Judicial selection in Mississippi

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Mississippi
Seal of Mississippi.png
Mississippi Supreme Court
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   8 years
Mississippi Court of Appeals
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   8 years
Mississippi Circuit Court
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   4 years
Mississippi Chancery Court
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   4 years
Mississippi County Court
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   4 years
Mississippi Justice Courts
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   4 years

Selection of the state court judges in Mississippi occurs through the non-partisan election of judges (except in the municipal courts, where judges are appointed). Mississippi was the first state in the union to begin electing judges by popular vote.[1]

While the general jurisdiction courts have varying policies on judge qualifications, chief justice selection and term length, they share common regulations on re-election and the filling of interim vacancies. Likewise, the limited jurisdiction courts function largely the same across the board, differing primarily in judge qualifications.[2][3]

Supreme Court

See also: Non-partisan election of judges

There are nine justices on the Mississippi Supreme Court, each elected to eight-year terms in non-partisan elections. All candidates must run in the general election (as Mississippi holds no primary for judicial candidates) and must face re-election if they wish to serve again.[2] For more information about these elections, visit the Mississippi judicial elections page.

Unlike most states, supreme court justices in Mississippi are elected to represent specific districts. The nine justices are divided among three supreme court districts (not to be confused with the 22 divisions of the circuit courts) and are voted into office by the residents of their respective regions.[4] Only the states of Illinois, Kentucky and Louisiana use a similar system.

The court's chief justice is selected by seniority. He or she serves until retirement, at which point the justice with the next most judicial experience becomes chief.[2]

Qualifications

To serve on this court, a judge must be:

  • a practicing attorney for at least 5 yrs;
  • a minimum of 30 years old;
  • a state citizen for at least 5 yrs.[2]

Vacancies

If a midterm vacancy occurs on the court, a temporary judge is named by the governor. Appointees will serve the remainder of their predecessor's unexpired term if four years or fewer of the term remain; if there are more than four years remaining, the appointee will run in the next general election taking place nine months or more after the vacancy occurs and then serve the remainder of the term.[2]

Court of Appeals

See also: Non-partisan election of judges

There are ten judges on the Mississippi Court of Appeals, each elected to eight-year terms in non-partisan elections. All aspects of selection are shared with the Mississippi Supreme Court (re-election, judicial qualifications, interim vacancies) except for the chief judge selection (with the appellate court, the chief judge is appointed by the previous chief judge and serves for only four years).[2]

Circuit Court

See also: Non-partisan election of judges

There are 51 judges on the Mississippi Circuit Courts, each elected to four-year terms in non-partisan elections. The circuit courts share the supreme court's regulations on re-election and chief justice selection, but policies on interim vacancies and judicial qualifications differ slightly.[2]

Qualifications

To serve on this court, a judge must be:

  • a practicing attorney for at least 5 yrs;
  • a minimum of 26 years old;
  • a state citizen for at least 5 yrs;
  • a district resident.[2]

Vacancies

As with the supreme court, temporary vacancies are filled by gubernatorial appointment. Instead of serving out the duration of their predecessor's term, however, appointees will simply face re-election in the next general election taking place nine months or more after the appointment.[2]

Limited jurisdiction courts

Mississippi's limited jurisdiction courts (the chancery courts, county courts, justice courts and municipal courts) vary in their selection processes:[3][5]

Chancery Court County Court Justice Court Municipal Court
Selection: Non-partisan election Non-partisan election Non-partisan election Appointment by municipality
Term: 4 year term 4 year term 4 year term Varies
Re-election method: Contested election Contested election Contested election Serve during good behavior
Qualifications: 5 years practicing attorney; 5 years state citizen; district resident; minimum age of 26 5 years practicing attorney; 5 years state citizen; minimum age of 26 2 years county/district resident; qualified elector; high school degree or equivalent; completion of education, training course and competency exam within 6 months of taking office law degree required in cities with populations over 10,000
Note: There are 226 municipal courts in Mississippi. Most have only one judge, but a few municipalities have several.[5]

History

Judicial selection methods in Mississippi have undergone significant changes in the last 200 years. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest.

  • 2008: Justice court elections are made non-partisan.
  • 2002: Vacancy policy is changed, such that the governor's appointees for the supreme court and court of appeals will finish the remainder of their predecessor's unexpired term if four years or less remain. (Prior to the passage of this statute, appointees were required to run for election to keep the seat regardless of how much of the term remained.)
  • 1999: Individual and PAC campaign contributions for the supreme court and court of appeals are limited to $5,000. Contributions to candidates of all other courts are limited to $2,500, and more extensive financial disclosure is required. (Also in 1999, the Nonpartisan Judicial Election Act was amended to prohibit political parties from contributing to or endorsing judicial candidates. Governor Fordice vetoed the bill in April 1998, but the legislature overrode the veto the following January. The amendment was ultimately ruled unconstitutional by a federal district court in October 2002.)
  • 1994: The Nonpartisan Judicial Election Act is put into place, barring candidates from “campaigning or qualifying for such an office based on party affiliation” and requiring that judicial candidates' names appear on the ballot without reference to political party.[1] Additionally, the number of justices on the newly-created court of appeals is increased from five to ten.
  • 1993: The court of appeals is established, comprised of five justices.
  • 1914: Supreme court judges are elected by the people to eight-year terms.
  • 1890: Terms of circuit court judges are reduced from six years to four.
  • 1868: All judges are appointed by the governor with senate approval. Terms of the supreme court justices are reduced to nine years, terms of circuit court judges are increased to six years, and terms of chancery court judges are reduced to four years.
  • 1832: Mississippi became the first state in the union to begin electing judges by popular vote. Terms of the court of errors and appeals and the chancery court are reduced to six years; terms of circuit court judges are reduced to four years.
  • 1817: All judges are appointed for life by both houses of the general assembly.[1]

Selection of federal judges

United States District Court judges, who are selected from each state, go through a different selection process than that of state judges.

The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior." They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America makes the appointments, which must then be confirmed by the U.S. Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.[6]

Step ApprovedA Candidacy Proceeds DefeatedD Candidacy Halts
1. Recommendation made by Congress member to the President President nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee President declines nomination
2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews candidate Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to committee
3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation Candidate becomes federal judge Candidate does not receive judgeship

See also

External links

References

MississippiMississippi Supreme CourtMississippi Court of AppealsMississippi circuit courtsMississippi Chancery CourtMississippi county courtsMississippi justice courtsMississippi youth courtsMississippi municipal courtsUnited States District Court for the Northern District of MississippiUnited States District Court for the Southern District of MississippiUnited States Court of Appeals for the Fifth CircuitMississippi countiesMississippi judicial newsMississippi judicial electionsJudicial selection in MississippiMississippiTemplatewithoutBankruptcy.jpg