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Judge Carlton Reeves nominated for first black chairman of National Sentencing Commission

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Judge Carlton Reeves nominated for first black chairman of National Sentencing Commission

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, shown in this photo taken June 11, 2021 in Greenville, Miss. (AP Photo / Rogelio V. Solis)

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves of the Southern Mississippi County has been nominated by President Joe Biden to chair the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Reeves will be the first African-American to chair a group formed in the 1980s to reduce disparities in sentencing and promote transparency in criminal convictions.

Reeves, who has handled several monumental civil rights cases at the federal level, previously served as a clerk at the Mississippi Supreme Court, head of the civil department at the U.S. Mississippi Southern District Attorney’s Office, and has been a private practitioner for several years.

U.S. MP Benny Thompson, the only African-American and congressional MP from Mississippi, praised the appointment this week on social media.

“I support the appointment of Judge Carlton Reeves as head of the United States Sentencing Commission,” Thompson said. “It’s nice to witness how the first black judge was appointed chairman of the commission.”

Reeves is the second African-American to be appointed a judge in the Southern Mississippi County. He was nominated in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama.

The sentencing commission consists of seven members, but since 2019 it has not had enough members to function. This inability to function has caused concern among members of the judiciary, as federal judges across the country rely on the work of the sentencing commission.

The commission should consist of three federal judges. No more than four members can be from one political party.

As a federal judge, Reeves handled some of the most high-profile cases in Mississippi, including the trial and final conviction of three young white men for the brutal murder of a black man in 2011. He also issued a decree legalizing same-sex marriage in the Mississippi, heard numerous cases restricting access to abortion in the state, and oversaw the constitutionality of the state’s mental health system.

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