5th Circuit Footnote Hits a Federal Chief Judge for 6-Year Delay

A footnote in a federal appeals court decision takes aim at the chief judge in the Southern District of Mississippi for taking six years to enter a judgment in a civil case.

Chief U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate told the Clarion Ledger that his failure to enter a judgment in the employment case was an oversight. Although no one brought the delay to his attention, “I take responsibility for it,” he told the newspaper.

A jury had awarded more than more than $1.3 million in 2002 to a former worker for Diversified Technology Inc. According to a footnote by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, “the district court sat on the verdict for six and one half years before it entered a judgment. It is truly regrettable that the plaintiff has been denied his just recovery for these several years by the lack of judicial diligence.”

The three-judge panel that issued a decision (PDF) included Judge E. Grady Jolly, who has an office in Jackson, Miss., along with Wingate and other district judges.

Wingate, 63, told the Clarion-Ledger he was presiding over several high-profile cases at the time. He also faced difficulties in his personal life, including a traffic accident, eye surgery and news that his wife’s cancer had returned.

But the 5th Circuit said the case isn’t the first in which Wingate dragged his feet. In another case, Wingate presided over a 1997 trial, but didn’t issue a ruling until 2004, the Clarion Ledger says.

The footnote advised Wingate to ask for assistance if he needs it. “We urge the court to be more responsive and responsible to its duties and to the litigants,” the footnote said. “We once again encourage the district court to ask for assistance when it is unable to timely fulfill its judicial obligations.”

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