Judicial Selection in the States: Mississippi
October 1, 2012 :: AP/Mississippi Press
State Rep. Earle Banks says his campaign is not taking money from political action committees as he runs for a state Supreme Court seat, but...
Examines successful judicial selection reform efforts in six states, discussing...
Throughout its history, Mississippi has experimented with all methods of judicial selection. The state’s original constitution of 1817 left the selection of judges to the legislature. In 1832, Mississippi became the first state in the nation to establish popular elections for all judges, and in 1868, it became one of the first elective states to move away from the election of judges when it adopted gubernatorial appointment with senate confirmation. Popular elections were reinstated in 1910 and 1914 and have been maintained ever since. In 1994, the legislature passed the Nonpartisan Judicial Election Act, which changed the elections for most judicial offices from partisan to nonpartisan contests. For more information on Mississippi's move to nonpartisan judicial elections, see Judicial Selection Reform: Examples from Six States.
In recent years, both the legislature and the supreme court have enacted reforms aimed at improving the tone and conduct of judicial elections. In 1999, the legislature imposed limits on contributions to judicial candidates and strengthened disclosure requirements. In 2002, the supreme court amended the code of judicial conduct to allow litigants to file a motion to recuse a judge when an opposing party or attorney is a major donor to the judge’s election campaign. The amendments to the code also limit the period during which campaign contributions can be accepted and create a special committee on judicial election campaign intervention to address allegations of campaign misconduct. A 2002 proposed constitutional amendment that would have lengthened the terms of chancery and circuit court judges from four to six years was rejected by voters.