Appeals, Supreme Court races draw competition

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Mississippi Supreme Court, 2016: Front, from left, Justices Jess Dickinson, Chief William Waller Jr., Michael Randolph; back, Justices Dawn Beam, Josiah Coleman, Jim Kitchens, Ann Lamar, Leslie King, Jimmy Maxwell

Mississippi Supreme Court

Mississippi Supreme Court: Front, from left, Justices Jess Dickinson, Chief William Waller Jr., Michael Randolph; back, Justices Dawn Beam, Josiah Coleman, Jim Kitchens, Ann Lamar, Leslie King, Jimmy Maxwell

JACKSON – Five contested races face voters on the Nov. 8 ballot for Mississippi’s two highest courts.

By Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline, competing candidates qualified for three seats on the Mississippi Supreme Court and two on the Court of Appeals.

In a last-minute filing, McComb Legal Services attorney Michael T. Shareef qualified to run against newly installed Supreme Court Justice Dawn Beam of Sumrall for the District 2, Place 2 seat in South Mississippi.

Beam was appointed in early 2016 to fill the seat vacated by then-justice Randy Pierce, who left the court to direct the Mississippi Judicial College at Ole Miss. Shareef is a former candidate for chancery judge in Southwest Mississippi.

North Mississippi voters will decide a four-way race for state Supreme Court in the wake of Justice Ann H. Lamar’s announced retirement at the end of this year.

Two candidates from Columbus – John Brady and James T. “Jim” Kitchens – as well as Bobby Chamberlin of Hernando and Steve Crampton of Tupelo have filed qualifying papers with the Secretary of State’s Office for the District 3, Place 1 seat.

Brady is a private-practice attorney with the region’s legal powerhouse Mitchell McNutt & Sams, while Kitchens and Chamberlin are sitting circuit judges, who were re-elected in 2014. Crampton of Crampton Legal Services has been chief counsel for the American Family Association and reportedly has represented other Christian organizations.

Kitchens and Chamberlin, a former state senator, have presided over numerous high-profile criminal cases and are judges serving on opposite sides of the Northern Supreme Court District.

In a third race drawing attention, incumbent Justice Jim Kitchens of Crystal Springs faces opposition from Kenny Griffis of Ridgeland for the Central Mississippi Supreme Court seat elected from District 1, Place 3.

Kitchens, a private-practice attorney after many years as a district attorney, surprised odds-makers by soundly defeating then-Chief Justice James W. Smith of Rankin County in 2008. Griffis is presiding judge on the Mississippi Court of Appeals and does not have to resign his seat to be a candidate. His appeals court term runs through 2022.

Returning to the Supreme Court without opposition is Justice Jimmy Maxwell of Oxford, in District 3, Place 2, appointed in early 2016 by Gov. Phil Bryant to fill the vacancy caused by then-justice David Chandler’s resignation. Chandler now heads the state’s new child-welfare agency.

Before their appointments, Beam was a chancery judge and Maxwell was in his seventh year at the Court of Appeals.

For the Court of Appeals’ District 2 Place 2 seat, campaign newcomer Latrice Westbrooks, a Jackson attorney, filed qualifying papers this week against incumbent Ceola James of Warren County, a former chancery court judge. James came to the court in 2013 after winning a special election to replace Appeals Judge Leslie King after his appointment to the Supreme Court.

In Central Mississippi, Court of Appeals newcomer Judge Jack L. Wilson of Madison will face Madison County Court Judge Ed Hannan of Canton and Dow Yoder, a Ridgeland attorney who’s a former assistant district attorney and former special assistant U.S. attorney.

Jim M. Greenlee, a former Northern District U.S. attorney who retired to private practice in Oxford, returns to the court without an opponent for the Court of Appeals District 1, Place 1 seat.

On the Court of Appeals since 2004, Judge David Ishee of Pascagoula also goes back without opposition for the District 5, Place 2 seat.

Also on the ballot will be multiple contests for open circuit court and chancery court seats from geographic districts. Voters choose from candidates in their regions or districts, not all candidates statewide.

Judicial candidates in Mississippi do not run by political party.

Others qualifying with the Secretary of State’s Office are:

  • T.K. Moffett (I) – chancery judge, District 1, Place 14
  • John McLaurin (I) and Jim Nix – chancery judge, District 20, Place 1
  • George M. Mitchell Jr. (I) and Doug S. Crosby – circuit judge, District 5, Place 2
  • Justin M. Cobb (I) – circuit judge, District 10, Place 1
  • Linda F. Coleman (I) – circuit judge, District 11, Place 2

Moffett, Cobb and Coleman will retain their judgeships without opponents.

A candidate for the non-partisan judgeships must be a qualified elector of the district in which election is sought, a practicing attorney and a Mississippi citizen for five years immediately preceding the election.

Supreme Court and Court of Appeals candidates must be at least 30 years old and pay a $200 filing fee.

Candidates for circuit and chancery judgeships must be at least 26 years old and pay a $100 filing fee.

The ballot also will contain candidates for U.S. president, U.S. House, and various county and municipal election commissions and school boards.