By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Gov. Haley Barbour said that for the first time during his tenure, he did not receive suggestions from his judicial nominating committee before deciding to appoint Leslie D. King to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
He said he did not need the input because he already knew King, who is a Court of Appeals chief judge, was the best choice to fill the vacant slot on the state’s highest court. However, Barbour said his committee did unanimously find King, 62, qualified for the post.
The vacancy was created by the recent appointment of former Supreme Court Justice James Graves to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Barack Obama.
Of King, Barbour said, “His extensive knowledge of Mississippi’s legal system and his dedication to public service made him the top choice for this position.”
King, a former member of the state House, has served on the Court of Appeals since its inception in January 1995. He will represent the Central District on the nine-member Supreme Court and said he would be a candidate for election to a full term in 2012.
King, as Graves was, will be the only black member of the Supreme Court. Barbour said King was the most qualified person for the post, but said that he also believes it is important to have a black member on the Supreme Court. Barbour called it “a confluence of great facts” to be able to appoint King.
King said he is honored by the appointment. “I also feel a strong sense of responsibility to the people of the state.”
Barbour introduced King at a news conference in his Sillers offices press room. Members of the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court attended the event.
King said he would strive to help to deliver quick and fair justice as a member of the Supreme Court.
“The main thing I bring to the court is a sense of fairness,” King said.
King, a Greenville resident, received his undergraduate degree from the University of Mississippi and his law degree from Texas Southern University. He has held numerous public positions, including youth court counselor and public defender.
Barbour’s Judicial Appointment Advisory Committee now will accept applications to fill King’s vacancy on the Court of Appeals.
A new chief judge for the Court of Appeals will be appointed by Supreme Court Chief Justice William Waller Jr. from one of the incumbent judges.
Barbour has now made nearly 30 judicial appointments.