Leslie Harburd Southwick is a judge of the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Southwick was born on 10 February 1950 to Dr. Lloyd M. Southwick and Ruth Tarpley Southwick in Edinburg, Texas. He graduated from Rice University in 1972 and from the University of Texas Law School three years later.
After clerking for Judge Charles Clark, later chief judge of the 5th Circuit Court, Southwick practiced law privately in Jackson for twelve years. During that time he became active in Republican politics, including George H. W. Bush’s unsuccessful 1970 run for the US Senate and his 1980 and 1988 presidential campaigns, during which Southwick headed efforts in Mississippi. When Bush entered the Oval Office, he appointed Southwick to serve as deputy assistant attorney general, managing the Civil Division of the US Department of Justice, where his responsibilities included defending Pres. Bush’s decision to send troops to Kuwait and then Iraq. That experience reignited Southwick’s desire to serve in the military, and he obtained an age waiver that enabled him to enlist at age forty-two and receive a commission as a judge advocate general officer in the US Army Reserve.
In 1994, when the Mississippi Court of Appeals was created, Southwick won election as one of the court’s first ten judges. The campaign was marked by his high-profile 250-mile walk through the entire congressional district that comprised his judicial district. Southwick won reelection without opposition in 1998 and remained on the court until 31 December 2006, serving as presiding judge for five years and participating in approximately 7,000 opinions, about 850 of which he authored.
In 1997 Southwick transferred from the Army Reserve to the Mississippi Army National Guard. As the second Gulf War loomed Southwick received a transfer into a line combat unit that was deployed to active duty in Iraq in 2005. As a lieutenant colonel, the fifty-four-year-old Southwick served as deputy staff judge advocate and then as the staff judge advocate for the 155th Brigade Combat Team.
Pres. George W. Bush nominated Southwick to the US District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi in 2006, leading him not to seek reelection to the Mississippi Court of Appeals. The nomination was reported out of committee, but the US Senate adjourned without voting on it.
On 9 January 2007 Bush nominated Southwick to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. After a contentious confirmation process during which opponents charged him with racial insensitive and homophobia based on language from two opinions he had joined but not authored while on the Mississippi Court of Appeals, the US Senate voted fifty-nine to thirty-eight to confirm Southwick on 24 October 2007. He has served on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals since his investiture six days later.
- Confirmation Hearing on the Nominations of Leslie Southwick . . . May 10, 2007 (2007)
- Leslie H. Southwick, The Nominee: A Political and Spiritual Journey (2013)
- Leslie H. Southwick, Presidential Also-Rans and Running Mates, 1788–1996 (2nd ed., 1998)