Chief Justice Smith's investiture is set for April 12

April 8, 2004

James W. Smith Jr. will take the oath of office as chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, April 12. The investiture ceremony will be held in Room 216 of the Capitol, in the Old Supreme Court Chambers.

Gov. Haley Barbour will be the keynote speaker. Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck and Richard Roberts, president of the Mississippi Bar, will also speak.

Presiding Justice William L. Waller Jr., the second longest serving member of the Supreme Court, will administer the oath of office.

Chief Justice Smith is expected to use his investiture speech to talk about his objectives.

"I intend to focus on restoring integrity to the judiciary statewide," Chief Justice Smith said.

"I intend for the court to function with intellectual honesty and focus on timely decisions with total elimination of the court's backlog," Chief Justice Smith said.

Brief introductions and remarks will be offered by Presiding Justices Waller and Kay Cobb and Justices Chuck Easley, George C. Carlson Jr., James E. Graves Jr. and Jess H. Dickinson.

The invocation will be offered by Rev. Jerry W. Dillon of Parkway Pentecostal Church in Madison. Colors will be posted by Boy Scout Troop 300 from the Reservoir. Rankin County Court Judge Kent McDaniel will sing the National Anthem. Justice Smith's daughter, Shannon Smith Eaves, will do a ballet performance. Rev. Tim Muse of Brandon Presbyterian Church will give the benediction.

Chief Justice Smith began his duties as chief justice on April 1. He succeeded Edwin L. Pittman, who retired March 31.

The Supreme Court chief justice is the chief administrative officer of the state court system. The justice who has served longest on the court holds the office of chief justice. Chief Justice Smith was first elected to the Supreme Court in 1992 and took office in January 1993.

Chief Justice Smith, 60, lives in Rankin County. He was born in Louisville and grew up in Pelahatchie. He attended Hinds Junior College, now Hinds Community College. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in history and political science from the University of Southern Mississippi. In 1972, he earned his Juris Doctorate from Jackson School of Law, now the Mississippi College School of Law. He was admitted to the practice of law that same year. He practiced law with Billy G. Bridges, now a member of the Court of Appeals, attorney Paul Henderson and Alfred G. Nicols, now a U.S. Magistrate Judge.

He earned his law degree while serving as principal of Pearl Junior High School. He earned a master's degree in education administration from Mississippi College in 1973.

He was Pearl city prosecuting attorney 1973-1980. He served as Rankin County prosecuting attorney in 1976. He was appointed district attorney for the 20th Circuit Court District of Rankin and Madison counties in 1977. He continued to serve in that position until Gov. William Winter appointed him as Rankin County Court Judge in 1982.