Posts Tagged ‘Judicial Elections’

Partisan Judicial Elections?

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Mississippi House Speaker Pro-Tem Greg Snowden (R-Meridian) filed a bill this year to return Mississippi judicial election to partisan elections (HB496) as they were prior to 1994.

Jimmie Gates writes about the bill in the Clarion Ledger:

Under House Bill 496, candidates for judicial offices would have to list party affiliation and run in party primaries.

Snowden said he is trying to level the field for judicial candidates because they now run only in the general election in November. He said if there are more than two candidates and no one gets a clear majority of the votes, there will likely be a runoff.

“No one wants to come out and vote during the Thanksgiving week,” Snowden said of the typical date for a judicial runoff election.

Snowden said his legislation also would raise the profile of judicial elections. He said most judicial contests are down-ballot races, often leading to a drop in ballots cast.

“This isn’t about Republican or Democrat,” Snowden said.

According to the Associated Press, the bill was tabled:

The House Judiciary A Committee, on a split voice vote on Tuesday, tabled House Bill 496 .

Democrats question whether the change would provide an advantage to Republicans in judicial elections. State Supreme Court Justice Jim Kitchens, a former Democrat, won re-election in the Central District last year against a Republican-endorsed opponent.

Justice Jim Kitchens won reelection in 2016 in the Central District. Had it been a partisan race, the outcome may have been closer, but the district still leans Democrat. Democrat Hillary Clinton won the Central District in 2016 with 51.3 percent of the vote over Republican Donald Trump. When Kitchens first won in 2008, the Central District also went to Democrat Barack Obama with 52.4 percent over Republican John McCain. That year there was also a special US Senate race which was “nonpartisan” and Ronnie Musgrove carried the Central District in his challenge against Roger Wicker with 51.8 percent. But in the regular US Senate race that year Republican Thad Cochran carried the district over Democrat Erik Fleming with 53.8 percent.

Even under partisan elections, the Central District would still be competitive. Democrats would still have the advantage. I think a more interesting study would be to see how partisan elections would shake out in circuit, chancery and county court races across the state.

Other questions to contemplate:

  • Would candidates in some area run as independent either out of principle or to avoid a primary?
  • Would heavy Democratic districts see a greater increase in African American judges as a result of partisan elections and increase the diversity of our judiciary?
  • Would “Tea Party” politics push Republican judges further to the right in conservative areas?

Judicial candidates should not be forced to run under partisan labels; there should also be the opportunity to run as an independent. But judicial candidates should be free to associate themselves with a political party; and a political party should be free to gather together - whether in a caucus or a primary - and choose a nominee. But, the measure appears to be tabled for this year. Still, Snowden’s proposition deserves additional consideration.

Run-Off Tuesday for voters in 7 counties

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Voters in 7 counties head to the polls in run-off elections on Tuesday, November 24.

Rankin and Madison counties have a choice between Steve Ratcliff and Marty Miller for a new circuit court judge position. Ratcliff is a county judge in Madison; Miller is a former Assistant District Attorney for the two counties. Ratcliff finished first in Madison in the November 3 general election featuring four candidates; Miller finished first in Rankin. More details: Ratcliff, Miller in judge runoff

Amite, Pike, Franklin and Walthall counties choose who will serve in a new chancery judge position between Wayne Smith (from Amite) and Conrad Mord (from Walthall). The two finished top in the five person race on November 3. More details: Mord, Smith in runoff for chancery court post

And per the Copiah County Journal (link):

Voters in the county portion of the Hazlehurst City School District will need to plan to return to their voting precincts on Tuesday, November 24 for the runoff election for a 5-year-term position on the district’s Board of Trustees. The race pits incumbent Troy J. Stewart, Sr., who was appointed by the administration of the City of Hazlehurst when local control was returned by the state in 2014, against Kevin Brown.  Brown captured the plurality of votes in the general election on November 3, and Stewart edged into the second place to force the runoff.

Other run-offs on November 24? E-mail me and let me know:

Chancery/circuit run-off $$$

Monday, November 24th, 2014

On Tuesday, voters return to the polls in a number of elections across the state including a run-off for chancery judge and four run-offs for circuit judge. Here is a look at the fundraising and spending for those races based on the November 18 pre-run-off campaign finance reports.

Judicial incumbents sweep but 1 run-off; 1 too close to call

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

A first look at the results from yesterday’s circuit & chancery court races shows incumbents across the state cruised to re-election.

15 incumbents won out right last night. Only two incumbents have races yet to be decided.

In Chancery District 16, Place 1, incumbent Neil Harris, Sr. trails challenger Paula Yancey by 71 votes with 570 affidavits yet to be counted and 17 ballots contingent on the voter returning with their ID, according to The Mississippi Press.

Circuit 18 Judge Billy Joe Landrum faced three challengers and finished second to Dal Williamson in a race that will head into a run-off on November 25.

Four other chancery and circuit court races will head into run-offs as well; all open seats with no incumbents:

Chancery 13-2: Mary Burnham and Gerald Martin

Circuit 2-2: Robert Fant Walker and Chris Schmidt

Circuit 3-2: Shirley Byers and Kelly Luther

Circuit 4-3: Takiyah Perkins and Carol Richard-White

55 candidates for circuit/chancery judge raise $1.8million

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

As of the latest campaign finance reports which closed out fundraising and spending through October 25, the 55 candidates running for chancery or circuit judge in Mississippi have raised collectively more than $1.8 million and spent more than $1.5 million.

No seats on the Mississippi Supreme Court are up for election this year. Three Mississippi Court of Appeals judges stand for reelection this year: Jimmy Maxwell, Kenny Griffis and Virginia Carlton. All three are unopposed. Four years ago, five seats on the Court of Appeals were up for election, all five incumbents ran and won, only two were opposed.

These are some observations on chancery and circuit court races on the ballot tomorrow.

Chancery Court Races

· Mississippi voters will elect 49 chancery judges on Tuesday; 40 are unopposed. Three incumbents are retiring creating open seat elections and six incumbents are being challenged.

· In 2014, 82 percent – or 40 / 49 – of chancery judges will be reelected without opposition; three fewer than four years ago when 88 percent – 43 / 49 – were unopposed. In 2010, there were four open seats and two incumbents faced a challenge: one won; won lost.

· This year, two of the nine competitive races include more than two candidates and if no one in those campaigns earns more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off will be held November 25.

District 8 (Hancock, Harrison, Stone) Place 2

Incumbent Jennifer Schloegel is seeking a second term. She defeated four opponents in 2010 with 51 percent to avoid a run-off. She faces a challenge by civil litigation attorney Stephen Benvenutti of Bay St. Louis.

Of Interest: Schloegel made headlines this year presiding over the open records lawsuit against Auditor Stacey Pickering by the Sun Herald seeking documents from the Department of Marine Resources that state and federal officials were using as part of their investigations.

District 8 (Hancock, Harrison, Stone) Place 3

Incumbent Sandy Steckler, a former state senator, faces former Biloxi city attorney Ronnie Cochran. Steckler was appointed to the bench in 2001 by Governor Ronnie Musgrove.

District 11 (Holmes, Yazoo, Madison) Place 1

Three-term Judge Janace Harvey Goree is retiring. The open seat is being sought by Jackson city prosecutor Barbara Ann Bluntson and Robert G. Clark III, a Holmes County youth court judge and Lexington municipal judge. Bluntson is the daughter-in-law of former Jackson Councilman Frank Bluntson who was criticized for allegedly using two city employees to help Barbara Ann Bluntson’s campaign during her failed run at Madison County Court Judge in 2010. Clark also serves as attorney for the town of Cruger and Holmes County Board Attorney and is the law partner and brother of state Representative Bryant Clark.

District 13 (Simpson, Smith, Covington, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence) Place 1

Judge David Shoemake faces a rematch from Larry Buffington. Shoemake defeated Buffington four years ago after the former judge got into hot water by issuing improper subpoenas to county supervisors in an attempt to discover who passed on public information to the media regarding his appointment of former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz as an additional youth court public defender. The Mississippi Judicial Performance Commission reported, “Judge Buffington admitted that he had failed to comply with the law when issuing the subpoenas, but did not care.” The Mississippi Supreme Court ordered a public reprimand and assessed fines to Buffington.

District 13 (Simpson, Smith, Covington, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence) Place 2

Incumbent Judge Joe Dale Walker resigned in May and recently plead guilty in a federal investigation connected to jury tampering and lying to the FBI. Collins attorney Mary K. Burnham; Mississippi Department of Human Services attorney Deborah Kennedy; and Gerald Martin of Taylorsville who has served there as Board Attorney, are running for this open seat.

District 16 (Jackson, George, Greene) Place 1

Incumbent Neil Harris, Sr. is opposed by Jackson County Board of Supervisors Attorney Paula S. Yancey. Last year, the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered a public reprimand and $2500 fine for Harris for violating the due process rights of three people he charged with contempt. Yancey has served as Jackson County’s Board Attorney and formerly as county administrator.

District 16 (Jackson, George, Greene) Place 3

Incumbent Chuck Bordis, IV withdrew from this election creating an open seat between Michael Fondren and Gary Roberts. Fondren is an attorney in Pascagoula and Roberts is a Gautier city judge.

District 18 (Lafayette, Marshall, Benton, Tippah, Calhoun) Place 1

Long-time Judge Glenn Alderson faces Carnelia Pettis Fondren, former Vice-Chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party; and Tina Duggard Scott, who won with 54 percent a special election for Calhoun County Attorney in 2010.

District 18 (Lafayette, Marshall, Benton, Tippah, Calhoun) Place 2

Judge Robert Whitwell faces Helen Kennedy Robinson. Whitwell, a former US Attorney, was appointed by Governor Phil Bryant last year. Robinson lost a challenge to Chancery Judge Edwin Roberts in 2010 with 31 percent of the vote.

Circuit Court Races

· Mississippi voters will elect 53 circuit court judges on Tuesday. Thirty-eight incumbents are running unopposed, three incumbents are retiring leaving open seats and twelve incumbents are being challenged.

· In 2014, 72 percent – or 38 / 53 - of circuit court judges will be reelected without opposition; two more than four years ago when 68 percent – 36 / 53 – were unopposed. In 2010, only two of the ten incumbents challenged for reelection lost.

· This year, four of the fifteen competitive races include more than two candidates and if no one in those campaigns earns more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off will be held November 25.


District 3, Place 2

Incumbent Judge Robert Elliott, elected in 2006, is retiring. Seeking to replace him are Shirley C. Byers, a former circuit judge in Greenville who lost a run-off to Elliott in 2006 with 33 percent of the vote; Holly Springs city attorney and prosecutor Kizer Jones; and Kelly Luther who has served 18 years as assistant district attorney.

District 2, Place 2

Incumbent John C. Gargiulo was first appointed to the bench by Governor Haley Barbour in 2009 and was unopposed for reelection in 2010. He had qualified to run for reelection but withdrew when he was chosen as a U.S. magistrate judge for Mississippi’s Southern District. Seeking to replace him are Gulfport Municipal Judge Fant Walker; Chris Schmidt, who served for fifteen years as assistant district attorney, and Gulfport Councilman Myles Sharp. Walker has raised more than $215,000 for this campaign; dwarfing any other judicial candidate across the state this cycle. Walker’s father – Judge Robert H. Walker – is himself a former circuit judge turned federal magistrate (and nephew of former Mississippi Chief Justice Harry Walker).

District 4, Place3

Incumbent Judge Betty Sanders is retiring after five terms. Running for her seat are Leflore County Justice Court Judge James Littleton, assistant district attorney Takiyah Perkins and Sunflower County Public Defender Carol White-Richard.


District 4, Place 1

Incumbent Richard Smith defeated George Dunbar Prewitt, Jr. in 2010 with 78 percent of the vote; Prewitt is back for another round.

District 7, Place 1

Incumbent Judge Jeff Weill defeated Ali M. ShamsidDeen and Bruce Burton four years ago taking 61 percent of the vote. ShamsidDeen, who came in second (25 percent), is challenging Weill again.

Of Interest: The Associated Press reports: “The Special Committee on Judicial Election Campaign Intervention released two statements Friday criticizing Ali ShamsidDeen. The panel said ShamsidDeen’s advertising is misleading voters into believing he’s already a circuit judge. The committee also criticized a leaflet urging voters to support ShamsidDeen and [Travis] Childers. It was put out by South Forward IE PAC, an independent group that spends money to help Democrats in the South.”


District 1, Place 2

Three-term incumbent Paul. S. Funderburk is being challenged by Mantachie attorney Dennis H. Farris, Sr.

District 4, Place 4

Representative Willie Bailey (D-Greenville; District 49) is challenging District 4, Place 4 incumbent Ashley Hines. Bailey formerly served as city judge in Leland. If Bailey wins, it will necessitate a special legislative election.

District 8, Place 1

Judge Marcus Gordon, a 35-year incumbent, is being challenged by Don Kilgore, Attorney General for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Kilgore has called this position his lifelong ambition and criticized Gordon for his courtroom demeanor. Kilgore has promised to institute drug courts. Kilgore’s son, Joey Kilgore, is unopposed for reelection to his second term as chancery court judge.

District 9, Place 2

Judge Jim Chaney, appointed by Governor Barbour in 2009 and unopposed for reelection in 2010, is being challenged by bankruptcy attorney Eddie Woods of Vicksburg.

District 11, Place 3

Incumbent Charles E. Webster is being challenged by Cleveland attorney Chaka D. Smith.

District 12

Judge Bob Helfrich faces opponent Chad Shook, a Hattiesburg attorney.

District 13

Judge Eddie Bowen, a former district attorney, is being challenged by Reggie Blackledge, a former municipal prosecutor, public defender, municipal judge and Covington County Justice Court Judge. Bowen grabbed headlines in 2012 when he ruled Mississippi’s $1 million cap on noneconomic damages, a major provision in the state’s comprehensive tort reform, was unconstitutional.

District 15, Place 1

Judge Tony Mozingo seeks reelection to a second term against Picayune attorney Jim Gray.

District 16, Place 3

Judge Lee Coleman, formerly of the Mississippi House of Representatives, faces a challenge from Columbus attorney Monique Montgomery. The Columbus Dispatch story about tax liens against Montgomery is not good, but her response to the questions by the reporter were even worse. More on the race from the Dispatch here.

District 18

Judge Billy Joe Landrum faces three challengers: former assistant district attorney J. Ronald Parrish; Ellisville plaintiffs’ attorney Grant Hedgepeth; and former Jones County Bar Association President and cattleman Dal Williamson. Landrum is under investigation by the State Auditor’s Office which recently made a civil demand of $313K for misuse of public funds. The District Attorney is reviewing allegations to see if criminal charges are merited. Landrum’s pro-plaintiff rulings put his district on the Judicial Hellhole Watch List by the American Tort Reform Association.

County Court Judges

· 21 counties in Mississippi have a county court system with a total of 30 judges. I haven’t looked closely at these races.

I haven’t been tracking county court judge races but one in Hinds County of interest is to replace retiring incumbent Judge Houston Patton. There are six candidates in the race: Kimberly Campbell; Henry Clay; Bridget Clayton; LaRita Cooper-Stokes; Bill Walker; Bruce Burton. Campbell currently serves as House District 72 Representative and if she wins it will necessitate a special election for the legislature. Cooper-Stokes won a special election to replace her husband Kenny Stokes on the Jackson City Council when he won a seat on the Hinds County Board of Supervisors. If she wins it would necessitate another special election for Jackson City Council in Ward 3. Expect a run-off on November 25.

Jones Judge Race: Landrum kicks-off; Rogers bows out; Parrish resigns as ADA

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

UPDATE: Today, State Auditor Stacey Pickering issued a demand for $313,726.73 against Judge Billy Joe Landrum for failing to follow state law in administering his Jones County Community Services Program. Pickering’s press release said, “The findings and information of this investigation will be made available to the District Attorney’s Office and turned over to the Judicial Performance Commission to determine if or what additional actions may be warranted.” Read the full release here: Demand Issued Against Jones County Judge

# # #

My column this week looked at the campaign finance reports of chancery/circuit judge candidates filed in July for the November election. While I didn’t have space to highlight the race for circuit judge in Jones County, it is one to watch.

On Tuesday, WDAM reported 28-year incumbent Billy Joe Landrum kicked off his campaign. But on July 15, Landrum filed a termination report with the Secretary of State showing he would no longer raise or spend any money on his campaign and that he had zero dollars cash-on-hand. He had previously reported raising $15,5000 and spending most of it.

Landrum currently is under investigation by the State Auditor’s Office. From my column earlier this year:

Landrum has confirmed the Auditor’s investigation to the press and claims it involves a community service program he initiated which requires participants (in jail or on probation) to do community service and pay a $50-a-month supervision fee which Landrum uses to buy equipment. Landrum has admitted to keeping the equipment at his personal farm and on one occasion using one of the trucks purchased through the program to travel to Orange Beach, Alabama. Landrum calls the investigation “a political witch hunt” and says he has offered to repay the mileage from the trip.

While mercy is part of justice, seeking leniency is not the reputation that Landrum has campaigned on in the past, including his 2000 campaign for Mississippi Supreme Court in which he failed to make the run-off with opponents Oliver Diaz (the incumbent) and Keith Starrett (now a federal judge). In that campaign, Landrum was largely funded by lawyer campaign contributions (around $100,000). Since then, the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) has criticized Landrum’s judicial “shenanigans” and his court where “flimsy silica cases reportedly still find a welcoming home.” In 2013, ATRA put Jones County on its “Judicial Hellholes Watch List” based on Landrum’s rulings in civil litigation cases.

Polling from earlier this year, before Landrum had opponents, showed the incumbent is well known in his district, but more voters would support a candidate less plaintiff friendly than those who would support Landrum for reelection.

One of his opponents, Noel Rogers, dropped out of the race this week telling WDAM, “After much prayer and thought, I just feel like this isn’t the right time. I feel like I need to wait another four years.”

WDAM reports another opponent, J. Ronald Parrish, resigned his position as assistant district attorney this week to campaign full time. Parrish made headlines with his prosecution of Dr. Malachy DeHenre. DeHenre performed abortions in Alabama and Mississippi but had his license suspended in both states due to health injuries to the mothers including death. Parrish prosecuted DeHenre for shooting and killing his wife and called him a “despicable nasty person” and said no case he handled “gives me as much gratification as this one.”

Landrum has two more opponents:

Grant Hedgepeth of Ellisville is a plaintiffs’ attorney focusing on auto accidents, criminal defense and mesothelioma and asbestos cases. He served one term as District Attorney for Jones County after defeating the then incumbent DA in the 1999 Democratic Primary by fewer than 400 votes; Hedgepeth was unopposed in the general election. He then lost in the 2003 Democratic Primary by nearly 1700 votes to the current DA, Tony Buckley (who became a Republican in 2011). Hedgepeth also served as an assistant attorney general under Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.

Dal Williamson, a former Jones County Bar Association President in the race, and a past president of the Jones county Cattlemen Association. He is a partner at Williamson & Thompson which handles family law, personal injury cases and real estate services. He is a former law partner with retired U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Charles Pickering, Sr.

As of the July reports, Landrum had raised $15,500; Hedgepeth raised $12,000; Williamson raised $8582; and Parrish had not raised any yet.

Judicial Finance Reports - Trial lawyers, Republicans, big money, the usual suspects

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Here are some various observations on the pre-election campaign finance reports filed by candidates yesterday for Mississippi Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

The two incumbents in the races have raised the most: Bill Waller ($470K) and Mike Randolph ($429K). But Flip Phillips has raised the most of a non-incumbent ($415K). Here is a chart with the numbers from this filing period as well as total year-to-date.

Central District

Bill Waller - Waller isn’t campaigning blind. His report notes $15,537 paid to the Tarrance Group for polling.

Some contributions of note to Waller include: Mississippi Federation of Republican Women ($500), 2003 GOP nominee for Attorney General Scott Newton ($500), Northern District MDOT Commissioner Mike Tagert ($500), Jim Barksdale ($500), Palazzo for Congress ($1000), Bomgar CEO Joel Bomgar ($1000), former Appeals Court Judge and MSGOP Chairman Jim Herring ($250), Koch Industries of Kansas ($1000), Mississippi Association of Educators PAC ($5000)

Earle Banks - Banks has spent $36,200 on media, $2500 on signs and $14,000 to Zata3 which does polling and robo-calls. He also advertised in the Rankin County News - a Republican and likely Waller area of strength.

Some contributions of note to Banks include: former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Chuck McRae ($1000); Democratic Senator John Horhn ($500); Democratic Senator Bennie Turner ($350); Democratic Representative Bryant Clark ($2500), former Democratic Secretary of State Dick Molpus ($500); Shane Langston ($5000); and each in for $2500 McCraney, Montagnet & Quinn; Hawkin/Gibson; Porter & Malouf; the Diaz Law Firm; Merrida Coxwell; Rebecca Langston; Casey Langston Lott.

According to the report, Porter & Malouf gave $2500 on October 9 and another $5000 on October 29 which would clearly break the campaign contribution limits. To be fair, sometimes that happens in a campaign and typically the campaign will return the amount above the limit (which is what I assume they did with a $2500 disbursement to Shane Langston) - or - the contribution should have been listed as coming from an attorney at Porter & Malouf instead of the firm.

Northern District

Flip Phillips - Phillips has placed $307K on television and billboards and has paid $11,500 to Public Opinion Strategies for polling.

Some contributors of note to Phillips include: former Democratic Congressman Travis Childers ($500); author and former Democratic Representative John Grisham ($5000); former chief-of-staff to Governor Ronnie Musgrove David Cole ($500); the firm of Democratic State Representative David Baria, Baria-Williamson PLLC ($500); Democratic state Senator Bennie Turner ($500); the Kitchens Law Firm ($1000) made up of three sons of current Supreme Court Justice Jim Kitchens; Tracie Langston ($5000); the Liston family: Brenda Liston (Homemaker - $5000), William Liston III (Lawyer - $5000), Jeanne Liston (Homemaker - $5000), William Liston (Lawyer - $5000); Ashley Ogden ($5000); Christie Ogden ($5000); and many of the names you see above on the report from Earle Banks: Timothy Porter of Porter & Malouf ($2500), Patrick Malouf of Porter & Malouf ($2500), Casey Langston Lott ($5000), Hawkins/Gibson ($2500), Merrida Coxwell ($2500), the Diaz Law Firm ($2500), Shane Langston $2500. Phillips also posted $5750 in 48-hour-reports.

Josiah Coleman - Coleman has placed $110K on paid media. Some contributors of note to Coleman include: Mississippi Association of Educators PAC ($1000); former MSGOP Chairman Clark Reed ($500); Palazzo for Congress ($1000); Haley’s PAC ($1000); Koch Industries of Kansas ($1000); MS Federation of Republican Women ($500); Retzer Resources - former MSGOP Chairman & Ambassador to Tanzania Mike Retzer ($1000); Kelly Segars ($1000). Former Governor Haley Barbour is a big get for Josiah. A more interesting story from this report is the contribution from Segars, an Iuka physician who formerly served on Phillips Campaign Finance Committee and now has apparently retracted from that position to back Phillips’ opponent.

Southern District

Mike Randolph - Randolph spent $184K on media advertising and $16K on yard signs. A few noteworthy contributions include: Mississippi Federation of Repubican Women ($500); 2007 GOP nominee for Attorney General Al Hopkins ($250); Palazzo for Congress ($1000); Friends of Billy Hewes ($500); Koch Industries of Kansas ($1000).

Tal Braddock - Braddock received a $2000 loan from Strategic Financial Resources, LLC / Joseph Leland Speed.

Court of Appeals

EJ Russell - Russell spent $400 on radio advertising with WMPR and $800 on signs. She received $500 from MS Federation of Republican Women.

Ceola James - James…is still in the race.

A Final Thought

Trial lawyers are providing the bulk of contributions to Flip Phillips and Earle Banks with many of the same names on both reports, but the campaigns have mirror messages. Flip says his opponent lacks legal experience; meanwhile how many cases has Earle Banks been on as the attorney of record? Earle complains about the large amount of campaign funds his opponent has raised; meanwhile Flip is out-raising everyone but the incumbents. So if the issue isn’t experience and the issue isn’t “big money” then what could be motivating the supporters of Phillips and Banks?

The motivation is what it has long been in supreme court races in Mississippi. Banks opposed tort reform in the legislature. Phillips has argued that damage caps in tort reform are unconstitutional. The issue of the constitutionality of most of Mississippi’s tort reform has yet to have been addressed by the Mississippi Supreme Court. This race, despite the smoke and mirror attacks against Waller and Coleman, is really about the future of Mississippi’s business climate and lawsuits.

Phillips flips - promises positive goes negative?

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Monday, Northern District Supreme Court candidate Flip Phillips told the Clarion Ledger Editorial Board that he is ‘running positive ads. Telling people to ask someone who knows me about who I am.’

Now, according to his opponent’s campaign, Phillips has flipped and he is running negative ads. Here is an excerpt from today’s press release by Josiah Coleman for Supreme Court:

Flip Phillips, Josiah Coleman’s opponent for the Mississippi Supreme Court, recently began an attack ad against Coleman, backtracking on public promises not to air negative ads. The ad states that Coleman has tried “not one” case, when Coleman has in fact tried cases at the trial level and taken a lead role in numerous appellate cases. The Coleman Campaign notified the Phillips Campaign of the factual inaccuracy of the ad and asked that it be discontinued, but the Phillips Campaign has refused to stop running the misleading commercial.

“Mr. Phillip’s desperate attack ad not only knowingly misleads North Mississippi voters, but attempts to shift the conversation from the subjects of fairness and trust, on which he has been losing for months.” Coleman continued, “I want to thank all of my many, many supporters who have seen through Mr. Phillips’s misleading attack, and I want to encourage you to contact Mr. Phillips and his campaign and demand the attack stop.”

Flip Phillips & Regulation by Litigation

Monday, October 29th, 2012

I’ve heard talk but I haven’t seen the television advertisement in Mississippi’s Northern District criticizing Flip Phillips. I’ve heard it is about “guns” and without the benefit of the video (someone post it if you have it) I assume they’re talking about Phillips’ philosophy of “regulation by litigation.”

That is an issue I wrote about in June in my column looking at the race between Phillips and Josiah Coleman.

Phillips wrote, “the fundamental purpose of civil litigation today is shifting from a strictly compensatory purpose to regulatory or punitive purposes.” At a symposium discussing the article, he argued Mississippi became “lawsuit central” in the country not because of the excessively high verdicts, but rather, because the rest of the country was not as enlightened as Mississippi. Rather than reform lawsuit abuse in Mississippi, he seemed to argue the rest of the country should become more like the Magnolia State. In another presentation Phillips argued the elected branches of government have failed to do their jobs and “regulation by litigation” could address policy issues involving tobacco, guns, insurance, health care and product liability.

Phillips addressed this philosophy at the 9th Annual Consumer Rights Litigation Conference sponsored by the National Consumer Law Center. Here is more of his presentation (emphasis added).

“The primary goal of industrial age litigation has been compensation for an individual litigant. More and more frequently, post-industrial litigation seeks to serve a second, regulatory purpose, its goal being punishment for a defendants conduct. Society uses civil litigation to accomplish its desired goals not being accomplished through other means. As society’s needs have shifted from compensation to accountability, a primary purpose of civil litigation has shifted accordingly. The role of civil litigation in the Third Age, thus, has shifted from solely a compensatory function to a regulatory function.

Increasing corporate power and a lax regulatory environment have given rise to a pervasive perception consumer abuse. Insurance, health care, financial services, and other areas of modern life foster a growing sense of impotence by consumers. A recent issue of Business Week, featured the phenomenon in its cover story, “Too Much Corporate Power?”

The social and political regulatory environment in which business operates has grown increasingly permissive over the past twenty years. In his memoir, “On Money and Markets,” former Federal Reserve Bank officer and 1980’s Wall Street brokerage partner, Henry Kaufman observes a permissive style of leadership that allows too many abuses to go unchecked in financial industries today. There exists, Kaufman states, “an urgent need for regulatory and supervisory reform at home and abroad, as financial innovation and global integration outpace an already obsolete regulatory purpose.”

It is significant that a front page story in The Wall Street Journal the first week of this century was entitled “Civil Action: Why Americans Look to the Courts to Cure the Nation’s Social Ills.” Subtitled, “Evolution of Mass Litigation,” and “One Lawyer Says He Does the Jobs Congress Shirks,” the Journal noted increasing frustration by the public with the political process, concluding “More and more frequently turn to courts when the traditional avenues of politics or activism seem obstructed.” The Journal’s observation is reminiscent of this authors statement to Jane Bryant Quinn, quoted in Newsweek in 1994 at the inception of the life insurance Deceptive Sales Practices Litigation: “When public opinion gets ahead of the legislative process, the place people turn is to the Courts.”

In July, Time Magazine ran a lengthy spread entitled “Are Lawyers Running America.” Responding to the criticism that lawyers are operating as an unelected fourth branch of government using litigation to resolve social issues that should be resolved by the legislative process, Time noted the following sentiment: “Congress and the White House are so dependent on special-interest campaign contributions and so mired in partisan gridlock . . . that it is often impossible to get anything done there.. . .Leaving important public-policy decisions to elected branches might make sense if those branches did their jobs. But they are so indebted to special interests . . . they tend to stay gridlocked.”

As former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich noted, the era of regulation by Big Government may be ending, but the era of regulation by litigation is just beginning. Tobacco litigation, gun litigation, insurance, health care, products liability, and multiple other cases, are examples of civil litigation serving an increasingly important regulatory purpose in post-industrial society.

FACT CHECK #2 on the Earle Banks Personhood Video

Monday, October 29th, 2012

From the Earle Banks Personhood Video:

In 2011, only one judge in the Central District of Mississippi voted yes to put the Personhood Amendment on the ballot, Judge Bill Waller, Jr. All other Central District justices found the language unconstitutional and voted no.


Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Malcolm Harrison ruled against opponents of the Personhood Amendment when they sought to prevent the initiative from appearing on the ballot. Opponents of the Personhood Amendment appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The Court determined the constitutionality of the Personhood Amendment should come before the Court only if it passed. The Court doesn’t give advisory opinions on whether every bill introduced in the legislature is Constitutional or not; and it would not do so on a citizen initiative. The Court concluded: “Measure 26 is not ripe for review.” The amendment went on the ballot and was defeated, removing any need for a subsequent challenge of the language’s constitutionality.

Fact Check:

It is true that in the 7-2 decision, Justice Bill Waller was the only member of the majority from the Central District. The members in the Northern and Southern District were unanimous in support of the decision. Both dissenters came from the Central District.

It is not accurate to say the other justices found the language unconstitutional. They found the process unconstitutional. Justice Jim Kitchens writes in his dissent joined by Justice Leslie King:

The same task is before us today: to decide whether the text of Measure 26 meets the minimal constitutional requirements of Section 273. None of the parties has argued that Measure 26 runs afoul of the rights guaranteed the citizens by our Bill of Rights. Whether Measure 26 limits or expands the rights enumerated within Mississippi’s Bill of Rights is of no moment, for this Court is asked only whether the plain language of Measure 26 makes the initiative a “proposal, modification or repeal” of any portion of the Bill of Rights as prohibited by Section 273(5)(a)….I find that Measure 26 is invalid on its face, because it is both a proposed addition to and a modification of the Bill of Rights.

Because they believed the initiative and referendum process in this case would alter the Bill of Rights, and it is unconstitutional for I&R to alter the Bill of Rights, they found the process - not the language - unconstitutional.

So to the video, to claim that the “other Central District justices found the language unconstitutional” is not accurate. That claim is not a fact.

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