By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Randy Pierce is leaving his post as a Southern District Supreme Court justice on Feb. 1 to become the first director in more than a year of the Mississippi Judicial College.
Will Wilkins, director of the Mississippi Law Research Institute, has been serving as interim director of the Judicial College since Cynthia Davis stepped down more than a year ago.
Pierce, who was elected to the Supreme Court in November 2008, announced Monday he would be leaving the state’s highest court to accept the position with the Judicial College, which is part of the University of Mississippi School of Law.
The Mississippi Judicial College provides introductory training to the judiciary, ranging from Supreme Court justices to municipal judges, and to judiciary clerks. The judicial college also provides other services to the judiciary such as helping to develop court rules and provides the Legislature with updates on the needs of the judiciary.
The decision of Pierce to step aside means Gov. Phil Bryant will have two appointments to the nine-member Supreme Court in the coming months. Last week Bryant named Northern District Supreme Court Justice David Chandler to the newly created cabinet-level post of executive director of the Division of Family and Children’s Services.
The terms for both Chandler and Pierce were set to expire in December 2016, meaning anyone Bryant appoints to fill the vacancies will have to stand for election in November.
Pierce said, “I had previously decided not to seek another term. When the announcement was made that a search was under way for a new director at the judicial college, I thought it would be a great opportunity to use my experience and background in that capacity.
“I look forward to working with the law school and the university. It has been an honor and a blessing to serve on the Mississippi Supreme Court.”
Pierce said the new position will allow him to teach, which he has been doing in recent years at the Mississippi College School of Law and at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Pierce was considered a future statewide candidate when the Leakesville resident was elected to the Mississippi House in 1999. Then-Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, appointed Pierce in only his second term to chair the influential Education Committee, and Pierce quickly became a key member of the House Democratic leadership team.
But that ended when former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour appointed the Democratic legislator to a vacant south Mississippi chancery judge post.
Pierce is also a novelist.