United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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Fifth Circuit
Court of Appeals
Judges: 15
Posts: 17
Vacancies: 2
Active judges
Chief: Carl Stewart
Senior Judges
Former Judges
(Numbers indicate % of seats vacant.)
More than 40%

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, sometimes referred to as the Fifth Circuit, is one of the thirteen federal appellate courts. The court is composed of seventeen active judges, and is based at the John Minor Wisdom U.S. Courthouse in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Vacancy warning level

The vacancy warning level for the Fifth Circuit is at yellow. The court has two vacancies out of its seventeen posts.

Pending nominations

There are no pending nominations for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Active judges

Article III judges

JudgeAppointed byActiveChiefPreceededBachelorsLaw
Judge James DennisClinton 10/02/1985-PresentCharles ClarkLouisiana Tech University, 1959Louisiana State University Law School, 1962
Judge James GravesObama 2/14/2011-PresentRhesa BarksdaleMillsaps College, 1975Syracuse University Law, 1980
Chief Judge Carl StewartClinton 05/09/1994 - Present10/1/2012 - PresentDillard University, 1971Loyola University New Orleans School of Law, 1974
Judge Edith JonesReagan 04/04/1985-Present1/16/2006-9/30/2012Cornell University, 1971University of Texas Law School, 1974
Judge Leslie SouthwickW. Bush 10/29/2007 -PresentCharles PickeringRice University, 1972University of Texas School of Law, 1975
Judge Priscilla OwenW. Bush 06/03/2005 -PresentWilliam GarwoodBaylor University, 1975Baylor University School of Law, 1977
Judge Jennifer ElrodW. Bush 10/19/2007 -PresentPatrick E. HigginbothamBaylor University, 1988Harvard Law School, 1992
Judge Catharina HaynesW. Bush 04/18/2008 -PresentHarold DeMossFlorida Institue of Technology, 1983Emory University School of Law, 1986
Judge Edith ClementW. Bush 11/25/1991-PresentJohn Duhe, Jr.University of Alabama, 1969Tulane Law School, 1972
Judge Edward PradoW. Bush 05/05/2003 -PresentRobert ParkerUniversity of Texas, 1969University of Texas School of Law, 1972
Judge Jerry SmithReagan 12/21/1987 -PresentYale University, 1969Yale Law School, 1972
Judge W. Eugene DavisReagan 11/16/1983-PresentRobert AinsworthTulane Law School, 1960
Judge Grady JollyReagan 07/30/1992 -PresentJames ColemanUniversity of Mississippi, 1959University of Mississippi School of Law, 1962
Judge Stephen HigginsonObama 10/31/2011-PresentJacques WienerHarvard University, 1983Yale Law, 1987
Judge Gregg CostaObama 5/20/2014-PresentFortunato BenavidesDartmouth College, 1994University of Texas Law, 1999

Senior judges

JudgeAppointed byActiveChiefSeniorBachelorsLaw
Senior Judge Thomas ReavleyCarter 7/13/1979-7/31/19908/01/1990-PresentUniversity of Texas, 1942Harvard Law Schoo, 1948
Senior Judge Carolyn KingCarter 7/13/1979-12/30/20131999-200612/31/2013-PresentSmith College, 1959Yale Law School, 1962
Senior Judge Patrick HigginbothamReagan 7/30/1982-8/27/20068/28/2006-PresentUniversity of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, 1960University of Alabama School of Law, 1961
Senior Judge John DuheReagan 10/17/1988-4/6/19994/7/1999-PresentTulane University, 1955Tulane University Law School, 1957
Senior Judge Harold DeMossH.W. Bush 12/02/1991-6/30/20077/001/2007-PresentRice University, 1952University of Texas School of Law, 1955
Senior Judge Fortunato BenavidesClinton 5/09/1994-2/3/20122/3/2012-PresentUniversity of Houston, 1968University of Houston Law Center, 1972
Senior Judge Jacques WienerH.W. Bush 3/12/1990-9/29/20109/30/2010-PresentTulane University, 1956Tulane Law School, 1961
Senior Judge Rhesa BarksdaleH.W. Bush 3/12/1990-8/08/20098/08/2009-PresentU.S. Military Academy, West Point, 1996University of Mississippi Law School, 1972


United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth CircuitUnited States Court of Appeals for the Fifth CircuitUnited States District Court for the Southern District of TexasUnited States District Court for the Western District of TexasUnited States District Court for the Northern District of TexasUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of TexasUnited States District Court for the Western District of LouisianaUnited States District Court for the Western District of LouisianaUnited States District Court for the Middle District of LouisianaUnited States District Court for the Middle District of LouisianaUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of LouisianaUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of LouisianaUnited States District Court for the Northern District of MississippiUnited States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi
Map of the Fifth Circuit. Click on a district to find out more about it.

The Fifth Circuit has appellate jurisdiction over cases heard in one of its subsidiary districts. These cases can include civil and criminal matters that fall under federal law.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts:



Federal Court Caseload Statistics*
YearStarting case load:Cases filed:Total cases:Cases terminated:Remaining casesTerminations on merits:Terminations on ProcedureCross Appeals:Total Terminations: Written decisions per Judge**
*All statistics are taken from the Official Federal Courts' Website (for District Courts) and reflect the calendar year through September.    **This statistic reflects only judges that are active for the entire 12 month period.

Notable cases


Court history

In 1980, the Fifth Circuit was split with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Reorganization Act and the Eleventh Circuit Act. At that point, the states of Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas became the new Fifth Circuit, while Alabama, Georgia and Florida became the new Eleventh Circuit.[13]

The Fifth Circuit played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement, hearing many of the most controversial and climactic cases. A 1964 Time Magazine article on the Fifth Circuit entitled, "The Fascinating & Frenetic Fifth," said this about the court:

Apart from the Supreme Court, the most fascinating bench in the U.S. is the Deep South's Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals — the trail-blazing intermediate court that handles most of the nation's civil rights cases by hearing appeals from district courts in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. "Without the Fifth Circuit," says a leading civil rights lawyer, "we would be on the verge of actual war fare in the South."[14]

Judicial posts

The following table highlights the development of judicial posts for the Fifth Circuit. The table displays the statute that authorized an increase in judgeships, the year the statute was passed, and the number of judges authorized for the court in the statute.

Year Statute Total Seats
March 3, 1891 26 Stat. 826 2
January 25, 1899 30 Stat. 803 3
June 10, 1930 46 Stat. 538 4
May 31, 1938 52 Stat. 584 5
December 14, 1942 56 Stat. 1050 6
February 10, 1954 68 Stat. 8 7
May 19, 1961 75 Stat. 80 9
March 18, 1966 80 Stat. 75 13
June 18, 1968 82 Stat. 184 15
October 20, 1978 92 Stat. 1629 26
October 14, 1980 94 Stat. 1994 14
July 10, 1984 98 Stat. 333 16
December 1, 1990 104 Stat. 5089 17

Former judges

Former chief judges

In order to qualify for the office of chief judge in one of the federal courts, a judge must have been in active service on the court for at least one year, be under the age of 65, and have not previously served as chief judge. A vacancy in the office of chief judge is filled by the judge highest in seniority among the group of qualified judges. The chief judge serves for a term of seven years or until age 70, whichever occurs first. The age restrictions are waived if no members of the court would otherwise be qualified for the position. Unlike the Chief Justice of the United States, a chief judge returns to active service after the expiration of his or her term and does not create a vacancy on the bench by the fact of his or her promotion.[15][16]

Former judges

For information on former judges, see former judges of the Fifth Circuit.


5thcircuit building.jpg

The Fifth Circuit is located in the John Minor Wisdom U.S. Court of Appeals Building in New Orleans, Louisiana. The original building was constructed in 1908, and then served as both the post office and courthouse.[17] In 1961, the Post Office moved due to lack of space. In 1963, the courts left as well, and the building remained vacant until 1965, when it "served as a public high school for three years after Hurricane Betsy destroyed McDonough 35 High School."[17] After undergoing extensive renovations, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit returned to the building in 1972. In 1974, the building was placed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The building was renamed in honor of John Minor Wisdom in 1994. As noted by the U.S. General Services Administration, Wisdom "strongly promoted civil rights and issued landmark decisions that supported school desegregation and voter rights."[17]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Courthouse News Service, "Parents May Intervene in School Voucher Fracas," April 14, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  3. Fox News, "Federal appeals court reinstates most of Texas' abortion restrictions," October 31, 2013
  4. CBS News, "Federal appeals court reinstates key restriction in Texas abortion law," October 31, 2013
  5. Los Angeles Times, "Appeals court lifts injunction on Texas abortion law," October 31, 2013
  6. Texas American-Statesman, "Judge blocks key part of Texas abortion law," October 28, 2013
  7. 7.0 7.1 New York Times, "Judge in Texas Partly Rejects Abortion Law," October 28, 2013
  8. Texas Lawyer Blog, "5th Circuit upholds corporate free speech in First Amendment challenge," October 18, 2013
  9. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Avinash Rangra; Anna Monclova v. Frank D. Brown opinion
  10. RCFP Blog, "Open meetings law may be unconstitutional, court rules," April 30, 2009
  11. Times-Picayune, "Clipper Estates lawsuit dismissed by federal judge," September 14, 2009
  12. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, "Joffroin v. Tufaro," 606 F. 3d 235, May 11, 2010
  13. Federal Judicial Center, "History of the Fifth Circuit," accessed on August 2, 2014
  14. Time Magazine, "Courts: The Fascinating & Frenetic Fifth," December 4, 1964
  15. United States Courts, "Frequently Asked Questions"
  16. United States Courts, "On Being Chief Judge," February 2009
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 U.S. General Services Administration, "Building History: John Minor Wisdom U.S. Court of Appeals Building," accessed on May 2, 2014