Election night wasn't kind to incumbent state supreme court justices - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson 11/05/08

Election night wasn't kind to incumbent state supreme court justices

By Jon Kalahar
jkalahar@wlbt.net

JACKSON  (WLBT) - The face of the state supreme court will soon be changing.

In some of the biggest surprises of election night, all three judicial districts saw one incumbent defeated. Only Justice Ann Lamar retained her seat on the bench.

We examines what it will mean for the highest court in the state.

The highest court in the state of Mississippi will have a different look to it come January. One third of the justices will be replaced with newcomers to the Gartin Justice Building, but not new to the law of the state.

Long time Crystal Springs attorney Jim Kitchens ousted Chief Justice Jim Smith. Chuck Easley was defeated by appeals court Judge David Chandler. And Oliver Diaz lost to south Mississippi chancery court judge Randy "Bubba" Pierce which saw a fierce campaign by both sides as well as third party advertisements.

Former Mississippi Bar Association president and recently retired attorney Alex Alston believes the new members will be better for the state. He thought the court had tilted towards big corporations and big insurance in the last few years.

"The judge on the supreme court is only there to see that some one got a fair trial and he's suppose to follow the rule of law. It makes no difference whether you're a prince or a pauper," said Alston.

Current associate justice on the court, James Graves, says the voters have made their opinion known, but even with new leadership, Graves says, their goal will remain the same.

"There will be some differences as you may expect but I think we are still gonna be committed to handling the business of the people of the state of Mississippi which is justice," said Graves.

By state law, the justice on the court with the most experience is selected as chief justice.

Jackson native Justice William Waller will be the next chief justice. He was elected to the court in 1996.

Justice Graves will move up to presiding justice as one of the next longest tenured judges on the court.

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