The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, often referred to as the Fifth Circuit, is one of thirteen federal appellate courts. The Fifth Circuit convened for the first time on June 16, 1891, in the Customs House in New Orleans, and appointed James M. McKee as the first Clerk of Court and swore and admitted sixty-six attorneys to practice before the court. Today, the court’s home is the John Minor Wisdom United States Court of Appeals Building in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Reorganization Act divided the Fifth Circuit into two circuits, reorganizing the judicial districts of Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and the Canal Zone as a new Fifth Circuit and Alabama, Georgia, and Florida as the Eleventh Circuit. The act transferred all judges whose official duty stations were located within the Eleventh Circuit to the court of appeals for that circuit. Of the twenty-six judgeships authorized for the former Fifth Circuit, fourteen were assigned to the new Fifth Circuit and twelve to the Eleventh Circuit. Today, the Fifth Circuit is authorized seventeen active judges, but currently has fifteen active judges and nine senior judges.
There have been eleven Chief Judges for the Fifth Circuit since the office was created in 1948. To serve as Chief Judge, 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 who meets these requirements. A Chief Judge serves for a term of seven years or until age 70, whichever occurs first, although the age restrictions are waived if no members of the court would otherwise be qualified for the position. A Chief Judge returns to regular active service at the expiration of his or her term.
Chief Judges of the Fifth Circuit include:
Joseph C. Hutcheson 1948–1959
Richard Rives 1959–1960
Elbert Tuttle 1960–1967
John Brown 1967–1979
James Coleman 1979–1981
John Godbold 1981–1981
Charles Clark 1981–1992
Henry A. Politz 1992–1999
Carolyn Dineen King 1999–2006
Edith H. Jones 2006–2012; and
The current Chief Judge, Carl E. Stewart 2012–present
Clerk of Court
The Clerk of Court is an officer appointed by the court to work with the Chief Judge and other judges in overseeing the court’s administration, managing cases for the court. There have been ten Clerks of Court for the Fifth Circuit since 1891.
Clerks of Court for the Fifth Circuit include:
James M. McKee 1891—1901
Charles H. Ledsum 1901—1911
Frank H. Mortimer 1912—1926
Oakley F. Dodd 1926—1954
John A. Feehan, Jr. 1954—1957
Edward W. Wadsworth 1957—1979
Gilbert F. Ganucheau 1979—1992
Richard Windhorst 1992—1993
Charles R. Fulbruge, III 1993—2010; and
The current Clerk of Court, Lyle W. Cayce 2010--present
Bar of the Fifth Circuit
In order to serve as counsel in a case, an attorney must apply and be admitted to the bar of the Fifth Circuit. The attorney submits an application, pays a fee, and takes the oath of admission. Fifth Circuit Bar Admission has grown from sixty-six in 1891 to over thirty thousand in 2014.