Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice William Waller Jr.

Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice William L. Waller Jr. will step down on Jan. 31, after completing 21 years as a member of the state’s highest court.

Waller, 66, has served as chief justice of the nine member court since January 2009. Under state law, the justice with the longest tenure assumes the post as chief justice – not only presiding over the Supreme Court but also serving as head of the entire state judiciary.

When Waller retires, Southern District Justice Michael Randolph of Hattiesburg will be the longest serving justice.

Waller’s term does not end until January 2022. Gov. Phil Bryant will appoint someone to complete Waller’s eight year term.

While the term ends in 2022, Waller’s post is one of two on the court where the election to fill the seat occurs more than a year before the term ends. The election to fill Waller’s post in the Central District will occur in November 2020.

Front, from left, Justices Michael K. Randolph, William L. (Bill) Waller, Jr., James W. Kitchens, Leslie D. King, Josiah D. Coleman, James D. Maxwell II, David M. Ishee, Robert P. Chamberlin and Dawn H. Beam

“It has been my highest privilege to be elected as a justice of the Supreme Court and serve as chief justice of Mississippi,” said Waller, of Jackson, in a news release announcing his retirement.

In the 2000s, there was speculation that Waller would step down to run for governor. His father served as governor in the 1970s.

In announcing his retirement from the judiciary, Waller gave no indication that he might pursue another elected office, but said he would remain active as a senior status judge, meaning he would be available to hear cases and that he would continue to be involved in efforts to improve access to justice.

He also said in the news release he would like to teach law school classes as he has done in the past.

Waller was a proponent of drug courts and of placing court records online.

He played key roles in numerous pieces of legislation in recent years affecting the judiciary including being an active advocate for legislation that created the Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel and the Office of Indigent Appeals.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.