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

Justice Kay Cobb announces retirement

March 5, 2007

Mississippi Supreme Court Presiding Justice Kay B. Cobb announced today that she will retire, effective May 1, 2007.

Justice Cobb, of Oxford, is retiring after eight years on the court. Her term is scheduled to expire in January 2009. Gov. Haley Barbour will appoint someone to serve out the remainder of the term.

Justice Cobb in a March 2 letter informing Gov. Barbour of her retirement said, “It has been an extraordinary honor to serve in this highest judicial office, and I leave with complete trust and belief that the Court is in good hands. Under the leadership of Chief Justice Jim Smith and Presiding Justice Bill Waller, and the other dedicated justices who have worked diligently to make timely, fair, accurate, and just decisions, this Court has attained a level of excellence which should continue for years to come.”

Chief Justice Smith commended Justice Cobb’s service.

“Presiding Justice Cobb has been invaluable in her service to the Court, to the state of Mississippi, and especially to me during my tenure as chief justice,” Chief Justice Smith said. “I have never seen a more dedicated public servant who is committed to justice and fairness to all people. Justice Cobb is meticulous and very studious. She works harder than any other justice I’ve ever known.”

“Literally, she leaves very small shoes to fill, but figuratively, very large ones. I will miss her,” Chief Justice Smith said.

Justice Cobb said, “Details are critical to this job. It’s not enough to just reach the right result.

The reasoning and analysis are equally important to the litigants as well as the bench and bar.”

Justice Cobb turned 65 on Feb. 28. “There are many things that I’ve not had time to do, and this seems to be the perfect time to start doing them,” she said.

“The legal profession is a demanding one and my work on the court has been all-consuming. I haven’t had time during the past eight years to be a volunteer or to work in my community because I’m in Jackson all week. And I look forward to reconnecting with my community in Oxford and to spending time with my family.”

When asked about her plans, Justice Cobb said, “ Retirement will give me the opportunity to do more than just teach a children’s Sunday School class. I hope to sing in the choir again and do more church outreach. I plan to renew my certification as a Reach to Recovery volunteer for the American Cancer Society. The volunteer who visited with me after my breast cancer surgery in 1992 offered encouragement and advice that was very meaningful. I want to be able to help others in the same way. And I will once again be able to devote time to assist my alma mater in accomplishing its worthy mission of providing academic and leadership development for women.”

Justice Cobb will be designated as a senior judge upon retirement. She may be called upon to serve as a special judge to hear cases when a sitting judge is unable to preside due to illness or recusal.

Former Gov. Kirk Fordice appointed Justice Cobb to the Supreme Court on April 1, 1999. She filled the unexpired term of former Justice James L. Roberts Jr., then was elected to a full term in November 2000.

She is the third longest serving justice currently on the court. By seniority, she serves as a presiding justice over three-judge panels of the court to decide cases.

Justice Cobb is the only woman currently serving on the Mississippi Supreme Court. She is the second woman to serve. Former Chief Justice Lenore Prather of Columbus was the first. Their terms overlapped.

Justice Cobb said, “I have been honored to serve as a role model and a mentor for women. I have felt a self-imposed pressure to always try to do my best, to improve rather than impede the opportunities for women who come behind me.”

Justice Cobb, who grew up on a farm in Cleveland, took a non-traditional route to the practice of law. After graduating from Mississippi University for Women in 1963, she taught elementary school for three years to children of military personnel while her husband was stationed with the U.S. Air Force in Japan. She later spent five years as a job placement counselor for the Texas Employment Commission, where she assisted people with physical handicaps and people recently released from prison in efforts to find employment.

In 1975, she and her family moved to Oxford, where she enrolled in the University of Mississippi School of Law. She earned a law degree in 1978.

“Law just seemed logical. I could do anything with a law degree,” Justice Cobb said.

She practiced law in Oxford until November 1982, when she became Director of Prosecutor Programs at the Mississippi Prosecutors College at the University of Mississippi School of Law. She directed training and research for district attorneys and other state court prosecutors, directed the Mississippi Prosecutors Association, and drafted legislation.

From December 1984 to June 1988, she served as senior attorney for the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. She represented MBN in forfeiture proceedings, advised and trained agents on legal issues, and served as an instructor at the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers Training Academy. She drafted legislation on behalf of MBN.

In 1988, she became a special assistant attorney general and established a North Mississippi regional office. She served as state coordinator for the State Wide Education, Enforcement and Prevention System (SWEEPS) program, where she was responsible for community mobilization in drug education and prevention efforts.

From January 1992 to January 1996, she served as state Senator for District 9, representing Calhoun, Lafayette and Yalobusha counties. She then returned to private law practice until her appointment to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Justice Cobb currently serves on the Supreme Court’s Executive Committee and is chair of the Human Resources and Computer committees. She is the court’s liaison to the Gender Fairness Advisory Study Committee and the Commission to Address Concerns for Impaired Lawyers. She is a member of the Women in the Profession Committee of the Mississippi Bar.