Judge Ceola James was elected to the Mississippi Court of Appeals on November 6, 2012, in a special election to fill the unexpired term of Justice Leslie King. She began her term on January 7, 2013.
Judge James is a former Ninth District Chancery Judge. She served a four-year term from 1999 through 2002. Judge James was seated as a chancellor in Washington County in a district which also includes Warren, Sharkey, Issaquena, Humphreys, and Sunflower counties. Judge James served Warren County by appointment as a Special Master in Chancery Court, and as a Justice Court Judge. She served as a special City Judge for the City of Port Gibson. The Mississippi Supreme Court appointed her to hear limited cases as a special Chancery Judge in Scott and Rankin Counties.
Judge James spent 31 years as a solo practitioner, representing clients in civil and criminal matters. She did extensive pro bono work and reduced cost representation for clients who could not afford to pay. Judge James did extensive representation as a certified guardian ad litem in Youth Court.
Judge James is a member of the Mississippi Bar. She has been admitted to practice in all Mississippi State courts, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.
Judge James is a lifelong resident of Warren County, Mississippi. Her family has lived in Warren County for three generations. She had hard working, loving parents who managed to send her to private Catholic school for a period of time before her father's health began to fail. She lost both of her parents while in law school, and she learned to “pull herself up by her own boot straps." She found her own scholarships to attend law school, and graduated from the Mississippi College School of Law.
Judge James had several undergraduate affiliations, and she was certified to teach languages prior to attending law school. She studied French at the University of Montreal in Montreal, P.Q., Canada.
Judge James is a former member of the Women in the Profession Committee of the Mississippi Bar. She is a lifetime member of Pi Delta Phi, a French honor society. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She was named as an Outstanding Young Woman of America. Washington County attorneys honored her for her dedication, compassion and love for children.
Judge James is a lifetime member of Mount Heroden Baptist Church, where she serves on the Board of Trustees and sings in the church choir. Judge James enjoys singing and writing poetry as a hobby. She published a booklet of poetry entitled Nine Days of Moody Weather. She received an award for her poem “Immortal Faith.”
Judge James is most proud of her cousin, former Warren County Justice Court Judge Mabel Fisher Peterson, who served as judge for 20 years. Judge Peterson was Warren County’s first elected African-American judge. Judge Peterson, first cousin to Judge James’ maternal grandmother, was a role model for public service.