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

Chief Justice Pittman discusses proposed legislation for 2003

October 25, 2002

Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Edwin L. Pittman on Thursday said he will ask legislators during the 2003 session to abolish "herd" districts for judges, give pay raises for judges and implement a system of regional drug courts.

Pittman outlined his ideas during a luncheon speech to the Trial and Appellate Court Judges Fall Conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Jackson.

"Herd" districts are multi-judge districts in which candidates are elected at-large. For instance, in a two-judge district with more than two candidates, the top two vote-getters win. The system pits incumbent judges against each other as well as a field of challengers.

"It's good and right and proper that we abolish the herd elections," Pittman said.

Nine of the 22 circuit court districts and five of the 20 chancery court districts have herd elections. One chancery district and one circuit district each have a subdistrict within which candidates run as a herd.

There are three other kinds of judicial districts: single judge districts; districts carved into geographic subdistricts; and numbered posts or places.

Circuit Judge Robert G. Evans of Raleigh, chairman of the Conference of Circuit Judges, said, "It ought to be uniform statewide." Evans presides in a four-county single-judge district.

Circuit Court herd districts include the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 10th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 20th districts and one subdistrict within the 17th District.

Chancery Court herd districts include the 1st, 6th, 12th and 18th and one subdistrict of the 3rd District.

Circuit Court districts which are divided into subdistricts include the 4th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 11th and 17th. Circuit districts with numbered posts or places are the 2nd, 8th and 19th. Single-judge Circuit Court districts include the 12th, 13th, 18th, 21st and 22nd.

Chancery Court districts which are divided into subdistricts include the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 14th and 17th. Chancery districts with numbered posts or places are the 8th, 10th, 16th and 20th. Single-judge chancery districts are the 2nd, 4th, 13th, 15th and 19th.

Pittman said he will recommend salary increases for judges as well as district attorneys.

"The district attorneys rather desperately need pay raises," Pittman said.

District attorneys earn $79,830 a year.

Circuit and chancery judges earn $94,700. County judges earn up to $93,700.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court earns $104,900; presiding justices earn $102,900; associate justices earn $102,300 a year. The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals annually earns $98,300; associate judges earn $95,500.

Pittman also will recommend that the legislature create 10 to 15 regional drug courts. He has suggested that senior status judges could handle the cases. Pittman estimated that such a program would cost about $1.5 million a year.

Judges in three circuit court districts have created their own drug courts. They are the 14th Circuit District of Pike, Lincoln and Walthall counties; the 7th Circuit District of Hinds County; and the 4th Circuit District of Leflore, Sunflower and Washington counties.

Pittman spoke at a graduation ceremony on Monday, Oct. 21, in the 14th District in Magnolia. He was impressed with the life stories of some of the 25 graduates.

"That drug court is saving lives," Pittman said. "I'm convinced it's a program we ought to have in some other areas."