Judicial study commission members named

June 20, 2001

Appointments to a 24-person judicial study commission were recently named.

The study commission to examine the state's judicial system was created by the Mississippi Legislature this year, on the recommendation of Supreme Court Chief Justice Edwin L. Pittman. House Concurrent Resolution 96 set up a study commission to examine the state's judicial system. The commission will examine the method by which judges are selected as well as campaign contributions and judicial campaign advertising. The commission is expected to make recommendations to the Legislature before Dec. 1.

The Chief Justice has six nominees to the study commission: three members of the public from each of the three Supreme Court districts and three Supreme Court justices. Justice Pittman's citizen nominees are former Chief Justice Lenore L. Prather of Columbus, Jackson attorney Danny E. Cupit and attorney and former senator Carroll Ingram of Hattiesburg.

Justice Pittman's nominees from the court are Supreme Court Justices William L. Waller Jr., Michael P. Mills and himself.

The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals also has six nominees to the study commission, including three members of the Court of Appeals and three private citizens. Chief Judge Roger H. McMillin Jr. will serve on the commission, as will Judges Leslie D. King and James E. Thomas.

McMillin named as his public citizen appointees attorneys Donald C. Dornan Jr. of Biloxi, Thandi Wade of Jackson and Amy D. Whitten of Oxford.

The Conference of County Judges' appointee to the study commission is Harrison County Judge Robin Alfred Midcalf of Gulfport. The Conference of Chancery Judges' appointee is Chancellor Edward E. Patten Jr. of Hazlehurst of the 15th Chancery District. The Conference of Circuit Judges' appointee is Circuit Judge Keith Starrett of McComb of the 14th Circuit District. The Conference of Justice Court Judges' nominee is Judge Bruce Strong of Biloxi.

Lawyer appointees are Carlton W. Reeves of Jackson, named by the Magnolia Bar, and James O. Dukes of Gulfport, named by the Mississippi Bar. Reeves is former chief of the civil division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Mississippi. Dukes is a past president of the Mississippi Bar.

Six legislators are members of the judicial study commission. HCR 96 named the chairman of the House Judiciary En Banc Committee, Rep. Percy W. Watson of Hattiesburg, and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Bennie L. Turner of West Point. House Speaker Tim Ford appointed Rep. Tommy Reynolds of Charleston, who serves as chairman of the Apportionment and Elections Committee, and Rep. Edward Blackmon of Canton, chairman of the House Judiciary B Committee. Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck appointed Sen. Neely Carlton of Greenville and Sen. Robert Chamberlin of Hernando. Carlton serves as chairwoman of the Interstate and Federal Cooperation Committee and as vice-chair of the Judiciary Committee. Chamberlin is vice-chair of the Universities and Colleges Committee.

For more information, contact Beverly Pettigrew Kraft, court public information officer at 601-354-7452.

June 20, 2001

In response to media inquiries about the Judicial Study Commission, Supreme Court Chief Justice Edwin L. Pittman made the following statements:

"One reason we wanted the Judicial Study Commission is because of the very, very bruising campaign that we had last year. The campaign was extremely costly and extremely caustic."

"Because of those campaigns and because of the discomfort those campaigns created in the minds of the citizens, I thought we needed to look at the whole judicial organization to see if we are doing it right or to see if we can make substantial improvements."

Justice Pittman noted that the commission has a broad scope of review.

"The commission can look at how we select judges. They can look at terms. They can look at salaries," Pittman said.

"The mandate is broad enough that they can, and I hope they will, look at the entire judicial system, compare it to other states and see if they can make recommendations for improvement," Pittman said.

"Hopefully, some of the most widely supported suggestions would be ready for the next legislature."