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

Chief Judge King reappointed as head of Court of Appeals

December 13, 2006

Judge Leslie D. King of Greenville has been reappointed to a four-year term as Chief Judge of the Mississippi Court of Appeals.

Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr. renewed Chief Judge King’s appointment as administrative head of the Court of Appeals in an order filed Dec. 12. Chief Justice Smith previously appointed Chief Judge King as administrative head of the Court of Appeals on April 30, 2004.

Chief Justice Smith in announcing the reappointment said, “Adhering to my judicial philosophy of building public confidence and maintaining respect of our citizens for our judiciary, I have reappointed Leslie King as our Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals.

I have the utmost confidence in Chief Judge King’s leadership ability to direct the Court of Appeals towards this philosophy. I also expect positive changes and improvements to occur at the Court of Appeals under Chief Judge King’s second term of office. I look forward to our working together to accomplish these and other important goals and visions necessary for the improvement of the Mississippi judiciary.”

Chief Judge King said, “I am happy to be reappointed. I appreciate the opportunity to work closely with Chief Justice Smith. I’ve been impressed with his commitment to the judiciary and where he wants to take it. He believes that Mississippi should have the best possible judiciary and the best possible judges. It’s a commitment I share.”

Mississippi’s appellate judges are elected by the people to staggered eight-year terms. Ten judges make up the Court of Appeals, the state’s second-highest court.

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

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court selects a Chief Judge from among the 10 serving judges of the Court of Appeals. The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals serves as the administrative head of that court.

Chief Judge King, 57, 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. He previously served for 15 years in the Mississippi House of Representatives. He is a former Washington County Youth Court attorney and former Metcalfe municipal judge.

The Legislature created the Court of Appeals to relieve a backlog of appeals. Chief Judge King said issuing timely and legally sound decisions are the Court’s priorities.

“We have significantly reduced the backlog of cases that existed when the Court was created, and we continue to reduce the amount of time that it takes to get cases decided,” Chief Judge King said.

The Court of Appeals in the 2006 calendar year decided 652 cases, including 636 written opinions and 16 procedural decisions. The Court by law is required to render a decision within 270 days of the completion of briefing of a case by attorneys. The average time for decisions in 2006 was shorter than 270 days.

Chief Judge King’s goals are educating the public about workings of the courts, and building public confidence in the judiciary. He believes it’s important that the Court’s decisions are written in such a manner that they are understandable to the layman as well as the lawyer. Understanding builds public confidence, whether an individual agrees or disagrees with a decision, he said.

“We know what we are doing, and we may very well be doing it right. But people who see what we are doing don’t necessarily see it from the same vantage point,” he said.

He cited the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who said, “We must never forget that the only real source of power that we as judges can tap is the respect of the people.”

Chief Judge King believes that the Court should reach out to the community in efforts to educate. For instance, panels of the Court of Appeals scheduled oral arguments in cases twice this year on college campuses. Arguments were heard at the University of Mississippi in April and at Mississippi State University in November. Hearing arguments on campuses allowed students to watch, then talk to the judges afterwards.

“By reaching out to students early, we give them a better appreciation of the law and the workings of the court,” he said.