Judge Carlton Reeves Could Become The First Black Chair Of U.S. Sentencing Commission


May 13, 2022

They’re working to get the commission back up and running!

Mississippi Judge Carlton Reeves has been nominated by President Joe Biden to become the first Black chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Mississippi Today reports.

Reeves is the U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi. A veteran on the bench, Reeves previously served as a private practice lawyer, a Mississippi Supreme Court clerk, and as chief of the civil division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi. Now he has been nominated by President Biden to serve as chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. If he is confirmed, he will be the first Black person to ever hold the title.


The national Sentencing Commission was created during the 1980s as a way to combat sentencing disparities and create transparency in criminal sentencing. The Commission is comprised of seven members, three of which must be federal judges, noting that no more than four members can be of the same political party. Since 2019, the Commission has not had enough members to operate, creating rumblings in the judiciary since their work is necessary to ensure federal judges are in step with sentencing guidelines. 

Reeves is only the second African American to be appointed as a judge in the Southern District, receiving his nomination from President Barack Obama in 2010. Since then, he has been instrumental in several prodigious federal cases including the trial and conviction of three white men who violently murdered a Black man in 2011, the ruling to legalize gay marriage in Mississippi, cases involving abortion rights, and a current case challenging the constitutionality of Mississippi’s mental health system. 

If Reeves is confirmed, it will surely be historic. U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi’s only Black Democratic member of Congress, took to social media this week to show his support.


“I support the appointment of Judge Carlton Reeves on being named head of the United States Sentencing Commission. It is a pleasure to witness the first Black judge to be appointed chair of the commission,” said Thompson.

Photo Courtesy of Christina Cannon/UVA Today

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