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State of Mississippi

History of Reform Efforts: Mississippi

Formal Changes Since Inception

All judges appointed for life by both houses of the general assembly.

All judges elected by the people. Terms of judges of the court of errors and appeals and the chancery court set at six years. Terms of circuit court judges set at four years. Mississippi was the first state in the union to provide for popular election of all judges.

All judges appointed by the governor with senate consent. Terms of supreme court judges set at nine years, terms of circuit court judges set at six years, and terms of chancery court judges set at four years.

Terms of circuit court judges changed from six to four years.

Judges of the circuit court and chancery court elected by the people to four-year terms.

Supreme court judges elected by the people to eight-year terms.

HB 548 established a court of appeals composed of five justices to be chosen in the 1994 elections.

HB 1809 included the Nonpartisan Judicial Election Act, which prohibits judicial candidates from “campaigning or qualifying for such an office based on party affiliation” and stipulates that the names of judicial candidates will appear on the ballot with “no reference to political party affiliation.” The legislation also increased the size of the newly created court of appeals from five to ten justices. For more information on Mississippi's move to nonpartisan judicial elections, see "Judicial Selection Reform: Examples from Six States."

HB 1609 limited individual and PAC contributions to candidates for the supreme court and court of appeals to $5,000, limited contributions to candidates for all other courts to $2,500, and mandated more extensive disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures. The legislation also amended the Nonpartisan Judicial Election Act 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 in January 1999. The amendment to the Nonpartisan Judicial Election Act was ruled unconstitutional by a federal district court in October 2002.

According to SB 2289, judges who have been appointed by the governor to fill vacancies on the supreme court and court of appeals will serve out the remainder of the unexpired term if four years or less remain on the term. If more than four years remain, appointees run in the next general election held more than nine months after the vacancy occurs. Prior to the passage of this statute, appointees were required to run for election to keep the seat regardless of how much time remained on the unexpired term.

SB 2571 made justice court elections nonpartisan.