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 January 2018, 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 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.
- 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. In 1964, 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.
- 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 that had been 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 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 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 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 teo 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 to 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 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.
- Judge Eugene Love Fair Jr. of Hattiesburg was appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour on January 1, 2012, and took the oath of office January 3. Judge Fair filled a vacancy in District 5, Place 1, created by the retirement of Judge William H. Myers.
Judge Fair hsd 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 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.
- Judge Jack L. Wilson was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Gov. Phil Bryant effective July 1, 2015. Judge Wilson was appointed to fill District 3, Position 1, which was vacated upon the retirement of Judge Larry Roberts.
Judge Wilson grew up in Jackson and Tupelo and graduated from Tupelo High School. He attended the University of Memphis, earned a Bachelor of Accountancy from the University of Mississippi, and received a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. After law school, he clerked for Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Judge Wilson practiced law with the firm of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP in Jackson, Miss., and Mayer Brown LLP in Washington, DC. His practice focused on appellate litigation and general civil litigation involving a variety of subject matters including business and commercial disputes, class and collective actions, and arbitrations. He represented clients in state and federal trial and appellate courts throughout the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Wilson also served as Deputy Counsel and later Chief Counsel to Governor Phil Bryant.
Judge Wilson is admitted to practice in all state and federal courts in Mississippi; in the District of Columbia; in the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fifth, Seventh, and Eleventh Circuits; and in the U.S. Supreme Court. He had served as a commissioner on the Uniform Law Commission, as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Public Employees Retirement System, and as president of the Mississippi Lawyers Chapter of The Federalist Society. He has also served as an adjunct instructor at the Mississippi College School of Law.
- Judge Jim M. Greenlee was appointed to the Mississippi Court of Appeals on January 20, 2016. Gov. Phil Bryant appointed him to the vacancy created when Judge James D. Maxwell II was appointed to the Mississippi Supreme Court. Judge Greenlee was elected without opposition to an eight-year term in November 2016.
He previously served as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi from 2001 to 2010. As U.S. Attorney, he headed the office which prosecuted public corruption and judicial influence cases and major drug distribution networks, and assisted in the cold case investigation of the murder of Emmett Till. He served on the initial U.S. Attorney General's Advisory Council during the aftermath of 9/11. He also served on the Office of Management and Budget Subcommittee, White Collar Crime Subcommittee, Controlled Substances/Asset Forfeiture Subcommittee and the Terrorism and National Security Subcommittee.
Greenlee's service as a federal prosecutor spanned 22 years. He was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney's office from 1987 until 2001. He became the lead civil fraud attorney, trying bankruptcy, tort, employment rights, eminent domain and white collar criminal cases.
He was in private practice with the Oxford firm of Holcomb Dunbar from 2010 until his appointment to the Court of Appeals in 2016.
Judge Greenlee earned a bachelor of engineering degree from the University of Mississippi in 1974 and a law degree in 1981. He served active duty in the U.S. Navy 1974 to 1978, and in the U.S. Navy Reserve until 1997. During his reserve service, he was commanding officer of a Reserve Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Unit. He retired at the rank of captain.
- Judge Latrice A. Westbrooks was sworn in as a member of the Mississippi Court of Appeals on January 3, 2017. She was elected Nov. 8, 2016, to Court of Appeals District 2, Position 2.
Judge Westbrooks was born in Memphis, Tennessee. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn. She earned a law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in 1997. She was admitted to the Mississippi Bar that same year.
She became an assistant district attorney in the Second Circuit District of Harrison, Hancock and Stone counties in October 1997. She was the first African American woman assistant district attorney in the Second Circuit District. She joined the Jackson law firm of Byrd and Associates in 2000, then opened her own law practice in 2001, representing clients in both criminal and civil matters.
She served as prosecutor for the city of Durant and as city attorney for the town of Isola. For almost 10 years, she served as a public defender in Holmes County. In 2013, she became interim communications director for Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, then joined the Jackson City Attorney's office as legal counsel for the Jackson Police Department. She returned to private law practice in 2014. She served as Municipal Judge for the city of Lexington before she was elected to the Court of Appeals.
Judge Westbrooks was named Outstanding Woman Lawyer of 2017 by the Mississippi Women Lawyers’ Association.
She has worked in conjunction with the Magnolia Bar Association, One Voice, the NAACP, the Mississippi Center for Justice, the Southern Poverty Law Center's Mississippi Youth Justice Project and the ACLU. She served as a Southeast Regional and Central Director of the Magnolia Bar Association. She previously chaired the Criminal Justice Committee for the State Conference of the NAACP. She is a member of the Mississippi Bar, Magnolia Bar Association, National Bar Association, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the Capital Area Bar Association and the Metro Jackson Black Women Lawyers Association. She is a former member of the Mississippi Association for Justice and the Mississippi Public Defenders Association. She is a life member of the NAACP, past board member of Leadership Greater Jackson Alumnae, past board member of the I.S. Sanders YMCA, and past board member of the National African American Student Leadership Conference.
Judge Westbrooks is a resident of Lexington, Mississippi. She is a member of Cade Chapel M.B. Church.