By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
Josiah Coleman wants his legal research and writing abilities to be the bedrock of his quest for the Mississippi Supreme Court.
“This race isn’t about age, it’s about ability and experience as it relates to the task at hand,” the Oxford attorney said recently during an interview at the Toccopola home he shares with his wife of two years, Ashleigh, and their 5-month-old daughter, Merrimac.
An attorney since 1999, Coleman will be 40 three days before the Nov. 6 election to choose a successor to retiring Justice George Carlson.
He faces 65-year-old Batesville attorney Richard “Flip” Phillips on the nonpartisan ballot.
Coleman said he’s focused on telling people who he is and what he will do as a judge without regard for what may be coming against his opponent by a herd of pro-Coleman political action committees.
“They are free to participate as they will,” the University of Mississippi Law School graduate said. “I have no idea what they’re going to do.”
Choctaw County native Coleman lags in the campaign funds race, but he is a favorite of business-oriented BIPEC, Mississippi Manufacturers’ Association, Mississippi Association of Realtors, Mississippi Medical PAC, BancorpSouth’s PAC and the state Republican Party’s executive committee, as well as former Gov. Haley Barbour and current Gov. Phil Bryant, among others.
“Mississippi has done a great deal in the past few years to improve its legal environment and Mr. Coleman will be a voice to continue that effort,” said Watkins “Noggin” Wild of McComb, the Realtors’ 2012 president.
For all that support, Coleman says he accepts it and hopes “it helps more than it hurts me. I’m very excited about the endorsements.”
The lanky candidate practices law with Hickman Goza amp& Spragins PLLC. He came to Oxford from stints in Tupelo and as a law clerk for U.S. Magistrate S. Allan Alexander.
He’s the grandson of J.P. Coleman, a former governor and 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judge. He says that’s not why he’s a candidate, but he admits he’d be less than truthful if he didn’t say he “stands on his shoulders.”
Before law school, Coleman studied history and philosophy.
“I’ve had a long-running interest in how judges do their job, especially connected to how they interpret the law,” he reflected.
At a campaign meet-and-greet recently in Ripley, Coleman told the 20 or so gathered that he disagrees with the notion that the U.S. Constitution is a “living” document to be interpreted as judges view the times.
“I don’t buy that,” the Toccopola volunteer fireman told them. “Judges must submit their judgments to what the law really says. They shouldn’t confuse themselves with legislators, who make the law.”
He also told them his clerkship and experience with appellate work during the past decade mean a lot.
“It’s important to have judges willing to do the work,” Coleman noted.
Coleman’s work life began as a child on his grandfather’s Fairfield Farm tending the cotton crop, a job he readily admits wasn’t his favorite.
He grew up surrounded by politics, listening to his grandfather, whom he said welcomed into the house anybody who knocked on his front door.
These days, Coleman’s parents – Tom, a former Mississippi Court of Appeals judge, and Dr. Frances Coleman, a longtime public schools teacher – drive their recreational vehicle throughout the 33-county district to stir up support for their son, one of their five children.
Coleman said he’s proud of the changes he’s seen the past decade at the Mississippi Supreme Court, where a few justices have been replaced by others with more moderate viewpoints.
“I think it’s important that businesses know they have a fair court,” he told the Ripley crowd. “We don’t need a judge who views the court as a way to change society.”
Coleman, his high school class valedictorian, said he believes that “with the skills and gifts I’ve been given, I can serve my state well.”
He denies making any false statements about his opponent. Lloyd Gray 9/18/12 This needs explanation
As for his political future once this campaign is decided, J.P. Coleman’s grandson says the Mississippi Supreme Court job is the only elective post he wants.
“I’m one and done,” he laughed.
He’s got his grandfather’s desk, just in case.
“I hope we can put it back into service,” Coleman added.
For more information visit www.colemanforsupremecourt.com