Even though federal judge Michael Mills has taken senior status, he says he still plans to be an active judge, though might take his band “on the road” when his replacement is finally named in the Northern District of Mississippi.

In theory, Mills would have more time with a band because of his decision to take what is known as senior status. Senior status for a federal judge normally equates to semi-retirement, or at least a reduced caseload. But Mills says he has continued to have essentially a full-time caseload, in part because of the delay in his replacement being confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Mills announced in 2021 his intention to take senior status, opening up a coveted post in the Northern District where President Joe Biden eventually nominated Lowndes County District Attorney Scott Colom. But Colom’s confirmation process in the U.S. Senate has been stalled by Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who has refused to approve Colom’s nomination. Under a sometimes-honored Senate tradition, the home state senator is allowed to block the nomination.

It is not clear whether Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, might advance the nomination despite Hyde-Smith’s objections. Colom’s nomination has been praised by diverse groups. Mississippi’s senior senator, Roger Wicker, a Tupelo Republican, has voiced support for Colom’s nomination.

Mills had no comment on Colom’s confirmation process. He did say that he wished his post was filled as well as the U.S. attorney’s spot for the Northern District.

Biden has not announced a nominee for U.S. attorney for the Northern District.

“I would like to see it filled, then I could slow down a little if I wanted to,” he said, adding if his replacement was confirmed, “I might take my band on the road.”

The 66-year-old federal judge, said of the band, “I am trying to stay young foolish and happy.”

Mills was joking, perhaps, about a band he helped form that includes politicians as well as professional musicians. The band performs on a sporadic basis, playing popular songs ranging from rock to country.

The group was created as part of “June Bug,” an annual event in June centered at least in part on June 3 – the day fictional character Billy Joe McAllister took his life by jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge in the “Ode to Billy Joe” song that was written and sung by Mississippi native Bobbie Gentry.

The June Bug band Credit: Michael Mills

The June Bug recently held its annual event in Lafayette County where Mills now resides. Members of June Bug include Wicker as lead singer, and some professional musicians affiliated at least in part with the recording studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Will McFarlane from the Bonnie Raitt band is the lead guitarist while Mills is the rhythm guitarist. Billy Earheart of the Amazing Rhythm Aces plays piano.

Mills is a former state House member from Itawamba County and later served on the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Mills was nominated for the federal judiciary in 2001 by then-President George W. Bush. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate later that year.

Even when his replacement is named, Mills said he plans to remain active hearing cases in the Northern District even though he now has the title senior judge before his name.

It is not clear how Mills’ music might impact those plans.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.