Mississippi Supreme Court
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 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; thus, the Court's primary function is judicial review. The Court building is located in downtown Jackson, Mississippi, the state capital.
Mississippi Supreme Court rulings on ballot measures
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The jurisdiction of the Court is mandated by state 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 jurisdiciton 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 nine total 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 of the state (currently Haley Barbour) to appoint a justice to fill a seat vacated by a former justice who chose to leave office early. In this scenario, the newly-appointed justice will serve the remainder of the term of the elected justice who stepped down from office. After that time, the appointed justice must be elected to remain in office. 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 the two who have been there longer than the other six.
The current Mississippi Supreme Court, in order of seniority, includes:
- Chief Justice James W. Smith, Jr.
- Presiding Justice William L. Waller, Jr.
- Presiding Justice Oliver E. Diaz, Jr.
- Associate Justice Charles "Chuck" Easley
- Associate Justice George C. Carlson, Jr.
- Associate Justice James E. Graves, Jr.
- Associate Justice Jess H. Dickinson
- Associate Justice Mike K. Randolph
- Associate Justice Ann H. Lamar
Currently, Lamar is the only woman justice and Graves is the only African-American]] justice, though neither is the first such justice to serve on the Court. The first such woman was Lenore Prather; the first African-American, Reuben Anderson. To date, no female African-American justice has served on the Mississippi high court.