Southern District of Mississippi
The United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi is one of four federal judicial districts in the state of Mississippi. The Southern District encompasses the southern half of the state and has jurisdiction over cases filed in its geographic region. The district has a long history dating back to the early 19th century and its decisions have shaped Mississippi’s legal landscape. This article provides an overview of the Southern District, including its history, location, courthouses, judges, attorneys, and notable cases.
History and Background
The Southern District of Mississippi was originally established on April 3, 1818 by Congress, which divided the Mississippi Territory into northern and southern districts. The US District Court for the District of Mississippi took over jurisdiction until Mississippi became a state in 1817. President James Monroe appointed William B. Shields as the first federal judge for the district in 1818. The Southern District initially covered the entire southern half of Mississippi but was later further divided as the population grew.
Key Events and Changes
Some key events in the history of the Southern District of Mississippi include:
- 1824 – Congress shrank the district and moved the border northward.
- 1839 – The district lost jurisdiction over western counties which were transferred to the new Eastern District.
- 1856 – The district was again reshaped, losing counties in the southeast.
- 1901-02 – Court was held in Biloxi for the first time, signaling growth on the Gulf Coast.
- 1965 – First African-American judge appointed to the district court.
- 1984 – District headquarters moved into the new Thad Cochran courthouse in Jackson.
- 2022 – First female judge elevated to Chief Judge role.
Over nearly 200 years, the Southern District has evolved along with the state of Mississippi. It has overseen landmark civil rights cases and pivotal moments in the state’s history.
Geography and Location
Geographically, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi covers the southern half of the state of Mississippi. It has jurisdiction over federal cases arising in 35 counties in the south-central and southern portions of the state.
The district stretches west to the Louisiana border and east to the Alabama border. Its northern boundary runs through central Mississippi, just south of Jackson. The district covers major cities like Jackson, Hattiesburg, Biloxi, and Gulfport along the Gulf Coast.
Major Cities and Population Centers
Some of the major cities and population centers located within the Southern District of Mississippi include:
- Jackson: The state capital and largest city in the district with over 160,000 residents.
- Gulfport: The second largest city in the district with a population exceeding 71,000.
- Hattiesburg: Major city inland from the coast with over 45,000 residents.
- Biloxi: Historic coastal city with over 45,000 residents.
- Meridian: Key city in east central Mississippi with nearly 35,000 residents.
- Greenville: Located along the Mississippi River, population around 28,000.
The total population residing within the Southern District is approximately 1.2 million people according to 2017 census estimates. The district contains diverse communities and residents.
Thad Cochran United States Courthouse
The Thad Cochran U.S. Courthouse in downtown Jackson serves as the main courthouse and headquarters for the Southern District of Mississippi.
The address is 501 East Court St. in Jackson, MS. This courthouse houses the courtrooms and chambers of the district judges and magistrate judges. It also contains the district clerk’s office and the U.S. Probation Office.
The modern courthouse opened in 1984 and was renamed in 2005 for Senator Thad Cochran. It contains over 323,000 square feet of space and its architectural style has won awards.
In addition to the main courthouse in Jackson, the Southern District holds court in several other locations:
- Gulfport – The August J. Chill Federal Building houses courtrooms and bankruptcy court.
- Hattiesburg – Court is held in the William M. Colmer Federal Building.
- Natchez – The historic US Post Office and Courthouse Building is utilized.
- Meridian – Courtrooms located in the Frank W. Williams Federal Building.
- Vicksburg – Court is held in the Federal Building and Courthouse.
Spreading court locations makes the judicial process more accessible across the district.
Current Marshal Mark B. Shepherd
The United States Marshal oversees the Southern District of Mississippi. He is appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. The current U.S. Marshal is Mark B. Shepherd.
Shepherd has served in the role since 2021 when he was appointed by President Biden. He previously worked within the Marshals Service for over 22 years before becoming Marshal.
Role and Duties
The U.S. Marshal leads a staff that carries out important duties for the federal court system including:
- Providing security for judges, prosecutors, witnesses, and jurors
- Transporting prisoners for court proceedings
- Executing orders and warrants
- Tracking and apprehending fugitives
- Managing seized assets
- Operating the Witness Security Program
The Marshal Service plays an integral role in supporting justice within the Southern District.
The Southern District of Mississippi has four federal District Court Judges and three Magistrate Judges who oversee trials, appeals, and other matters.
The United States District Judges that serve the court are:
- Chief Judge Taylor B. McNeel – Nominated in 2019 by President Trump. She became Chief Judge in 2022.
- Judge Tomie Green – Nominated by President Clinton in 1995. First African-American district judge from Mississippi.
- Judge Henry T. Wingate – Joined the bench in 1985 after being nominated by President Reagan. He served as Chief Judge from 2004-2011.
- Judge Kristi H. Johnson – Nominated by President Obama in 2010. She previously served as a Magistrate Judge.
The federal Magistrate Judges currently serving are:
- Judge Linda R. Anderson – On the bench since 2002 after appointment by local district judges.
- Judge Michael T. Parker – Appointed in 2015 after selection by district judges.
- Judge Robert H. Walker – Assumed the position in 2021 after being chosen by the court.
These dedicated judges oversee hundreds of cases and matters each year, handling pretrial issues, hearings, and other procedures.
Notable Cases and Rulings
Over nearly two centuries, the Southern District of Mississippi has presided over numerous influential and high-profile cases that have impacted civil rights, education, employment, and many other areas.
Some of the most famous cases include:
- United States v. City of Jackson (1965) – Desegregated public facilities in the capital.
- Ayers v. Allain (1987) – Major education funding equalization case.
- U.S. v. State of Mississippi (1994) – Required improvement of health and mental care services.
Landmark decisions like these have shaped Mississippi’s progression and reflected the times.
Federal Prosecutions and Cases
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi oversees the trial of federal cases within its jurisdiction.
Types of Cases
The types of federal cases handled by the court include:
- Criminal cases – Such as robberies, fraud, drug offenses, public corruption that violate federal law.
- Civil cases – Involving federal law, government, or diversity jurisdiction disputes between parties.
- Bankruptcy cases – Filed by individuals or businesses seeking debt relief or reorganization.
- Appeals – From decisions made by federal administrative agencies.
Some high-profile federal cases that have come before the Southern District of Mississippi include:
- Operation Pretense (2013) – Local corruption sting that led to conviction of 10 county supervisors.
- Hate crime prosecution of teens (2011) – Sentencing of white teens for hate crime against African-American man.
- Judicial bribery charges (2014) – Federal judge resigned and pled guilty over bribery.
- FEMA fraud cases after Katrina – Numerous prosecutions for disaster relief fraud.
- Drug smuggling operations – Numerous multi-million dollar busts over the years.
The scope of impactful cases demonstrates the key role the Court plays in justice and law enforcement.
Practicing Law in the District
The Southern District of Mississippi sets requirements and provides resources for attorneys who wish to try cases there.
Per Southern District local rules, attorneys must meet these criteria to practice in the District Court:
- Complete registration through PACER
- Pass character and fitness review
- Meet CLE requirements
- Pay registration fee
- Know and follow court rules
Out-of-state attorneys must also associate local counsel on a case. Pro hac vice admission is possible in some instances.
Resources for Attorneys
To aid local lawyers and those appearing pro hac vice, the Southern District provides many helpful resources:
- Searchable opinions and records on Pacer
- Detailed practice guides and rules
- Court calendars and schedules
- Contact info for judges’ chambers and clerk’s office
- Electronic filing and service system
- Public terminal access at all courthouse locations
These resources allow attorneys to effectively navigate cases through the federal court system.
Here is the contact information for the Southern District of Mississippi:
Address: Thad Cochran United States Courthouse 501 East Court Street, Suite 1.150
Jackson, MS 39201-5038
Phone: (601) 608-6800
Information is also available on the District Court’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
In summary, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi has a long and storied history. Its geographic coverage of the southern half of the state allows it to preside over many substantial federal cases and proceedings that shape Mississippi’s legal landscape. The Southern District’s experienced judges deliver justice from courthouses in Jackson, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, and elsewhere. Attorneys can access resources and rules to aid in representation within the federal court system. After 200 years, the District Court maintains an active and important role in the judicial process and local governance.
What counties are in the Southern District of Mississippi?
The Southern District of Mississippi covers 35 counties which are located across the southern half of the state. The counties include Adams, Amite, Claiborne, Copiah, Covington, Forrest, Franklin, George, Greene, Hancock, Harrison, Hinds, Holmes, Issaquena, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Jones, Kemper, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Leake, Lincoln, Madison, Marion, Neshoba, Newton, Noxubee, Pearl River, Perry, Pike, Rankin, Scott, Sharkey, Simpson, Smith, Stone, Walthall, Warren, Wayne, Wilkinson, and Yazoo.
How many federal judges serve the Southern District of Mississippi?
There are currently four United States District Court Judges and three Magistrate Judges that serve on the bench for the Southern District of Mississippi.
What types of federal cases are heard in the district?
The Southern District of Mississippi hears criminal and civil cases that fall under federal jurisdiction. This includes matters involving federal laws, government agencies, and diversity disputes between parties from different states. Bankruptcy, appeals, fraud, corruption, and drug cases are some examples.
What is the role of the U.S. Marshal for the district?
The United States Marshal is responsible for providing security for the court system and transporting prisoners. The Marshal Service also executes warrants, apprehends fugitives, seizes assets, protects witnesses, and performs other law enforcement duties.
Where are the federal courthouses located in the Southern District of Mississippi?
The main federal courthouse for the district is the Thad Cochran Courthouse in downtown Jackson. Other courthouses are located in Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Natchez, Meridian, Vicksburg, and Biloxi. Spreading facilities makes court access easier.