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

Justice Dickinson takes oath of office

January 9, 2004

Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Jess H. Dickinson pledged Friday to uphold the dignity, respect and public confidence of the Mississippi Supreme Court.

About 1,000 people watched Dickinson, 56, of Gulfport, take the oath of office Friday in Jackson as the 116th member of the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Justice Dickinson promised to do five things.

He said he will fulfill his obligation to properly interpret the laws and the Constitution.

He pledged to carry out the "moral responsibility to do what is right, even in the face of adversity, and I know this will come."

He pledged to "maintain honor and dignity in both my public and private life."

He swore to fulfill the oath of office as a justice of the Supreme Court.

And he pledged to uphold "my personal responsibility to remain loyal and true to my family and my Lord while I am serving on the Mississippi Supreme Court."

Justice Dickinson, who was elected in November 2002, said the state's voters "are not looking for anything really complicated. They are looking for people who will take their places in state government and do what is right."

Governor-elect Haley Barbour called the election of Justice Dickinson in 2002 "a very important event."

Barbour chose the occasion of Justice Dickinson's investiture to announce that he will use a Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee to select judicial appointees to fill vacancies within the state judiciary.

Barbour said he wants prospective appointees to be "vetted and examined so the public could have confidence" that judges meet standards and have the capacity to understand and interpret the law.

Former governors William Winter, Bill Allain and Ray Mabus utilized a judicial nominating committee to assist them in selection of appointees to judicial vacancies.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Edwin L. Pittman told Barbour, "I appreciate your efforts to help us in protecting the judiciary and making sure the judiciary is what the people of the state of Mississippi want it to be."

Before administering the oath of office to Justice Dickinson, Chief Justice Pittman said, "The oath calls for fidelity to the law and the oath calls for impartiality to persons."

"I am certain that Justice Dickinson will fulfill the challenge of the oath and the expectations of the people who elected him," Chief Justice Pittman said.

Former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Reuben V. Anderson, keynote speaker, said it doesn't matter who raised money to elect Justice Dickinson or what people's expectations are of his judicial philosophy. Anderson said Justice Dickinson must be guided by what he knows in his heart is right.

Anderson, who served on the Supreme Court 1985-1990, said one of his heroes is the late Chief Justice Neville Patterson, a jurist "who was consumed with integrity and honesty."

Anderson recalled Patterson's advice in deciding cases. That was, "Do what is right in your heart, and let the rough end drag."

Anderson said, "The best way to handle this job is to do what is right in your heart. You will not rest at night unless you do what is right in your heart, and let the rough end drag."

Anderson also told Justice Dickinson that family comes first. "Don't ever let this job come between you and your family. There is nothing more important to you than Janet and those boys."

"This is one of the toughest jobs you will ever have in life, but as Neville Patterson used to say, don't let it get between you and that bream fishing," Anderson said.

Anderson praised Chief Justice Pittman's leadership of the court during tough times. He recounted rules changes that allow cameras in courtrooms, revisions to the Code of Judicial Conduct, the Supreme Court's adoption of time standards for the trial courts, and rule changes dealing with expert witness testimony and independent medical examinations.

"All these were controversial and they were not popular, but the court stood up and did the right thing," Anderson said.

Chief Justice Pittman, gesturing to the other seven members of the court, said, "The men and women on this stage have been a great support in carrying out those innovations."

All members of the Supreme Court participated in the investiture ceremony.

Justice Kay B. Cobb, who extended the formal welcome to Justice Dickinson on behalf of the court, said he comes to the court with a reputation for hard work, honesty and integrity.

Justice Chuck Easley said, "He brings exciting things to the court, a great attitude and dedication."

Justice William L. Waller Jr. said Justice Dickinson spent the past year working as a trial judge by special appointment while he waited to take his position on the Supreme Court. "He exemplifies selfless service, putting the welfare of others above himself," he said.

Justice James W. Smith Jr. said Justice Dickinson's coming to the court brings in a new day for the court, and he is proud to serve with him.

Justice George C. Carlson Jr. said, "It's a great day for the state of Mississippi in general, and for the Court specifically."

Justice James E. Graves Jr. joked that he is still called "junior" in his parents' house, but that he is thankful to Justice Dickinson for relieving him of the position of junior justice at the Supreme Court.

Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck said of Justice Dickinson: "He has proved himself time and time again to be a man of integrity, a man of character, a man of honor and a man of vision. He truly cares about the future generations of our state and our nation. He is a Christian man, and that is the greatest thing that anyone can say about a person."

Justice Oliver Diaz said people call upon God in times of trouble and in celebration. "Our true challenge is to remember God in our everyday lives," Justice Diaz said.

U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering told Justice Dickinson that in taking the oath as a judge, "You now have the power, sometimes referred to as the power of the pen, to make decisions that affect the life, the very life, and the fortunes of the people who come before you."

Referring to Justice Dickinson's expressions of reliance on prayer and Christian faith at an earlier prayer breakfast, Judge Pickering said, "There is not anything about your Christian faith that is inconsistent with the oath that you took. Follow the laws and the Constitution of the state."