Election night changes Supreme Court makeup

By Jon Kalahar - email

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - The face of the state Supreme Court will soon be changing. In one of the biggest surprises of election night, voters in all three judicial districts said goodbye to the incumbents. Only Justice Ann Lamar retained her seat on the bench.

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 in a fierce campaign rocked by third party advertisements.

"I think it's outrageous, that type of mudslinging in a judicial race," Alex Alston said.

Alston is a former president of the Mississippi Bar Association. The recently retired attorney believes the new members will be better for the state. He thought the court had tilted toward big corporations and big insurance in the last few years.

"The judge on the Supreme Court is only there to see that someone 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 James Graves said the voters made their opinion known. But even with new leadership, Graves said the court's main 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," Graves said.

By state law, the justice on the court with the most experience is selected as Chief Justice. That means Jackson native Justice William Waller will be the next chief justice, since 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.