Home » OPINION » Columns » BEN WILLIAMS — The U.S. Supreme Court Mississippi flag order that wasn’t

BEN WILLIAMS — The U.S. Supreme Court Mississippi flag order that wasn’t

Ben Williams

Marshall Ramsey’s September 3 cartoon, depicting Governor Bryant as a Confederate soldier writing home about defending the flag on order of the “Yankee Supreme Court,” is quite clever and well-drawn.  The immensely-talented cartoonist is a credit to the State of Mississippi.  This particular cartoon, however, may perpetuate recent indistinct and misleading news reports.  Counter to published reports in various news media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and ABC News, the Supreme Court of the United States has not asked the State of Mississippi or Governor to defend the battle emblem on the Mississippi flag.

The News Reports

On August 29, 2017, the Associated Press broke the flag news with a story stating: “The U.S. Supreme Court is asking attorneys for Mississippi’s governor to file arguments defending the Confederate battle emblem on the state flag.”  The story was quickly picked up by national and local media.  Curiously, the reports were devoid of quotations or reference to any official court document.

The actual U.S. Supreme Court docket tells a different — or more precise — story.

The Flag Litigation

The private lawsuit challenging the Mississippi flag was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District in Mississippi.  Judge Carlton Reeves — a UVA law graduate, Obama appointee, and Article III lifetime federal judge — ruled September 8, 2016, in a 32-page opinion, that the plaintiff had no standing to bring the suit and the federal court therefore lacked jurisdiction.  Citing a U.S. Supreme Court case, Judge Reeves stated:  “The Article III standing requirement, ‘which is built on separation-of-powers principles, serves to prevent the judicial process from being used to usurp the powers of the political branches.’”

A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit that included two Obama appointees unanimously affirmed the lower court ruling on March 31, 2017 (http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/16/16-60616-CV0.pdf).  Still, on June 28, 2017, the plaintiff renewed his quest by filing a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, a formal plea that the U.S. Supreme Court hear the matter.  On July 10, 2017, the Governor of Mississippi waived the right to respond to the petition.  Such petitions are routinely denied and the two lower court opinions fully addressed the jurisdictional issues.

The Supreme Court

The misinterpreted August 29, 2017 action of the U.S. Supreme Court is described on the court docket as “Response Requested. (Due September 28, 2017).”  The underlying document turns out not to be an order but rather a letter from the Clerk of the Court requesting the attorney for the Governor file a response to the plaintiff’s petition that the high court take up the matter.   There is no mention of “defending the Confederate battle emblem.”  The sole issue before the U.S. Supreme Court concerns the constitutional authority of the federal courts to even entertain the lawsuit.

Procedurally, four of the nine Supreme Court Justices must vote in favor of even considering the jurisdictional issue petition.  Assuming that statistically improbable event happens, the Court would then consider whether the two lower federal courts botched the jurisdictional issue.  If a majority of the Supreme Court Justices votes to overturn the lower court ruling, the trial court could finally take up the case on the merits.

News reports to the contrary, the U.S. Supreme Court has not asked the State or Governor to defend the battle emblem.

Flag design replacement proposed by Laurin Stennis

The People & the Flag

Our system of government involves three branches, all playing distinct roles.  The judiciary – the smallest and least representative branch – was not established to address political issues.  The divisive flag issue is one for the Legislature or the People.

Personally, I favor the flag design replacement proposed by Laurin Stennis.



» Ben Williams, the author, is a Mississippi attorney.  Email Ben at MBWJ@aol.comFord Williams, the artist, is a sophomore at the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD).


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  1. The 4th sentence in the opening paragraph say it all—Then NYT and the Washington Post no longer has any credibility. Lazy Journalism mixed with Progressive Ideology is akin to acid and water. People wondering why media no longer has credibility is glaring at the owners of this media if they were to LOOK.

  2. Joy P. Windham


    Thank you for printing true facts and not rumors,gossip,hearsay and fake news.

  3. Joy P. Windham

    Is that the famous “Pizza Flag”? Looks like she stole it from a used car lot.

  4. My question is a simple one: Who are the people filing these lawsuits against states. Why aren’t their names and faces on the news or why aren’t we getting their faces and names out on Social Media. If these people are so hard up on suing I want to know who they are and the reasoning behind it. Someone please answer a question “What is a private lawsuit” Every Judge works for the people of the United States as well as their staff, and as far as I know, once a Lawsuit reaches the courts it becomes Public and there is a federal law on “Freedom of Information act” I agree that the MS Flag should be changed, it is time to unite the US and all the people.

  5. Matthew Rudder

    The People of Mississippi have already decided this issue. It is typical childish and immature progressive jerks like Carlos Moore that have decided because they do not like the flag it must go. The division the left talks about is from them. They tell cities and universities they do not have to fly the people’s flag BUT will demand everyone fly the flag they choose. All the people that arrogantly demand the flag be changed need to leave Mississippi. I will not accept any flag other than the one I and 65% voted for. I despise Roger Wicker, Thad Cochran, and the rest of the usurpers of the people’s will. If you do not like it, move to Louisiana.

  6. The whole issue of Flags and Statues is taken right out of the Rules for Radicals Playbook and is just a diversion to take your attention off the big things that are threatening this Republic. The left is pulling out all the stops to stop the POTUS from achieving anything that the Progressives have spent 100 years putting in place to skirt the Constitution and achieve the One World Order, which is a polite way of saying the Elites CANNOT lose CONTROL of the agenda they have worked so hard to achieve, They have won academia, the Media but the pesky fly over country rubes are interfering with the plan. I will stand proudly as a CITIZEN because I refuse to become a SUBJECT.

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