Senior Status Judge James Bell receives Chief Justice Award

July 13, 2022

Senior Status Judge James D. Bell is the recipient of the 2022 Chief Justice Award.

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Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Randolph will present the award on Friday, July 15, at the Mississippi Bar Convention. The annual award recognizes individuals whose actions significantly impact the law, the administration of justice, and the people of the State of Mississippi.

Chief Justice Randolph selected Judge Bell in recognition for his efforts during the past two years to reduce the case backlog in Hinds County Court. Judge Bell’s endeavors resulted in removing more than 103,000 cases from the dockets of the County Court of Hinds County.

The award reads, in part, that “as part of his service as Senior Status Judge, he, along with his staff of Deenie Miller, Issac Ward, and Cameron Ghaffari, with indispensable assistance from Nathan Evans, Director of Mississippi Electronic Courts, Lisa Counts, Deputy Director of the Administrative Office of Courts, and Zack Wallace, Hinds County Circuit Clerk, have conducted a meticulous, systematic review of thousands of case files, identifying active cases needing hearings, stale cases needing closure, and long since completed cases needing documentation.” Such “tireless work exemplifies the spirit of public service.”

Judge Bell is the longest currently serving Senior Status judge in the state. He began accepting Senior Status case appointments in 1989 after serving for six years as an elected judge of the Hinds County Court. He has been appointed to serve as a Special Circuit Judge, Chancellor and County Judge in hundreds of cases in 40 counties all over the state. He currently presides over cases in County Court, Youth Court, Chancery Court, and Circuit Court in multiple counties.

Senior Status judges are retired judges who are willing to be appointed by the Supreme Court to preside over cases in which local judges have conflicts and have recused themselves. There are currently 66 Senior Status judges. The Mississippi Supreme Court made 302 special judge appointments in cases involving recusals during the 2022 fiscal year which ended June 30.

Judge Bell’s work to assist the trial courts of Hinds County stretches back to the time when he was an elected County Court Judge. The Circuit Judges of the Seventh Circuit Court appointed him as a Special Circuit Judge to preside over Circuit Court cases.

Judge Bell is former chairman of the Conference of Senior Status Judges. He served on the Commission on Judicial Performance and as secretary to the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules.

Judge Bell grew up in Jackson. He earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Mississippi in 1975, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1977. He opened a law practice in Jackson in 1977, and maintained that private practice except for his six years of elected judicial service. He moved his office to Crystal Springs earlier this year.

He has published two novels, Maximilian’s Treasure and Vampire Defense. He is a deacon at Pinelake Baptist Church and former president of the Jackson Rugby Club.