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

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Leslie King takes oath

June 1, 2004

Mississippi Court of Appeals Chief Judge Leslie D. King at his investiture on Tuesday pledged to do what is just rather than popular, and to maintain the integrity of the judicial process.

Chief Judge King is the first African American to lead the Court of Appeals. He is one of the original members of the Court of Appeals, which began hearing cases in 1995. He is the fourth to serve as its chief judge.

Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr. appointed Judge King, 55, of Greenville as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals on April 30. He assumed administrative responsibilities formerly held by Chief Judge Roger H. McMillin Jr., who retired.

Chief Judge King said, "Each of us who has taken this oath and put on the black judicial robe must go the extra mile to insure that our actions honor and conform to that oath."

He said, "As judges, it is our responsibility to embrace justice, rather than popularity."

"Courts are often called upon to make decisions which may be unpopular, and with which a significant number of persons may disagree....Society has obeyed those decisions because our courts have generally been considered institutions of principle, which acted with integrity, and in so doing created faith in the judicial process. It is that faith which is the strength of the judiciary," Chief Judge King said.

Chief Judge King said, "Along with my colleagues and the staff of this court, I shall endeavor to maintain the integrity of the judicial process and of this court's decisions. And along with my colleagues, I shall work to insure that this court administers justice without respect to persons, that it does equal right to the poor and the rich, and that it faithfully and impartially discharges its responsibilities."

Court of Appeals Presiding Judge Billy G. Bridges of Brandon said before he administered the oath of office to Chief Judge King in the Old Supreme Court Chambers at the Capitol: "Make the courts and the state of Mississippi proud while you perform your duties with impartiality and dignity."

Presiding Judge Leslie H. Southwick of Jackson said the successes of the Court of Appeals are a product of the hard work of the members and the leadership of the chief judge. He said Chief Judge King possesses leadership skills and eloquence.

Supreme Court Justice James E. Graves Jr., keynote speaker for the investiture, said, "Judge King has already distinguished himself as a leader among leaders." He said Chief Judge King "exhibits the kind of understanding that recognizes that your example is more important that your advice."

Retired Judge Mary Libby Payne of Pearl said of Chief Judge King: "He had a listening ear and a sympathetic attitude....One could always expect sage advice from Judge King. I cannot remember hearing Judge King say an unkind word....Judge King is a consensus-builder and a word-smith who helped us clarify our thinking ...and articulate what we meant to say."

"What a joy it is for all of us to see him rise to this position," Payne said. "All of us who have served on the Court of Appeals are better people for having served in the company of Judge Leslie King."

Payne pointed out that she was the only woman and Judge King was the only African American on the court when they began hearing cases in 1995.

Chief Judge King said, "As the two original minority members of this court, you and I shared a very special bond. Each of us came to the court with the experience of having known exclusion because of matters beyond our control. Rather than becoming embittered by those experiences, we chose to find strength in them. We chose to embrace and share those experiences in an effort to assist those persons who were not privileged to have experienced that type of exclusion. Bringing those experiences to this court's deliberative process made it a better court; not a perfect court but a better court. This court has not been the same since your retirement."

Chief Judge King said, "A diverse court is a strong court. I hope that the Governor will appreciate that strength which is found in diversity and appoint as Judge McMillin's replacement a female, so that this court can again have that perspective as part of its deliberative process."