Mississippi Court of Appeals
The Mississippi Court of Appeals is the intermediate-level appellate court for the state of Mississippi. A creation of the Mississippi Legislature, the court began operations in 1995 for the purpose of relieving a backlog of cases before the Supreme Court of Mississippi.
The Mississippi Court of Appeals hears and decides appeals from the various trial courts of the state. The cases the court hears are assigned to it by the Supreme Court of Mississippi, and generally concern issues in which the law is already settled, but the facts are in dispute. The Supreme Court may review Court of Appeals decisions, but if the Supreme Court declines review, the decision of the Court of Appeals stands.
The court's ten judges are elected from five districts and serve eight-year terms. Non-partisan elections are staggered so that not all positions are up for election at one time. The districts coincided with Mississippi's congressional districts prior to Mississippi's losing one district in 2000. Some of the state's counties are divided between districts. However, the districts are not jurisdictional: appeals from all over the state go to the Supreme Court and may be deflected by it to the Court of Appeals.
As of 2014, there are ten judges on the Mississippi Court of Appeals:
- Chief Judge L. Joseph Lee was elected to the Court of Appeals of the State of Mississippi in 1998 for a term beginning in 1999. He was re-elected in 2002 and 2010, without opposition. He is currently serving in his third elected term on the Court. In 2004, he was appointed Presiding Judge of the Court of Appeals. He was appointed as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals in March, 2011.
Chief Judge Lee was born in 1945. He graduated from Lumberton High School. He attended the University of Southern Mississippi and received his bachelor’s degree from William Carey College, now William Carey University. In 1973, he received his law degree from the Jackson School of Law, now Mississippi College School of Law.
Chief Judge Lee practiced law in Jackson, Mississippi and served as adjunct professor of business law at William Carey College. He is admitted to the Mississippi, Texas, and American Bar Associations.
In 2004, Chief Judge Lee was chosen Mississippi College School of Law’s Lawyer of the Year. He was recognized by the 2004 session of the Mississippi House of Representatives for his selection as Lawyer of the Year and for his contributions to the community and state. Mississippi College School of Law honored Chief Judge Lee in 2009 with an Honorary Master of Laws degree.
Chief Judge Lee is married to Renee Simon Lee and has three children and two grandchildren.
- Presiding Judge Tyree Irving was born on July 12, 1946, in Greenwood, Leflore County, Mississippi and grew up on a plantation in southern Leflore County. In1964, he graduated first in his class from Amanda Elzy High School.
After graduating from Jackson State College in 1968, Irving taught in the public schools of the Mississippi Delta for four years before going to law school. In 1974, he graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Law. In 1975, he became the first African-American attorney to clerk for the Mississippi Supreme Court when he was hired as a law clerk to the late Chief Justice Robert G. Gillespie.
In 1976, he served as an Earl Warren Fellow intern with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in New York, New York. In 1978, he became the first African-American to serve as an assistant United States Attorney in Mississippi since reconstruction when he was hired as an assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi.
In 1988, Irving became the first African-American attorney to serve as board attorney for a county when he was hired by the Board of Supervisors of Humphreys County, Mississippi.
Prior to being elected to the Mississippi Court of Appeals, Judge Irving was in a general, solo practice in Greenwood, Mississippi. His public clients included: Leflore County School District, city of Itta Bena, Housing Authority of Greenwood, Mississippi, Inc., city of Shaw, Shaw School District, town of Jonestown and town of Sledge. Additionally, Judge Irving has served as attorney for the city of Mound Bayou (founded by ex-slaves and one of the oldest black towns in the United States), the Mound Bayou School District, and the town of Winstonville.
Judge Irving is a past president and treasurer of the Magnolia Bar Association. He is a member of the Mississippi Bar Association, Magnolia Bar Association, Leflore County Bar Association, the NAACP, and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. He is a former member of the American Trial Lawyers Association and the Council of School Board Attorneys. He is a Methodist and member of Wesley United Methodist Church in Greenwood.
Judge Irving is married to the former Ethola Garrett Collins, and they have six children.
- Presiding Judge T. Kenneth Griffis was elected in a special election held in November 2002, Judge Griffis was elected to serve the remainder of a term originally held by retired Judge Mary Libby Payne. In November 2006, Judge Griffis was unopposed and elected to a full eight year term, which will end in January 2015.
Judge Griffis currently serves as a member of the Mississippi Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on the Rules, which was formed to review and recommend changes to the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, the Rules of Evidence, the Rules of Appellate Procedure, and the Uniform Rules of Circuit, Chancery and County Courts. Judge Griffis also serves as a member of the Mississippi Supreme Court's Committee on E-filing/Court Docket Management. In 2004, Chief Justice James W. Smith, Jr. appointed Judge Griffis to serve on this Committee, which was formed to study and recommend a uniform means to file court pleadings electronically and for uniform court docket management.
Judge Griffis has served as an officer or board member for many professional organizations, including The Mississippi Bar, the Lauderdale County Bar Association, the Jackson Young Lawyers Association (President, 1993–94), and the Hinds County Bar Association. Judge Griffis also served as Chair of the Mississippi Bar Litigation and General Practice Section (2001–02). Judge Griffis has also served as an officer, board member or commissioner of many community service organizations, including the Northside YMCA, Northeast Jackson Soccer Organization, Jackson Futbol Club, Madison Ridgeland Youth Baseball, Mississippi’s Junior Miss Program, and the Lauderdale County Mental Health Association.
Judge Griffis is a member of the Downtown Jackson Rotary Club (Paul Harris Fellow), the Fellows of The Mississippi Bar Young Lawyers Division, the Lamar Order of the University of Mississippi School of Law, the Federalist Society, and the Christian Legal Society.
Judge Griffis is a native of Meridian, Mississippi. He is a product of the Meridian Public Schools, Meridian Community College, the University of Mississippi, and Mississippi State University - Meridian Branch. He obtained his accounting and law degrees from the University of Mississippi. Judge Griffis was a Certified Public Accountant from 1984 through 2007.
Judge Griffis serves as an Adjunct Professor at the Mississippi College School of Law.
Judge Griffis and his wife, Mary Helen, are the proud parents of five boys. They live in Ridgeland and attend Christ United Methodist Church.
- Judge Larry E. Roberts joined the Mississippi Court of Appeals on Jan. 4, 2006. Judge Roberts was appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour to fill the position created by the retirement of Judge Billy G. Bridges.
Before his appointment to the Court of Appeals, Judge Roberts served as a trial court judge for 27 years. He was elected Lauderdale County Court Judge in 1978 at the age of 29. Gov. Bill Allain appointed him as circuit judge for the 10th Circuit Court District effective Dec. 31, 1986. He was elected without opposition; he had no opponent in subsequent bids for re-election. He served for 19 years in the circuit court district which includes Clarke, Kemper, Lauderdale and Wayne counties.
Judge Roberts was born June 27, 1949, in Cleveland, Mississippi. When he was a child, his parents moved to Pachuta, then to Meridian. He grew up in Meridian.
He graduated with honors from Meridian High School in 1967. He attended Mississippi State University for a semester in 1966 as part of an honors program before high school graduation. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Mississippi in 1970, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1973.
He was admitted to the Mississippi Bar May 1, 1973. He engaged in the general practice of law in Meridian from May 1973 until December 1978.
Judge Roberts served as a U.S. Army reservist for 20 years. He served on active duty for almost a year during Operation Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991. He was assigned to the 1181st USA Transportation Terminal Unit in Meridian. He retired in 1994 with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Judge Roberts currently serves as a member of the Board of Governors of the Mississippi Judicial College and as co-chairman of the Supreme Court Committee on Uniform Criminal Rules. He is a past member of the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules. He previously served as chairman of the Conference of County Court Judges and the Conference of Circuit Court Judges. He also previously served as a presiding judge of the Bar Complaints Tribunal for attorney discipline. He is a member of the Lauderdale County Bar Association, the Mississippi Bar and the American Judicature Society.
He is a deacon at First Baptist Church in Meridian. He previously served as chairman of deacons and as an adult Sunday School teacher.
Judge Roberts is married to Sheila McCollum Roberts, formerly of New Albany. She has taught elementary students in Meridian public schools for 31 years. They have two sons, David W. Roberts and Bryan P. Roberts. Judge Roberts’ brother, Edwin H. Roberts Jr. of Oxford, is a Chancery Judge of the 18th Chancery District.
- Judge Donna M. Barnes was appointed by Governor Haley Barbour on July 26, 2004, to a vacancy on the court. She was elected in November 2006, and re-elected in November 2010.
Born in Natchez, Judge Barnes earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1982 from the University of Mississippi, summa cum laude, with majors in classical civilizations and English. Judge Barnes obtained her Juris Doctorate from the University of Mississippi School of Law, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1985. She was a member of Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity and a research editor of Mississippi Law Journal. Judge Barnes is a member of the University of Mississippi Lamar Order.
For more than 18 years, Judge Barnes practiced law with Mitchell, McNutt and Sams in Tupelo with concentrations in appellate practice, real estate, health care, employment discrimination, Section 1983 litigation and professional liability defense.
In 1996, she took sabbatical to study law at the University of Cambridge, where she was one of three American students in the LL.M. program which that year admitted 152 attorneys from 48 countries. Her studies included international commercial litigation, comparative public law, international human rights, and law and practice of civil liberties. A member of Magdalene College, Judge Barnes earned her Master of Law from the University of Cambridge in 1997.
Admitted to the practice of law in Mississippi in 1985, Judge Barnes is qualified to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the United States District Courts for the Northern and Southern Districts of Mississippi, and all Mississippi state courts. She is a member of the Mississippi Bar and the Lee County Bar Association. She has served as president of both the Lee County Bar Association and the Lee County Young Lawyers Association.
Judge Barnes is an inaugural member of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, where she chairs its Delivery Committee. She is a fellow of the Mississippi Bar Foundation. She is currently a member of the Criminal Code Revision Consulting Group and is a former member of the Judicial Advisory Study Committee.
Judge Barnes is a communicant of All Saints Episcopal Church in Tupelo.
- Judge David M. Ishee was born in Gulfport, Mississippi in 1963. He graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a Bachelor of Science degree, attended the University of London, and received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Mississippi School of Law.
Upon graduation, he joined the private practice of Elmo Lang of Pascagoula, Mississippi, and formed the law firm of Lang & Ishee, practicing there for 13 years. During this time, Ishee was involved in extensive litigation in civil, criminal, and domestic relations law. He was appointed by the Circuit Court Judges of Jackson and Harrison Counties to head four capital death penalty defense teams and has been lead counsel on numerous appeals and oral arguments before the Mississippi Supreme Court. Ishee also served as board attorney for the Gulf Coast Regional Wastewater Authority from 1992 to 1995.
While living in Jackson County, he served on the Jackson County Republican Executive Board, was chairman of the 1992 Jackson County Republican Convention, and was a delegate to the 1992 Mississippi State Republican Convention.
In 1992, he was appointed Municipal Court Judge for the City of Pascagoula, making him the youngest Municipal Court Judge in the state of Mississippi. He was reappointed for a second term in 1996. During this time he also served one year as interim Municipal Court Judge for the city of Ocean Springs, and was Judge Pro Tem for the Jackson County Youth Court, in which he presided over numerous child custody hearings as well as hearings involving abused, neglected and delinquent children.
Judge Ishee is admitted to and has extensive practice in all federal and state courts in the State of Mississippi and is admitted to practice before the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He has served as president of the Jackson County Young Lawyers Division; secretary, vice-president, and president of the Jackson County Bar Association; and on numerous committees of the Mississippi State Bar. He also served for two years as adjunct professor at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, teaching torts and personal injury law. Ishee also teaches business law at the University of Southern Mississippi - Gulf Coast.
Upon moving to Gulfport, Ishee was appointed a Pro Tem Municipal Court Judge for the City of Gulfport in October 1999. He joined the law firm of Franke, Rainey & Salloum, PLLC in 2002, where he represented local hospitals in medical malpractice cases, and numerous businesses in general insurance defense.
In April 2004, Ishee was appointed Senior Municipal Court Judge for the City of Gulfport. Judge Ishee was appointed to the Mississippi Court of Appeals in September 2004 by Governor Haley Barbour.
Judge Ishee is a member of the Gulfport Rotary Club, Gulfport Business Club, University of Southern Mississippi Harrison County Alumni Board, Southern Miss Eagle Club, Executive Board Member of the Harrison County division of the American Heart Association, Mississippi Public Defenders Association, Gulfport Yacht Club and Gulfport Gridiron Club. He is also a member of Trinity United Methodist Church where he assists with the serving of communion, and acts as greeter and usher.
He is married to the former Linda Lang of Pascagoula, and they have one daughter, Lauren. Ishee is the son of Former Representative and Mrs. Roger Ishee of Gulfport.
- Judge Virginia C. Carlton currently serves as Judge, Post 1, District 4, for the Mississippi Court of Appeals. Judge Carlton formerly held elected office as State Representative for House District 100 of the Mississippi House of Representatives from 2004-2006. She also holds the rank of Colonel in the US Army Reserves.
Education: Judge Carlton attended the University of Mississippi and received a BBA in 1986. She is an alumnus of the Chi Omega Sorority, Jackson Chapter. She graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1989, where she participated in the moot court board (executive board member), and served as a member of the National Moot Court team, the Law Journal, and secretary of Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity. Upon graduation from law school, she served as a law clerk for Justice Joel Blass of the Mississippi Supreme Court from 1989-1990. She is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and following her graduation, she served as an instructor for the course for two years. In 2009, she was board selected to attend the Army War College, a master’s level course, with anticipated graduation date of July, 2012.
Military: Judge Carlton served as a JAG officer in the Army for over 20 years with duty in the various components, active duty (over 8 years), US Army Reserves (9 years), and MS Army National Guard (approximately 3 years). In January, 2010, Judge Carlton served on the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals as a mobilized member of the MS National Guard in support of the Global War on Terrorism. During this tour, she participated in approximately 40 appellate cases in three months at the Army appellate court, serving as lead judge in approximately 24 cases. In 2011, during temporary active military duty, Judge Carlton participated in over 20 appellate cases with the Army Court of Criminal Appeals and also presided over 2 Army courts-martial as an Army Reserve Trial Judge. She is now assigned to the USAR trial judiciary as a Reserve trial judge and presides as a military trial judge in courts-martial.
During her previous active duty service from 1990-1998, she served in a variety of positions including the following: Senior Defense Counsel, Fort Polk, Louisiana; Chief of legal Assistance, 25th Infantry Division (Light), Hawaii; Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, Hawaii; Chief, Administrative law, Hanau legal Center, V Corps, Germany; Chief of Claims, Hanau Legal Center, V Corps, Germany; Military Magistrate, Hanau Legal Center, V Corps, Germany.
In the US Army Reserves, she held the following positions: Chief of Justice, 377th TSC, New Orleans, Louisiana; U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Instructor, 11th Bn, 95th (Institutional Training) Division, Oklahoma City; Deputy SJA, 95th (Institutional Training) Division; Staff Judge Advocate, 3rd Personnel Command, Jackson, MS.
In the MS Army National Guard, she was assigned to the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, Jt. Force Headquarters. She was certified as a military trial judge upon completion of the Military Judge’s Course at The Judge Advocate General’s School in Charlottesville, Virginia, in May 2009, and she was certified and sworn as a military appellate judge in March, 2010.
Mississippi Court of Appeals: Judge Carlton currently serves as Judge, Post 1, District 4, on the Mississippi Court of Appeals reviewing appeals in both criminal and civil cases. She participates in over 500 cases a year at the Mississippi Court of Appeals and she authors approximately 60 opinions a year. The Mississippi Court of Appeals reviews trial court decisions in cases such as domestic relations, child custody, wills, real property, criminal convictions, contracts, insurance, medical malpractice, personal injury and property damage, worker’s compensation and other administrative agency appeals.
After discharge from active duty, Judge Carlton served as a public defender and then as an Assistant District Attorney in the 15th Judicial District. She also worked with the SW MS Children’s Advocacy Center as a staff attorney and instructor with certification by American Prosecutors Research Institute in the area of forensic interviews, protocols and child abuse investigation procedures. Judge Carlton was recognized during her tenure in the MS legislature by the MS Juvenile Justice Advisory Group as 1 of 3 Distinguished Legislators for 2005, and recognized by the Association of Adult Educators as South MS Friend of the Year in 2005. Judge Carlton served on the following legislative committees: Juvenile Justice, Judiciary B, Education, Colleges and Universities, Labor, and Marine Resources. Judge Carlton has also served as an adjunct professor at Mississippi School of Law and at Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi.
Military Awards: Judge Carlton’s military awards and medals include the following: six Meritorious Service Medals; four Army Commendation Medals; the National Defense Service Medal; two Overseas Service Ribbons; the Army Service Ribbon; Army Reserve Component’s Achievement Medal (3rd award); Armed Forces Reserve Medal (with M device); and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. She also earned a foreign award, the German Military Sportsman Performance Badge (bronze) while serving on active duty overseas.
License/Associations: Judge Carlton is a member of the MS Bar Association and is admitted to practice in Mississippi, before the United States Supreme Court, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Military Appeals for the Armed Forces. She is a member of the ABA, National Assoc. of Women Judges, the American Judges Assoc., and is a fellow of the ABA Assoc. Foundation. She served on the Study Committee Reviewing the Code of Judicial Conduct, on the Mississippi Commission on Children’s Justice, and the study committee reviewing the state’s domestic violence laws.
Family: Judge Carlton is married to Dr. Scott Carlton, originally from Greenville, Mississippi. They have three children Rachel, Read, and Phoebe. Judge Carlton hails from the home town of Columbia, Mississippi. Her husband, Dr. Scott Carlton, is a family physician and has served the military for over 20 years. He previously served with the MS National Guard as an Army Special Forces Medic and then served on active duty as a family physician with the U.S. Army Medical Corps. Dr. Carlton currently holds the rank of LTC in the MS National Guard as a medical officer.
- Judge James D. Maxwell II of Oxford was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Governor Haley Barbour on February 2, 2009. He was later elected in November 2010.
Judge Maxwell received both his undergraduate degree and juris doctorate from the University of Mississippi. He practiced civil law in Jackson before returning to Oxford to serve as Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi. As a federal prosecutor, he represented the United States Department of Justice in numerous prosecutions and jury trials for offenses ranging from public corruption and white collar fraud, to money laundering, drug trafficking, counterfeiting, smuggling, immigration, and gang-related crimes. He also handled appeals before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
While Assistant U.S. Attorney, Judge Maxwell served as Corporate Fraud Coordinator and participated on the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). In 2007, he received the OCDETF Case of the Year Award for his prosecution of “Operation Icebreaker,” a cooperative federal, state, and local law enforcement undercover investigation resulting in the conviction of 31 members of a multi-state methamphetamine trafficking organization. He has also been recognized by the DEA for his contributions to drug enforcement, and has received commendation from the ATF for reducing gun crime in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Judge Maxwell is a past president of the Young Lawyers Division of the Mississippi Bar Association, the Lafayette County Bar Association, and Tri-County Young Lawyers (Calhoun, Lafayette, and Yalobusha Counties). He has also served on the Board of Bar Commissioners, the Mississippi Bar Foundation, the Diversity in the Law Committee, and the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Prosecutors Association. In 2007, the Mississippi Economic Council selected him to participate in Leadership Mississippi, and he was named “Top 40 Under 40” by the Mississippi Business Journal.
Judge Maxwell frequently lectures on appellate and trial advocacy, legal writing, and Mississippi’s judicial system. He and his wife Mindy have two children, Trip and Mae Covington. The Maxwells live in Oxford, where they are active members of First Baptist Church.
- Judge Eugene Love Fair Jr. of Hattiesburg was appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour on Jan. 1, 2012, and took the oath of office Jan. 3. Judge Fair filled a vacancy in District 5, Place 1, created by the retirement of Judge William H. Myers.
Judge Fair previously served for five years as a chancellor on the 10th Chancery Court, which includes Forrest, Lamar, Marion, Pearl River and Perry counties. Before his election to the bench, he served by appointment as a special master in Chancery Court and as a guardian ad litem representing the interests of children in Youth Court.
He engaged in the private practice of law in Hattiesburg for 34 years. During that time, he tried cases in 57 courthouses across the state. He was admitted to practice law in all state courts, the U.S. District Courts for the Northern and Southern Districts of Mississippi, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court of Texas and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Neville Patterson appointed him to the Mississippi Ethics Commission in 1984. He served on the commission for 20 years, including 19 years as vice-chair. He was board attorney for the Pat Harrison Waterway District 1988-1992.
Judge Fair grew up in Louisville, but he has generations of roots in the Pine Belt. His great-grandfather, G. C. Robertson, was the last Justice of the Peace of District 2, Perry County, before the county was split to form Perry and Forrest counties. His grandfather, Stokes Robertson Sr., served as the first member of the House of Representatives from Forrest County and as Clerk of the House for four years. He was also Revenue Agent of the state of Mississippi, a statewide elective officer later renamed State Tax Collector. Judge Fair is the nephew of the late Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Stokes V. Robertson Jr.
Judge Fair earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Mississippi and a law degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law. During college, he was editor of The Daily Mississippian twice. It became a five-day-a-week newspaper during his first term. He helped pay his way through college with freelance writing for newspapers. He began working as a newspaper stringer at age 15, calling in sports scores and writing obituaries. He did freelance work for the Clarion-Ledger, the now defunct Jackson Daily News, the Meridian Star, the Associated Press and United Press International. He is a member of the 1966 undergraduate Hall of Fame at Ole Miss, and in law school was on the board of the Mississippi Law Journal.
After he earned his law degree in 1968, he served for four years on active duty with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General Corps during the Vietnam War, earning the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He spent two years as chief legal officer at the Naval Air Station at Corpus Christi, Texas. He was a reservist in the Jackson Naval J.A.G. Reserve Unit for five years.
He served as treasurer, secretary, vice-president and president of both the Young Lawyers Section of the Mississippi Bar and the South Central Mississippi Bar Association. He held numerous leadership positions in the Mississippi Bar. He is a two term former member of the Board of Bar Commissioners, a Fellow of the Mississippi Bar Foundation since 1981, and a Charter Life Fellow of the Young Lawyers.
He served on the Mississippi Supreme Court Committee on Technology in the Courts 1988-1990, and on the Judicial Advisory Study Committee Technology Consulting Group 1993-1994.
He helped screen and recommend lawyers to fill judicial vacancies as a member of Gov. William Winter’s Judicial Nominating Committee, the first such Committee in Mississippi. A similar group, Gov. Barbour’s Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee, recommended Fair to fill the vacancy on the Court of Appeals.
He is an Eagle Scout, and has remained active in Scouting activities.
He is a trustee, elder and Sunday School teacher at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg. He is a former chairman of deacons, and was church treasurer for 18 years.
He is married to Dr. Estella Galloway Fair. They have two daughters and four grandchildren. Melissa Fair Wellons, M.D. is Assistant Professor of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Julia Fair Myrick is a screenwriter and motion picture producer in Pasadena, Calif.
- Judge Ceola James was elected to the Mississippi Court of Appeals on November 6, 2012, in a special election to fill the unexpired term of Justice Leslie King. She began her term on January 7, 2013.
Judge James is a former Ninth District Chancery Judge. She served a four-year term from 1999 through 2002. Judge James was seated as a chancellor in Washington County in a district which also includes Warren, Sharkey, Issaquena, Humphreys, and Sunflower counties. Judge James served Warren County by appointment as a Special Master in Chancery Court, and as a Justice Court Judge. She served as a special City Judge for the City of Port Gibson. The Mississippi Supreme Court appointed her to hear limited cases as a special Chancery Judge in Scott and Rankin Counties.
Judge James spent 31 years as a solo practitioner, representing clients in civil and criminal matters. She did extensive pro bono work and reduced cost representation for clients who could not afford to pay. Judge James did extensive representation as a certified guardian ad litem in Youth Court.
Judge James is a member of the Mississippi Bar. She has been admitted to practice in all Mississippi State courts, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.
Judge James is a lifelong resident of Warren County, Mississippi. Her family has lived in Warren County for three generations. She had hard working, loving parents who managed to send her to private Catholic school for a period of time before her father's health began to fail. She lost both of her parents while in law school, and she learned to “pull herself up by her own boot straps." She found her own scholarships to attend law school, and graduated from the Mississippi College School of Law.
Judge James had several undergraduate affiliations, and she was certified to teach languages prior to attending law school. She studied French at the University of Montreal in Montreal, P.Q., Canada.
Judge James is a former member of the Women in the Profession Committee of the Mississippi Bar. She is a lifetime member of Pi Delta Phi, a French honor society. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She was named as an Outstanding Young Woman of America. Washington County attorneys honored her for her dedication, compassion and love for children.
Judge James is a lifetime member of Mount Heroden Baptist Church, where she serves on the Board of Trustees and sings in the church choir. Judge James enjoys singing and writing poetry as a hobby. She published a booklet of poetry entitled Nine Days of Moody Weather. She received an award for her poem “Immortal Faith.”
Judge James is most proud of her cousin, former Warren County Justice Court Judge Mabel Fisher Peterson, who served as judge for 20 years. Judge Peterson was Warren County’s first elected African-American judge. Judge Peterson is the first cousin to Judge James’ maternal grandmother.