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

Judge Leslie D. King named Chief Judge of Court of Appeals

April 30, 2004

Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr. today appointed Judge Leslie D. King of Greenville as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals.

Chief Justice Smith said, "Judge King will absolutely make an invaluable contribution."

Judge King, 55, will assume the administrative responsibilities formerly held by Court of Appeals Chief Judge Roger H. McMillin Jr. Judge McMillin retired today. Judge King's appointment is effective May 1 and is for an unexpired term that will run through Dec. 31, 2006.

Chief Judge King said, "I thank Chief Justice Smith for the confidence reposed in me by this appointment. The appointment as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals is a personal honor for me, as well as an honor and tribute to my family and friends, whose support and encouragement in my endeavors have brought me to this place and time."

Chief Judge King said, "The assumption of a leadership post in any institution is a challenge. I accept that challenge, and look forward to working with Chief Justice Smith to make this state's judicial system the best and the fairest that it can be. I look forward to the continued work with my very able colleagues at the Court of Appeals, each of whom is committed to fair and effective service to the judiciary and the people of this great state."

Judge King is the first African-American to serve as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals.

When asked the significance of his being the first, Chief Judge King said, "When people ask whether or not things have changed, it will be a sign to them and they can take great comfort in the fact that it has."

But, he said, "I think the primary reason I was appointed to this position is that I can make a contribution to the judiciary of this state."

Chief Justice Smith said Chief Judge King's 15 years of experience as a former legislator and his nine years on the Court of Appeals are valuable assets to the judicial system. "He is a seasoned individual. He is an intellectual. He understands and knows the rules backwards and forwards," Chief Justice Smith said.

Chief Judge King has served on the Court of Appeals since it was created. He was elected in 1994 from the 2nd Congressional District and began hearing cases in 1995.

Chief Judge Smith noted that the eight other members of the Supreme Court concurred in his choice of Chief Judge King.

"This is a new day for the courts in this state. I intend to make a difference. The Court of Appeals will make a difference," Chief Justice Smith said.

The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals is the administrative head of a 10-member court. Chief Judge King said he will strive for inclusiveness.

"Any institution functions better when everybody is involved in the process. I want to make sure there is a role being played by every person on this court," Chief Judge King said. "Everybody is going to find that his talents are utilized for more than just opinion writing."

The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals appoints two presiding judges. Chief Judge King said Judge Leslie H. Southwick of Jackson will continue as a presiding judge. He also named Judge Billy G. Bridges of Brandon, who previously served as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals from Jan. 31, 1997, until Feb. 17, 1999.

The Court of Appeals hears appeals assigned by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has discretion over whether to review Court of Appeals decisions.

The Mississippi Legislature created the Court of Appeals to relieve a backlog of cases before the Supreme Court. Chief Judge King noted that when the Court of Appeals was created, the Supreme Court took an average of three years from the filing of the final brief to a decision.

Chief Judge King said he takes pride in the fact that the Court of Appeals took an average of 201 days to decide appeals in 2003. That's 69 days shorter than what state law requires. The Legislature when it created the Court of Appeals said appeals must be decided within 270 days from the completion of briefing. The Court of Appeals decided 575 cases in 2003.