James L. Dennis (born January 9, 1936) is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, with chambers New Orleans, Louisiana.

James L. Dennis
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Assumed office
October 2, 1995
Appointed byBill Clinton
Preceded byCharles Clark
Personal details
Born (1936-01-09) January 9, 1936 (age 84)
Monroe, Louisiana
Political partyDemocratic
EducationLouisiana Tech University (B.A.)
Paul M. Hebert Law Center (J.D.)
University of Virginia School of Law (LL.M.)

Education and careerEdit

Born in Monroe in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana to Jenner Leon Dennis (1901-1970) and the former Hope Taylo, Dennis served in the United States Army from 1955 to 1957 and is affiliated with the American Legion. In 1959, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. In 1962, he obtained a Juris Doctor from the Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center in Baton Rouge. Much later in 1984, he procured a Master of Laws from the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was named to the Order of the Coif.[1] From 1962 to 1972, he was in private practice with the law firm of Hudson, Potts & Bernstein in Monroe, Louisiana. He served as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1968 to 1972. He was succeeded in that position by his fellow Democrat, later Republican, John C. Ensminger, a Monroe businessman.[2]

State judicial serviceEdit

Dennis became a judge on the Fourth Judicial District Court of Louisiana, based in Monroe and served for two years from 1972 to 1974. He then served on the Louisiana Circuit Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit, based in Shreveport, from 1974 to 1975. From 1975 to 1995, he was an associate justice of the seven-member Supreme Court of Louisiana.[2]

Federal judicial serviceEdit

On January 31, 1995, Dennis was nominated by President Bill Clinton to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated by Charles Clark. Dennis was confirmed by the United States Senate on September 28, 1995, and received his commission on October 2, 1995.[2]

Dennis is a liberal, and has been criticized by his conservative colleagues Edith Jones and Edith Brown Clement.[3] [4]

Notable casesEdit

Dennis was one of three judges on a panel that heard the appeal to Hornbeck Offshore Services LLC v. Salazar, a case challenging the U.S. Department of the Interior six month moratorium on exploratory drilling in deep water that was adopted in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the subsequent oil spill. The Fifth Circuit panel denied the government's emergency request to stay the lower court's decision pending appeal.[5]

In 2014, Dennis wrote a 62 page dissent when the 5th circuit denied an en banc rehearing for a Texas abortion law, which a 3 judge panel had upheld. [6] The 5th circuit was overturned by the Supreme Court in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016.

On January 18, 2019, in June Medical Services, LLC v. Gee, Dennis wrote a 19 page dissent when the 5th circuit refused to rehear a case regarding Louisiana's abortion restrictions. Dennis found that Act 620 was intended to restrict abortions, not to further women's health. Dennis also found it similar to the Texas abortion ban in 2016. Dennis also saw these restrictions as a violation of Roe v. Wade, burdensome for women who need abortions, and depriving women of a constitutionally protected healthcare right. Dennis's dissent included noting that "70% of women seeking abortions in Louisiana would be unable to obtain one" which would be "an undue burden on a large fraction of women."[7] Dennis' dissent was joined by Patrick Higginbotham, James E. Graves Jr., and Stephen A. Higginson.


  1. ^ "Louisiana: James L. Dennis", Who's Who in American Politics, 2007-2008 (Marquis Who's Who: New Providence, New Jersey, 2007), p. 656
  2. ^ a b c "Dennis, James L. - Federal Judicial Center". www.fjc.gov.
  3. ^ https://abovethelaw.com/2011/09/benchslap-of-the-day-chief-judge-jones-tells-judge-dennis-to-shut-up/
  4. ^ https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/03/clement-mississippi-reeves-senate-gerrymander.html
  5. ^ Pelofsky, Jeremy.; Doggett, Tom. Court refuses stay in deepwater drilling case. Reuters Canada. July 8, 2010.
  6. ^ https://rewire.news/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/enbancdenial.pdf
  7. ^ http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/17/17-30397-CV1.pdf


Legal offices
Preceded by
Charles Clark
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit