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Mississippi Court of Appeals judges take oaths to begin new terms

December 16, 2022

Four members of the Mississippi Court of Appeals took the oath of office before a gathering of their colleagues, family and staff on Dec. 15 in Jackson.

Chief Judge Donna Barnes swore in Presiding Judge Virginia C. Carlton of Jackson, Judge Jim M. Greenlee of Oxford, Judge Joel Smith Jr. of Gulfport and Judge John H. Emfinger of Brandon.

Judge Deborah Gambrell Chambers receives Judicial Excellence Award

The judges will begin new terms on Jan. 2. Judges Carlton, Greenlee and Emfinger will begin eight-year terms which will end in January 2031. Judge Smith was elected to serve the balance of a term which will end in January 2025.

Presiding Judge Carlton has served on the Court of Appeals for 16 years, beginning in January 2007. She was elected to her third term on the court on Nov. 8. She has spent her career in public service. The Columbia native served as State Representative for Mississippi House District 100 from January 2004 to December 2006. She previously served as an assistant district attorney and county public defender. Her 24 years of military service included U.S. Army JAG officer and military judge. She served as a military trial judge and as an associate appellate judge on the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals. She retired from the military in February 2015 at the rank of Colonel. She is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and Staff College and the U.S. Army War College. She earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Mississippi and a Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law.

Judge Greenlee was appointed by former Gov. Phil Bryant on Jan. 20, 2016, to serve through December 2016. He was elected in November 2016 to serve the balance of the term, and was reelected on Nov. 8 to an eight-year term. He served as United States Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi from 2001 to 2010. He was an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s office from 1987 until 2001. He was in the private practice of law in Southaven from 1981 to 1987, and in Oxford from 2010 to 2016. He earned a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the University of Mississippi and a Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law. He served on active duty in the U.S. Navy from 1974 to 1978. He served in the U.S. Navy Reserve until 1997, retiring at the rank of Captain.

Gov. Tate Reeves appointed Judge Smith on Jan. 19, 2021, to a vacancy on the Court of Appeals. Judge Smith previously served for 20 years as a prosecutor in the Second Judicial District of Harrison, Hancock and Stone counties. He was an assistant district attorney for 11 years. He was elected as District Attorney in 2011 and took office in January 2012. He practiced corporate defense and premises liability litigation with the firm of Bryant, Clark, Dukes & Blakeslee before joining the District Attorney’s office. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Mississippi and a Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law.

Gov. Reeves appointed Judge Emfinger on March 3, 2021, to a vacancy on the Court of Appeals. He was elected Nov. 8 to an eight-year term. Judge Emfinger served for more than 10 years as a Circuit Judge of the 20th Circuit Court District of Rankin and Madison counties. He is a former chairman, vice-chair and secretary treasurer of the Conference of Circuit Judges. He served on the Commission on Judicial Performance, the Mississippi Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules and the Criminal Code Revision Consulting Group. Before he came to the bench, he served for 12 years as an assistant district attorney for the 20th District. He served for nearly 10 years as a special assistant attorney general in the Attorney General’s Criminal Division, the State and Local Government Section and as director of the Public Integrity Division. He served for a year as Assistant Secretary of State and staff attorney in the Securities Division. He was in private law practice for about seven years. His practice included oil and gas law, domestic relations and criminal defense. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in political science and a Masters of Business Administration from Mississippi College and a law degree from Mississippi College School of Law.

Captions, in order from top to bottom:

Court of Appeals Presiding Judge Virginia Carlton, at left, takes the oath of office on Dec. 15 in Jackson. Her daughter Phoebe Carlton, center, holds the Bible while Chief Judge Donna Barnes, at right, administers the oath.

Court of Appeals Judge Jim M. Greenlee, at left, takes the oath of office on Dec. 15 in Jackson. Judge Greenlee’s wife, Ann Greenlee, center, holds the Bible while Chief Judge Donna Barnes, at right, administers the oath.

Court of Appeals Judge John H. Emfinger, at left, takes the oath of office on Dec. 15 in Jackson. Judge Emfinger’s wife, Susan Emfinger, center, holds the Bible while Chief Judge Donna Barnes, at right, administers the oath.

Court of Appeals Judge Joel Smith Jr., at left, takes the oath of office on Dec. 15 in Jackson. Judicial Assistant Heather Graves Trent, center, holds the Bible while Chief Judge Donna Barnes, at right, administers the oath.

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