First Black Chief Judge in 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

Chief Judge Carl Stewart, 5th Circuit

This is a outside the borders of the 9th Circuit, but it is worthy of note that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has its first black chief judge.  Chief Judge Carl E. Stewart, who took the helm Monday, has been on the appeals court since his 1994 appointment by President Bill Clinton.

The 5th Circuit covers Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi and is based in New Orleans.

The 5th Circuit is generally regarded as a conservative appeals court, though not as conservative as the Virginia-based 4th Circuit.

Although the chief judge job is generally administrative, it will be interesting to watch how Stewart guides the court.  He succeeds Edith H. Jones, a conservative appointee of President Ronald Reagan in 1985.  She was mentioned in the past as a possible nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court by conservatives, but it never happened.

Stewart, 62, served in the Army’s Judge Advocate General Corps in the 1970s and later worked in a small private law firm. He became an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Louisiana, prosecuting a sheriff who paid for votes to win reelection, among other criminal cases.

He left the Justice Department in 1983 and worked as an adjunct professor at Louisiana State University while also maintaining a private practice in Shreveport.

In 1985, he was elected as a state court judge in Louisiana and later elected to the state’s Second Circuit Court of Appeal.

Stewart graduated from Loyola University Law School in New Orleans in 1974 and received an undergraduate degree from Dillard University in 1971.

The 5th Circuit was once a much larger circuit court, until judges voted to split off Alabama, Georgia and Florida to form the 11th Circuit in 1981.

Stewart was the second African-American appointed to the 5th Circuit.  He followed Judge Joseph W. Hatchett, of Florida, appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979.  Hatchett later became chief judge of the 11th Circuit, following the 1981 circuit split.

Chief judges are selected by a combination of seniority and age.  The post goes to the most senior judge in active service who is also 64 or younger.

Photo via: Centenary College of Louisiana


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