Legislature honors former Supreme Court Justice James L. Robertson

March 7, 2024

The Mississippi Legislature honored former Supreme Court Justice James L. Robertson of Jackson with a concurrent resolution mourning his death and commemorating his lifetime of work.

Judge Claiborne

The Senate adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 515 on Feb. 12. The House approved the resolution on March 6.

The resolution said, in part, “We join the Mississippi legal profession in recognizing the record of service of former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James L. Robertson (83), who passed away on December 10, 2023.”

The resolution stated, “Justice Robertson leaves a great legacy of serving the public, the legal profession and the administration of justice over the span of his professional career. His love, commitment and lasting impact on his family, Mississippi jurisprudence and the State of Mississippi will be missed.”

Legislators recognized Justice Robertson’s work from his early days as an aspiring journalist through his publication of numerous scholarly articles and two books, his service on the Supreme Court and his work in private law practice. As a teenager, he was a high school sports reporter for the Delta Democrat Times, where legendary editor Hodding Carter Jr. was a mentor. During his stint as editor of the Daily Mississippian at the University of Mississippi, he challenged the school’s approach to race-related matters. “Robertson’s journalism career got sidetracked when he was admitted to Harvard Law School,” the resolution recounted.

Robertson returned to his hometown of Greenville to practice law with the firm of Keady, Campbell and DeLong. The resolution said that he “had an extensive trial practice representing school boards, farmers, maritime concerns, and various businesses and corporate clients, and he represented individuals from all walks of life. He felt a duty to seek justice for those who were underserved, a commitment he attributed to the example set by his parents, Susie and L.D. Robertson.”

He was a law professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law 1977-1992, continuing to teach while he served on the Supreme Court. He was devoted to his students. “He wanted them to know how much he valued them and hoped that his teaching efforts were beneficial to their future careers,” the resolution said.

Gov. William Winter appointed him to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court on Jan. 17, 1983. He was elected to an eight-year term, and served until Sept. 1, 1992. His scholarly court opinions were known for a certain literary flair.

After he left the Court, he taught as a visiting professor for a semester at Fordham University School of Law in Manhattan. In January 1993, he returned to private law practice. He practiced law for 25 years as a partner in the Jackson office of Wise, Carter, Child and Caraway.

Of all of his professional memberships, he considered his most significant affiliation to be his life membership in the American Law Institute, and he contributed to the revered Restatements of the Law.

The resolution also recounted the Robertson family’s description of his other interests. “For all his academic and professional accomplishments, Robertson showed the same zeal for his private interests. An enthusiastic jogger, he ran countless races in cities from New York to San Francisco. A lover of the opera, he traversed the country following performances of his favorites, especially Wagner, and he was President of the Mississippi Opera Association in 1996-97. An ardent sports fanatic, Robertson relished any opportunity to talk about seeing Ted Williams and Bill Russell play in person, or how he was in the press box to watch Johnny Vaught's greatest football teams and in the stands for the Billy Cannon punt return.”

The resolution was introduced by Senators Derrick T. Simmons, David Blount, Nicole Boyd, Jenifer Branning, Hillman Frazier, Tyler McCaughn, Sollie Norwood, Daniel Sparks, Mike Thompson and Benjamin Suber.

Here is a link to the bill: