U.S. Fifth Circuit - The FindLaw 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Mississippi Federal Judge Excused From New Civil Cases Amid Backlog

Judge Henry T. Wingate has been on the federal bench for more than 30 years.

When he was appointed, it was a different world. The Soviet Union still existed. Al Gore hadn't invented the internet.

Maybe that's why the judge started to have a problem with his case backlog -- his staff didn't have computers.

What's the Backup, Doc?

Whatever the reason, the chief magistrate in the Southern District of Mississippi has extended orders to relieve Wingate from any new assignments while the judge catches up.

When Wingate first got a break from new cases in March, he had a backlog of more than 50 motions waiting for at least six months; 24 civil cases pending for more than three years.

Wingate said he got behind because high-profile cases demanded his time. He also blamed former staffers for not doing their jobs.

However, he also said it was his fault. "The buck stops with me," he told the Clarion-Ledger.

"Buck Stops With Me"

Actually, the cases were stopping with him but let's not go there. Wingate has served the public for almost half a century.

A Yale Law School graduate, he started his career in the Navy's legal service in 1973. After his military duty, he joined the Mississippi attorney general's office, and later the U.S. attorney's.

President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Southern District bench in 1985, where he served as chief judge from 2003 to 2010. However, colleagues began to criticize him for taking too long to act in cases.

During that same time, his wife Arnita Wingate passed away. They had been married for 34 years.

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