Supreme Court of Mississippi
|Mississippi Supreme Court|
Seal of the Mississippi Judiciary
|Country||Mississippi , United States|
|Composition method||Nonpartisan election|
|Authorized by||Mississippi Constitution|
|Decisions are appealed to||Supreme Court of the United States|
|Judge term length||Eight years|
|Currently||William L. Waller, Jr.|
|Lead position ends||January 3, 2021|
The Supreme Court of Mississippi is the highest court in the state of Mississippi. It was created in the first constitution of the state following its admission as a State of the Union in 1817. Initially it was known as the "High Court of Errors and Appeals." The court is an appellate court, as opposed to a trial court. The Court Building is located in downtown Jackson, Mississippi, the state capital.
The constitution of 1832 provided for "The High Court of Errors and Appeals," to consist of three judges to be elected, one from each of the three districts into which the legislature should divide the State. Section 3 reads: "The office of one of said judges shall be vacated in two years, and of one in four years, and of one in six years; so that at the expiration of every two years, one of said judges shall be elected as aforesaid." The title of the tribunal was changed by the constitution of 1869 to the "Supreme Court of Mississippi" and the judges were appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. The provisions of the constitution of 1869 were perpetuated in the constitution of 1890.
The jurisdiction of the court is mandated by statute. The court has exclusive jurisdiction, for example, over reviewing capital punishment cases. The Mississippi Court of Appeals, the state's other appellate court, was created by the legislature (Miss. Code Ann. § 9-4-1, effective September 6, 1994) to assist the high court in managing a large caseload. The Court of Appeals generally handles criminal cases and cases concerning family law issues, though its jurisdiction is also mandated by statute. All cases submitted for appellate review in the state are filed in the Supreme Court, which then re-directs the appropriate cases to the Court of Appeals and retains the cases over which it has exclusive jurisdiction. After the Court of Appeals makes its ruling, aggrieved parties in certain types of cases there may seek further review from the Mississippi Supreme Court by petitioning for a Writ of Certiorari.
The court is made up of a total of nine justices - one chief, two presiding, and six associate justices. Generally, the justices are elected for eight-year terms, with staggered election years, from three geographical districts (three judges per district) to ensure fair representation. However, it is common for the governor to appoint a justice to fill a seat vacated by the death or retirement of a justice. If less than half of the term remains, the appointee serves the remainder of the term. If more than half of the term remains, the appointee may serve until a special election is held. Seniority of the justices is determined by length of time in office. The chief justice is the current justice who has been in office the longest, and the presiding justices are next two in seniority.
The current Mississippi Supreme Court, in order of seniority, includes:
- Chief Justice William L. Waller Jr.
- Presiding Justice Michael K. Randolph
- Presiding Justice James W. Kitchens
- Associate Justice Leslie D. King
- Associate Justice Josiah D. Coleman
- Associate Justice James D. Maxwell II
- Associate Justice Dawn H. Beam
- Associate Justice Robert P. Chamberlin
- Associate Justice David M. Ishee
Currently King is the only African-American justice, though not the first to serve on the court. The first female justice was Lenore Prather, who became chief justice; the first African-American was Reuben Anderson. To date, no female African-American justice has served on the Mississippi Supreme Court.