Court of Appeals convenes in Tupelo for investiture of Judge Barnes
The Mississippi Court of Appeals convened in Tupelo on Wednesday, Dec. 8, to ceremonially welcome recently appointed Judge Donna M. Barnes.
Chief Judge Leslie D. King, who presided over the investiture of Judge Barnes, said, “The members of the court are pleased to join in this occasion and to welcome Judge Barnes as a valued member of this court.”
He was joined by Court of Appeals Presiding Judges Billy G. Bridges and L. Joseph Lee and Court of Appeals Judges Tyree Irving, William H. Myers, David A. Chandler, Kenny Griffis Jr. and David M. Ishee.
Judge Barnes, 44, took the oath of office on July 26 in Jackson when Gov. Haley Barbour appointed her to a vacancy on the Court of Appeals. She repeated the oath on Wednesday in the town where she had practiced law for more than 19 years.
Judge Barnes’ mother, Ouida Barnes of Natchez, held the family Bible as Chief Judge King administered the oath. Judge Barnes’ mother and her father, Charles Barnes, helped her put on her judicial robe.
Judge Barnes told well-wishers at the Lee County Justice Center, “I am blessed. I am deeply grateful to Gov. Haley Barbour for appointing me to this office and giving me the opportunity to serve the state of Mississippi. I will do my best to justify his confidence in me.”
Judge Barnes said, “I am deeply aware of the responsibility I have assumed.”
She said she knew the Court of Appeals was a hard working court when she was appointed. Four months on the court have shown her how hard.
Judge Barnes said she will also strive to live up to the special legacy of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Lenore Prather, Supreme Court Justice Kay Cobb and former Court of Appeals Judge Mary Libby Payne. Judge Barnes is the fourth woman to serve on a Mississippi appellate court.
Judge Barnes said, “I am humbled to be in their company and I am honored that Justice Prather and Judge Payne are in the courtroom today.”
Senior Circuit Judge Thomas J. Gardner III of Tupelo, before whom she had practiced law, said he is proud of her appointment. His advice to her was the oft-quoted passage from the Book of Micah. “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?”
Attorney Guy Mitchell III of the firm of Mitchell, McNutt and Sams in Tupelo recalled when law student Donna Barnes went to work as a summer clerk at the firm. His aunt, who knew the Barnes family in Natchez, told him that Donna Barnes was the brightest student she knew in 52 years as and educator, and that he should hire her when she graduated. He did. She went on to become a lead attorney in appellate work, handing the most complex cases.
Mitchell and U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry Davis praised her research and writing abilities.
Mitchell said, “We all know that Donna will be an outstanding jurist.”
Judge Davis said the clear, precise legal briefs she wrote were a joy to review. “It’s going to be her hallmark as a jurist. She will write clearly, concisely and get to the point and separate the wheat from the chaff,” he said.
First District U.S. Congressman Roger F. Wicker noted Judge Barnes’ academic achievements and numerous awards. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor of Arts degree. She graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Law magna cum laude.
Wicker said, “The Lee County Bar is clearly losing IQ points today, and the Court of Appeals is gaining a brain trust.”
Wicker said Judge Barnes will make her decisions using her head and her heart.
Wicker said, “When you enforce precisely the rule of law, you will be ruling with your head....You will use your heart when you bear in mind the human factor. At the end of the day, the decisions you make will affect humans and where they live.”
Judge Barnes said she approaches each case with the knowledge that it may involve the most important matters in the life of a litigant.