Bryant, a Republican in his first year as governor, said in a news release, “I am pleased to make these appointments and am confident that these committee members will work to uphold the integrity of Mississippi’s judicial appointments process.”
Mississippi has an elected judiciary, but the Constitution gives the governor the authority to fill vacancies. It is not unusual for judges – at both the chancery and circuit court levels and on the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court – to step down before their term’s end, giving the governor the opportunity to make an appointment until the next election.
For instance, on the 10-member Court of Appeals, six of the judges were initially appointed to their posts by the governor. On the nine-member Supreme Court, four of the justices were initially appointed.
According to Bryant’s executive order creating the Judicial Appointment Advisory Committee, it “shall meet, evaluate and classify, by majority vote of its membership, proposed nominees as ‘fully qualified’ or ‘not fully qualified.’” Those deemed qualified will be forwarded to the governor.
Bryant said he is patterning the commission after what was used by previous Gov. Haley Barbour. Other governors have formed similar commissions while others have made appointments without the aid of such commissions.
The Northeast Mississippians on the commission are Margaret Sams Gratz and Jerry Davis of Tupelo; Jim Greenlee and Larry Moffett of Oxford; William H. “Bill” Smith of Corinth and Joy Wolfe Graves of Starkville.
Bill Smith, a Jackson attorney, who is originally from Starkville, will chair the commission.
Madison attorney Douglas Minor Jr., originally from Oxford, also is on the panel.