Former Supreme Court justices support six-year terms for trial judges

Sept. 24, 2002

A majority of the former justices of the Mississippi Supreme Court have endorsed the Constitutional amendment which would create six-year terms for state trial judges.

Mississippi voters will decide Nov. 5 whether to lengthen trial judges' terms to six years. A Constitutional amendment which proposes to change chancery and circuit judges' terms will appear on the ballot.

Former Supreme Court Justice Fred L. Banks Jr. of Jackson said, "If you cut down on the number of elections, you cut down on the potential for the kind of rancorous elections that most people believe are ill suited to selection of judges who are duty bound to render justice fairly and impartially."

Banks noted that a majority of other states have longer terms for their trial judges. "Longer terms promote stability and judicial independence," Banks said.

Chancery, circuit and county court judges in Mississippi currently serve four-year terms. County judges' terms , although not addressed in the Constitution, are by statute the same length as those of chancery and circuit judges.

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan Lee of Brandon said, "I think it's a good thing.

They wouldn't have to run as often. They wouldn't have to spend as much money and they could spend more time on judicial cases rather than politicking."

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Lenore Prather of Columbus agreed. "The judge can devote his time to the work instead of campaigning. Campaigning takes a lot of time. You have to miss court and that keeps you from disposing of cases."

Former Supreme Court Justice Joel Blass of Pass Christian said, "I think the longer the judges' terms, the abler they become and the more seasoned they become. It gives the judiciary a greater sense of security and a little more independence."

Former Supreme Court Justice Stokes V. Robertson of Jackson said he favors the Constitutional amendment for six-year terms. "I believe in longer terms. It takes them somewhat out of politics. They are not campaigning all the time."

Other former justices who have indicated support for the Constitutional amendment include Reuben V. Anderson of Jackson, James L. Roberts of Pontotoc, James L. Robertson of Jackson, Robert P. Sugg of Jackson and Joseph Zuccaro of Natchez. Former Justice Michael P. Mills publicly supported the six-year term effort prior to his appointment as U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Mississippi.

The Mississippi Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals have adopted resolutions in support of the Constitutional amendment. The Conference of Chancery Judges, the Conference of Circuit Judges, the leadership of the Mississippi Bar, the leadership of the Magnolia Bar and the Judicial Advisory Study Committee have endorsed the amendment.

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