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

Delta Emerging Leaders visit Court of Appeals

February 26, 2002

Administrative Office of Courts

Members of Delta Emerging Leaders met with Court of Appeals Judges Tyree Irving and Leslie D. King Tuesday as part of a three-day study tour in Jackson.

Some of the questions posed to the judges covered the work they do, the manner in which they are selected and the way the judicial system polices itself.

Irving explained that the five Court of Appeals districts, when they were created in 1994, were the same as the five congressional districts. The Mississippi Legislature last year created the Court of Appeals districts as distinct entities, separating them from congressional districts, since the congressional districts are to be reduced to four. Ten judges are elected from the five districts.

One participant asked about proposed legislation, now dead, that would have made appellate judges appointed rather than elected.

Irving said, "I am on record saying I am for popular vote. I think people, given proper information, will make the proper decisions." Irving said the elective system gives the people the right to remove judges at the ballot box. "With the appointive system, the people don't have the right to fix the problems," Irving said.

Another participant asked how members are selected for the Commission on Judicial Performance, the judicial watchdog agency which investigates complaints against judges.

King pointed out that the Legislature last year changed part of the selection process so that judicial conferences no longer select their members to sit on the Commission on Judicial Performance.

King said, "The idea is that with elected positions, you might not be as prone to oversee the sins of your colleagues if you had to get their votes to sit on the commission."

With the legislative change, the selections of members from the conferences of circuit, chancery and county court judges are now based on recommendations from the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House, respectively, with the chief justice of the Supreme Court making the appointments. The chief justice of the Supreme Court also selects and appoints to the commission a justice court judge and a practicing attorney. Unchanged is a provision for the chief justice to appoint two lay persons to the commission.

Delta Emerging Leaders includes public officials, educators, lawyers and volunteers from across the Delta, said Myrtis Tabb, director for the Center for Community Development at Delta State University. The group's studies are funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation in conjunction with Delta State University and the Center for Community Development.

Tabb said, "The one thing that brings this group together is their commitment to the Mississippi Delta region and working to better the Delta region."

Irving encouraged the participants to analyze their own personal strengths and weaknesses, set goals and to be diligent and persevering.

"Stay true to your goals. Don't blame anybody else for whatever happens," Irving said.

King said afterwards, "I think visits such as the Delta Emerging Leaders are good for both the individuals and the state. It gives them the opportunity to discover first-hand what the judicial system is and how it operates. Too often knowledge of the judicial system has been what someone else told us it was. By having effective, first-hand knowledge of what the system is, it enables us to work jointly towards making our state the best that it can be. That is a state which is reflective of all of its people, and fair to all of its people."

Participants in the study tour included:

  • Clarksdale residents Deborah Carter, Jay Green and Doris Miller;
  • Cleveland residents Gene Barger, Deborah Cox, John Cox, Djuanita Garvin, Arnold Luciano, Christy Montesi, Paige Morgan, Myrtis Tabb, Jason Umfress and Dwaun Warmack;
  • Crowder resident Adam Contreras;
  • Greenville residents Constance Garcia-Hill, Cynthia Lakes, Clara Mandolini, Maryann Reginal and Barry Schuster;
  • Hollandale resident Veronica Jenkins;
  • Indianola resident Bland Campbell;
  • Marks resident Tommiea Jackson;
  • Shaw resident Arlene Story Sanders.