Court of Appeals Judge Joel Smith takes oath
January 19, 2021
Mississippi Court of Appeals Judge Joel Smith of Gulfport said on Tuesday, Jan. 19, that he will devote all his energies to serving with honesty, fairness and integrity.
He said, “Now that I have taken this oath, I promise to give everything I have to serve all of the citizens of the state and to serve with three things: with honesty, with fairness and with integrity every day that I am given the chance on this Court.”
Gov. Tate Reeves, who appointed Judge Smith, said, “I must tell you that the most important trait one could possess is that of character, someone that is going to do right, whether doing what is right is the easy thing or not.” He said, “As I was reviewing the many qualified and capable applicants to fill this position, the thing that kept Joel Smith at the very top of every list was his dedication to the law, his commitment to doing right, his ability to discern right from wrong and his understanding of the importance of this role and the importance of the judicial branch of government.”
The Governor said, “He will do a remarkable job because he understands that the role of the judicial branch of government is not to attempt to make law but to interpret the law as it is written, and I am confident that he will bring the intellect as well as the judicial temperament that is needed to help what is already an exceptionally talented group of individuals on the Mississippi Court of Appeals.”
Court of Appeals Chief Judge Donna M. Barnes of Tupelo said the diversity of backgrounds among appellate judges is one of the Court’s strengths. Every member of the Court not only shares part of the caseload but also brings areas of expertise to deliberations in deciding cases.
Court of Appeals Judge Anthony N. Lawrence III of Pascagoula said, “I know you will do a great job because I have personally witnessed your public service in the work you’ve done for the citizens on the Coast, and I know that you will continue that up here.”
Judge Lawrence and Judge Smith previously served as district attorneys in adjoining districts on the Gulf Coast – Judge Smith in the Second Judicial District of Harrison, Hancock and Stone Counties and Judge Lawrence in the Nineteenth Judicial District of Jackson, George and Greene counties.
Judge Smith told colleagues, family and friends that he sought appointment to the Court of Appeals judgeship because “I knew that it would be one that would give me an even greater opportunity than I possessed as DA to help more people in this state for the reason that I got into public service.” He said, “Like many in this room, I joined the legal profession or public service because I simply wanted to help others. That was kind of the thing that drove me to be a lawyer and then to join public service. I hope to be able to leave this world a little bit better place for my three kids and for the generations that will follow.”
Gov. Reeves appointed Judge Smith to a vacancy which was created when Sean Tindell of Gulfport left the Court to become Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety on June 1, 2020. Commissioner Tindell attended the oath ceremony.
Judge Smith, 46, served for the past nine years as district attorney, and was an assistant district attorney for 11 years. Before joining the District Attorney's office, he practiced corporate defense and premises liability litigation with the firm of Bryant, Clark, Dukes & Blakeslee.
He is past president of the Mississippi Prosecutors Association and served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Prosecutors Section of the Mississippi Bar. He serves as vice-chair of the Mississippi Children’s Justice Act Task Force and was appointed by the Governor to serve on the Mississippi School Safety Task Force. He served on the Mississippi Corrections and Criminal Justice Oversight Committee and on the Governor’s 2020 search committee to find a new commissioner for the Department of Corrections. He served as an instructor with the U.S. Navy Sexual Assault Intervention Training Program, Southern Regional Public Safety Institute and the Harrison County Law Enforcement Academy. He served as President of the Leadership Gulf Coast Board of Trustees, was a member of the Board of Directors of the Coast Chamber of Commerce and was a member of the Gulf Coast Business Council.
He is a graduate of Gulfport High School. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Mississippi in 1996 and a Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1999.