Home State Wide Despite bipartisan support, Scott Colom’s federal judicial nomination still stalled in Senate

Despite bipartisan support, Scott Colom’s federal judicial nomination still stalled in Senate


More than a year after President Joe Biden nominated Scott Colom to fill a vacant federal judicial seat in north Mississippi, the prosecutor’s nomination still appears stalled in the U.S. Senate.

Fresh off winning reelection to a third term as the district attorney in Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee and Oktibbeha counties, Colom has not withdrawn his nomination, and Biden has not put forward a new nominee. 

But beyond the nomination being referred to a Senate committee for consideration, no federal official has offered major updates on the status of the pending nomination.

A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the status of the judicial seat. Colom also declined to comment.

The reason for previous gridlock over Colmon’s elevation to the federal bench is opposition from Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mississippi’s junior U.S. senator. 

A spokesperson for Hyde-Smith, a Republican from Brookhaven, did not respond to a request for comment. But she previously said she opposes Colom’s nomination because of progressive organizations supporting his initial campaign for district attorney.

George Soros, a New York billionaire who backs some criminal justice reform efforts, 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.

Colom later wrote to Hyde-Smith in a letter that he never requested the donation from Soros and did not know he contributed to his campaign until a news outlet reported it.

Despite the senator’s opposition, a bipartisan group of former Mississippi politicians and current officials in Washington still publicly support the nomination. 

“Congressman Thompson believes there is no other qualified person than Colom and highly recommends him,” Yasmine Brown, press secretary for U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, said in a statement. “If there are any problems with the nomination, Congressman Thompson is sure they can be solved.”

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican from Tupelo, and the state’s senior U.S. senator, returned a blue slip for Colom and his office recently told Mississippi Today that he still supports the nomination.

The New York Times also reported that former Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, the person who first appointed Hyde-Smith to the Senate, and former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour also support the prosecutor’s elevation to the federal bench.

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.

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 blue slip tradition and ignore Hyde-Smith’s opposition by conducting a confirmation hearing for Colom.

A spokesperson for Durbin’s office did not respond to a request for comment, but his office told Mississippi Today in April that Durbin is “extremely disappointed” in Hyde-Smith’s decision to block Colom.

A native of Columbus, Colom is a Democrat and the first Black prosecutor in the circuit court district, winning that seat in 2015 by defeating the long-serving incumbent Forrest Allgood.

He ran unopposed for reelection 2019 and won reeleection in November by capturing more than 56% of the total votes cast, according to results from the Secretary of State’s office.

Colom was nominated in October 2022 by Biden to replace U.S. District Judge Mike Mills of the Northern District of Mississippi who is stepping down from full-time service on the federal judiciary.

Mills, who is still hearing cases, has previously said he would like for a replacement to get confirmed soon so he could begin overseeing a reduced number of cases — and, he said, so he can spend more time touring with his band.

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