Gartin Building Courtroom with the Great Seal of the State of Mississippi

Comment period extended to Jan. 7 for Code of Judicial Conduct

November 29, 2001

The Mississippi Supreme Court has extended the public comment period on proposed changes to the Code of Judicial Conduct to Jan. 7.

The Supreme Court seeks public comment on the proposed changes. The court will reconsider the proposed revisions after the comment period concludes.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Edwin L. Pittman in an order extending the deadline said, "The court has now determined that such comment period should be extended in order to allow those desiring to submit comments and suggestions additional time in which to do so."

Comments may be submitted in writing to: Clerk of the Supreme Court, P.O. Box 249, Jackson, MS 39205. Correspondence should be marked "Comment on Proposed Code of Judicial Conduct."

"It is a powerful statement," Pittman said of the proposed revisions.

Recusal provisions for trial and appellate judges would require them to step aside from cases in which attorneys or parties are major campaign contributors. The recusal threshold for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges is receipt of contributions of more than $2,000 during a campaign. The threshold for other judges is more than $1,000. Another recusal provision would allow litigants to reject the trial judge assigned to a case without stating a reason.

The proposed canon revisions set up an election committee to respond quickly to allegations of judicial campaign improprieties.

The proposed revisions address discrimination. The entire code has also been rewritten to make it gender neutral. The present code is written masculine terms.

Proposed anti-bias language includes these provisions:

• "A judge shall not hold membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin."

• "A judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice. A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, including but not limited to bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, and shall not permit staff, court officials and others subject to the judge's discretion and control to do so. A judge shall refrain from speech, gestures or other conduct that could reasonably be perceived as sexual harassment and shall require the same standard of conduct of others subject to the judge's discretion and control."

The Task Force on Gender Fairness in a Nov. 13 resolution asked the Supreme Court to adopt those proposed canons "which specifically address issues of gender fairness."

Task Force Honorary Chair Evelyn Gandy and Co-Chairs Deanne M. Mosley and Amy D. Whitten in the resolution said results of surveys of Mississippi attorneys, judges and court personnel "indicate that there is a perception of gender unfairness in our court system toward both males and females." The resolution said that "gender bias conduct and statements are particularly inappropriate in our court system which has as its goals justice, fairness, and equality of treatment," and that "such inappropriate conduct and statements diminish confidence and trust by litigants and the public in our court system."

A copy of the proposed revisions is available on the Supreme Court's web site, Click on the NEWS icon. For comparison, the present Code of Judicial Conduct may be viewed under the RULES icon on the same web site.

For more information, contact court Public Information Officer Beverly Pettigrew Kraft at 601-354-7452 or at