Carlton W. Reeves

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Carlton Reeves
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi
Assumed office
December 20, 2010
Appointed byBarack Obama
Preceded byWilliam Henry Barbour Jr.
Personal details
Born (1964-04-11) April 11, 1964 (age 56)
Fort Hood, Texas, U.S.
EducationJackson State University (BA)
University of Virginia (JD)
AwardsThomas Jefferson Foundation Medal (2019)[1]

Carlton Wayne Reeves (born April 11, 1964) is a U.S. lawyer and jurist who currently serves as a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.

Early life and education[edit]

Reeves was born in 1964 in Fort Hood, Texas,[2] and was raised in rural Yazoo City, Mississippi.[3] As a teenager, Reeves cleaned the office of Judge William Henry Barbour, Jr., whom he would later replace on the federal bench.[3] Reeves was the first person in his family to attend a four-year college,[3] and graduated in 1986 magna cum laude from Jackson State University.[4] Reeves then attended the University of Virginia School of Law, graduating in 1989 as a Ritter Scholar.[2] After law school, Reeves served as a law clerk for Justice Reuben Anderson, the first African-American judge to serve on the Supreme Court of Mississippi.[3][5]

Professional career[edit]

Reeves began his legal career in 1991 as a staff attorney for the Supreme Court of Mississippi; later that year, he entered private practice as an associate at the Jackson, Mississippi office of regional law firm Phelps Dunbar.[2] From 1995 to 2001, Reeves served as Chief of the Civil Division for the Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi.[2] In 2001, Reeves returned to private practice to found his own firm, Pigott Reeves Johnson.[2] During his time in private practice, Reeves served on the boards of a number of civic organizations, including the ACLU of Mississippi, the Mississippi Center for Justice, and the Magnolia Bar Association.[2][5]

Federal judicial service[edit]

On April 28, 2010, Reeves was nominated by President Barack Obama to fill a seat on the Southern District of Mississippi vacated by William Henry Barbour, Jr.[4] Reeves was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 19, 2010 by voice vote.[6] Reeves is the second African-American to serve on the federal judiciary in Mississippi.[3] He received his commission on December 20, 2010.[5]

Notable decisions[edit]

Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant[edit]

On November 25, 2014, Reeves ruled in the case of Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant that Mississippi’s same-sex marriage ban violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Reeves' opinion noted the connection between racism and homophobia, and how that connection had long operated to oppress both black and LGBT Mississippians.[7] Reeves held that, just as the state's views on race had led it to oppress blacks for generations, "Mississippi’s traditional beliefs about gay and lesbian citizens ... [took] away fundamental rights owed to every citizen. It is time to restore those rights."[8]

United States v. Butler[edit]

On February 10, 2015, Reeves sentenced three young white men for their roles in the death of a 48-year-old black man named James Craig Anderson.[9] They were part of a group that beat Anderson and then killed him by running over his body with a truck, yelling "white power" as they drove off.[10] In handing down sentences of between 7 and 50 years in prison for the defendants, Reeves gave a widely publicized[3] speech that remarked on how the killing of Anderson fit into Mississippi's "tortured past" of lynchings and racism.[11] While noting that the defendants had "ripped off the scab of the healing scars of Mississippi," Reeves asserted that the integrated, race-neutral operation of Mississippi's modern-day justice system was "the strongest way" for the state to reject the racism of the past.[11]

Barber v. Bryant[edit]

On June 30, 2016, Reeves issued a ruling that halted Mississippi's Religious Liberty Accommodations Act from going into effect.[12] The Act provided protection to entities and individuals who refused to provide marriage-related goods and services to LGBT individuals.[12] Reeves' holding noted that "[r]eligious freedom was one of the building blocks of this great nation, and after the nation was torn apart, the guarantee of equal protection under [the] law was used to stitch it back together. But [the Act] does not honor that tradition of religiou[s] freedom, nor does it respect the equal dignity of all of Mississippi's citizens. It must be enjoined."[12]

In June 2017 a panel of judges from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed Judge Reeves ruling in a 3-0 decision, finding that the plaintiffs lacked standing. The Religious Liberty Accommodations Act was reinstated. [13]

Moore v. Bryant[edit]

On September 8, 2016, Reeves issued a ruling dismissing a lawsuit seeking to have the Mississippi state flag, which contains the Stars and Bars emblem of the Confederacy declared unconstitutional. The basis of the dismissal is the plaintiff's failure to allege a specific injury and thus an inability to demonstrate the standing necessary to bring an action in federal court.[14]

Jackson v. Currier[edit]

On November 20, 2018, Reeves issued a written ruling in Jackson Women's Health Organization v. Currier (Mary Currier in her official capacity as the State Health Officer of the State of Mississippi).[15] The ruling struck down a Mississippi law, passed in March 2018, that outlawed most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.[16] Reeves had previously issued an injunction, effectively preventing the law from taking effect. His ruling included strong statements about the law, calling it "pure gaslighting" as well as an unconstitutional limitation on women's due-process rights.[17] His ruling also invalidated a similar Louisiana law, which had been written as contingent on the outcome of the Mississippi lawsuit.[17]

Current cases[edit]

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed a law scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2019, that would ban abortions later than six weeks of pregnancy. The Center for Reproductive Rights in Jackson challenged the law. Because of his decision finding the prior, less restrictive, "15-week" law in the Currier case to be unconstitutional, Reeves began his decision by writing, "Here we go again. Mississippi has passed another law banning abortions prior to viability."[18] He inquired, "Doesn't it boil down to six is less than fifteen?", adding that the new law "smacks of defiance to this court." Reeves noted that although there were exceptions for situations where the mother's life or health is endangered should pregnancy be taken to term, the law does not allow for exceptions in the cases of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.[19]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e f Senate Judiciary Committee Questionnaire: Carlton Wayne Reeves Archived 2010-11-05 at the Wayback Machine, (April 26, 2010).
  3. ^ a b c d e f "The Man Behind The Speech: Judge Carlton Reeves Takes On Mississippi's Past". National Public Radio. March 2, 2015. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  4. ^ a b President Obama Names Three to the United States District Court Archived 2010-12-01 at the Wayback Machine, (April 28, 2010).
  5. ^ a b c "Reeves, Carlton Wayne – Federal Judicial Center".
  6. ^ Associated Press, Reeves confirmed as US judge for south Mississippi[permanent dead link], (December 19, 2010).
  7. ^ Ack Ford (November 25, 2014). "Federal Judge Overturns Mississippi's Ban On Same-Sex Marriage". Think Progress.
  8. ^ Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, Case 3:14-cv-00818-CWR-LRA, Doc. 30 (S.D. Miss. 2014). "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2016-04-01. Retrieved 2016-11-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  9. ^ Therese Apel (February 12, 2015). "Deryl Dedmon, two others sentenced from 7–50 years in hate crime". The Clarion-Ledger.
  10. ^ Severson, Kimberly (August 22, 2011). "Killing of Black Man Prompts Reflection on Race in Mississippi". The New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  11. ^ a b "A Black Mississippi Judge's Breathtaking Speech To 3 White Murderers". National Public Radio. February 13, 2015. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  12. ^ a b c "Federal Judge Halts Mississippi Anti-LGBT Law From Going Into Effect". BuzzFeed News. June 30, 2016. Retrieved June 30, 2016.
  13. ^ Campbell, Larrison. "'Religious freedom' law upheld by federal appeals court". Mississippi Today. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  14. ^ Moore v. Bryant (Case No. 3:16-CV-151-CWR-FKB S.D. Miss. September 8, 2016).
  15. ^ "Jackson v Currier" (PDF). Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  16. ^ "U.S. Judge Strikes Down Mississippi Ban on Abortions After 15 Weeks". Reuters. 20 November 2018. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  17. ^ a b Schmidt, Samantha (21 November 2018). "'Pure gaslighting': Federal judge strikes down Mississippi ban on abortions after 15 weeks". Washington Post. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  18. ^ Sherman, Carter (May 24, 2019). ""Here We Go Again:" This Judge Blocked Another Mississippi Abortion Ban and He's Tired". Vice News. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  19. ^ Federal judge's questions point toward striking down Mississippi's latest abortion ban, "Clarion Ledger", Sarah Fowler, May 21, 2019. Retrieved May 22, 2019.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
William Henry Barbour, Jr.
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi