Coleman readies for state Supreme Court

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

When 40-year-old Josiah Coleman takes his oath of office Jan. 7, he will have what he calls the job of his dreams.
He also says “never say never” to other political aspirations.
The Toccopola man becomes the state’s youngest Mississippi Supreme Court justice with that oath, which will be witnessed by family and friends in the court’s new facility across High Street from the State Capitol in Jackson.
Meanwhile, the Pontotoc County attorney is busy hiring staff, getting to know his fellow justices and preparing for an eight-year term on the state’s highest court.
“It’s such a cliche’, but I’m really honored by the election,” he said this week in Tupelo as he, his wife, Ashleigh, and baby daughter, Merrimac, prepared for an informal dinner with friends.
“So many people felt I was right for the job. It means a lot.”
Coleman soundly defeated his competition, Batesville attorney Flip Phillips, in a non-party election Nov. 6 across north Mississippi’s Supreme Court district.
He’d been on the campaign trail since February.
“It was a long job interview,” he reflected.
While Coleman insists he’s never seen who his campaign contributors were, he knows about and says he appreciates endorsements from conservative political action groups such as BIPEC, the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, state Realtors, physicians and others.
With his win, though, he says his only focus as a justice will be “to let the law guide my decisions.”
The University of Mississippi law graduate also says he can’t concern himself with how some people expect him to vote on appeals to the court.
“I didn’t accept endorsements by making promises to anyone, only to be a fair judge,” he insists. “That’s what they are going to get.”
During the campaign, the 13-year attorney Coleman was criticized for lacking the in-courtroom experience of his 65-year-old opponent.
Coleman countered by citing his depth of experience as a legal researcher and brief writer, which at least one in-state legal scholar speculated might be more suited to the task than a litigator.
“This is the job I want,” said the son of retired Court of Appeals Judge Thomas Coleman and the grandson of former Gov. J.P. Coleman, who also sat on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“I felt like I have the gifts for this job.”
The Choctaw County native gives pause, though, to the gravity of his future decisions, especially in death penalty cases.
“I’m not scared of them,” he said. “But obviously, they are very serious, and it’s important to see justice is done.”
Coleman says he has no desire “at this point in my life” to seek any other political office.
“I am very happy about what’s immediately ahead,” he says. “But it’s impossible to predict what opportunities lie ahead.
“Never say never.”
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com