wrote, “This advanced notice is provided in accordance with the custom of allowing you, with the advice and consent of the Senate, ample time to name my successor. I shall continue to sit in service to the court as a Senior Judge, so long as health and will continues.”

Jolly knows a bit about “the advice and consent of the Senate.” His selection tested the tradition of the Senate’s role as a partner with the President in judicial appointments during a new era of Republican power in Mississippi.

It was January 29, 1981.  President Ronald Reagan had been inaugurated only days earlier. Mississippi had a Republican in the U.S. Senate and a Republican in the White House for the first time in a century. Republican U.S. Senator Thad Cochran had been elected in 1978, but in 1980 had supported John Connally in the Republican Primary for President. Meanwhile, U.S. Representative Trent Lott had served as Reagan’s Mississippi Chairman and had just been selected by his Republican colleagues as House Minority Whip – the number two Republican in the House of Representatives. It was a Thursday and the biggest position of political patronage for Mississippi Republicans had just come open.  U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge J.P. Coleman announced he would take senior status.

Cochran wanted Jolly, a long time friend and his campaign manager in 1978.

Lott wanted Harry Allen, his friend and former law partner from Gulfport.

Madison County Journal