Third of High Court Ousted

By: Jon Kalahar Email
By: Jon Kalahar Email

The face of the Mississippi Supreme Court will soon be changing. In some of the biggest surprises, all three judicial districts saw one incumbent defeated.
Only Justice Ann Lamar retained her seat on the bench.

Long-time Crystal Springs attorney Jim Kitchens ousted Chief Justice Jim Smith. Chuck Easley was defeated by appeals court Judge David Chandler. And Oliver Diaz lost to south Mississippi chancery court judge Randy "Bubba" Pierce, which saw a fierce campaign by both sides as well as third party advertisements.

"I think it's outrageous, that type of mudslinging in a judicial race," said retired attorney Alex Alston, a former president of the state bar.

Alston said he believes the new members will be better for the state. He thought the court had tilted towards big corporations and big insurance in the last few years.

"The judge on the supreme court is only there to see that some one got a fair trial and he's supposed to follow the rule of law," said Alston. "It makes no difference whether you're a prince or a pauper."

Current associate justice on the court, Jim Graves, said the voters have made their opinion known. But even with new leadership, Graves says, their goal will remain the same.

"There will be some differences, as you may expect, but I think we are still going to be committed to handling the business of the people of the state of Mississippi, which is justice," said Graves.

By state law, the justice on the court with the most experience is selected as chief justice. Jackson native, Justice William Waller, Jr., will be the next chief justice. he was elected to the court in 1996.

Graves will move up to presiding justice as one of the next-longest tenured on the high court.

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