Mississippi Judicial Candidates

Date: September 07, 2016

SUPREME COURT JUSTICE – District 1 (Central), Place 3

•    KENNY GRIFFIS is a Presiding Judge of the state’s Court of Appeals, having been first elected to the Court in 2002 and re-elected to full, 8-year terms in 2006 and 2014. Griffis has received a judicial rating of “fair and balanced” from the Business & Industry Political Education Committee (BIPEC). He has stated that “the role of a judge is to decide what the law is and not based on what it should be.” Griffis lives in Ridgeland (Madison County) and is originally from Meridian. He earned accounting and law degrees from the University of Mississippi after attending Meridian Community College and Mississippi State University-Meridian. He was a Certified Public Accountant from 1984 to 2007. 

•    JIM KITCHENS from Crystal Springs (Copiah County) is the incumbent Supreme Court Justice, having been elected in 2008. Kitchens has received a judicial rating of “plaintiff-oriented” by BIPEC. Kitchens is a former practicing trial lawyer in the Crystal Springs and Jackson law firm of Kitchens & Ellis. He was district attorney for Copiah, Lincoln, Pike, and Walthall counties from 1972-84 and has served as a special prosecutor in several counties. Kitchens is a lifetime member of the Mississippi Association for Justice (formerly known as Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association) and represented the Mississippi trial lawyers on the Board of Governors of the American Association for Justice (formerly known as American Trial Lawyers Association).

SUPREME COURT JUSTICE–District 2 (Southern), Place 2

•    DAWN HENDERSON BEAM, of Sumrall, is the incumbent state Supreme Court Justice, having joined the state’s highest court on Feb. 16, 2016. Gov. Phil Bryant appointed her to fill the unexpired term of retiring Justice Randy “Bubba” Pierce. Beam, the daughter of a minister, was born in Marks. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in business and a law degree from the University of Mississippi. In her early career, she worked extensively in child support enforcement as an attorney with the Mississippi Department of Human Services. She served three years as county prosecutor for Lamar County and then elected and served for five years as a Chancery Judge of the Tenth Chancery District (Forrest, Lamar, Marion, Pearl River and Perry counties). After her appointment to the Supreme Court, she has continued to serve as a member of the Commission on Children’s Justice. Beam and her husband, Dr. Stephen Beam, are founding members of PineBelt360, a non-profit with the mission is to connect citizens across racial, denominational and economic lines to address education, medical and other challenges in the Pine Belt area.

•    MICHAEL T. SHAREEF, of McComb, is the Regional Managing Attorney for the Mississippi Center for Legal Services in McComb (1989-present) and previously served as an attorney with North Mississippi Rural Legal Services (1979-1989), which provides legal services for the poor. He is a graduate of Tougaloo College and Howard University School of Law and is a member of the New York (since 1986) and Mississippi Bar Associations (since 1979). He is a former McComb Municipal Judge.

SUPREME COURT JUSTICE–District 3 (Northern), Place 1

•    JOHN BRADY of Columbus, a past President of the Mississippi Defense Lawyers Association, has focused his law practice on the defense of premises liability, automobile tort cases, and the defense of doctors and hospitals in state and federal courts. He is a partner in the Columbus office of Mitchell, McNutt & Sams law firm, having been admitted to practice law in 1994. He is a graduate of Mississippi State University and the Mississippi College School of Law. He has served on the Mississippi Bar Executive Committee and as a Mississippi Bar Commissioner. Brady was one of the attorneys representing NFIB member Double Quick in the landmark 2008 premises liability case before the Mississippi Supreme Court where he defended the non-economic caps set by the State Legislature. He was elected by business leaders to the Golden Triangle Development Link Trust Board of Directors and serves on the Cadence Bank Advisory Board. Brady previously served on the Lowndes County Republican Party Executive Committee

•    BOBBY CHAMBERLIN (Robert P. Chamberlin), of Hernando, is the Circuit Court Judge for the 17th District (DeSoto, Panola, Tallahatchie, Tate & Yalobusha Counties; 2004-present). He previously served in the Mississippi State Senate (2000-04), as attorney for the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors and was in private practice in Hernando. As a state senator, Chamberlin had an NFIB Voting Record of 67% (2000-03) and 75% (2004). He voted twice against a non-economic cap amendment; voted against a bill allowing consumer choice on the stacking of vehicles to help lower vehicle insurance cost; and voted for health insurance mandates increasing the cost of health insurance. In 2004 he voted against an initial comprehensive tort reform bill but voted for the final tort reform bill which became law.

•    STEVE CRAMPTON (Stephen M. Crampton), of Tupelo, currently practices law in his own firm (Crampton Legal Services) in Tupelo. He has served as Chief Counsel for the American Family Association (AFA) Center for Law & Policy, as Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel for Liberty Counsel (2007), and as Special Counsel to Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family and religious liberty. He has a record of defending conservative principles and represented Personhood Mississippi in its 2010 lawsuit regarding the Constitutional Amendment that was ultimately defeated at the polls, and has defended the display of the Ten Commandments on public property and opposed same-sex marriage. He has stated that the values that will come with him if elected are his record of standing “for life, liberty and for family,” and describes his judicial philosophy as “it is the place of the court not to make law.”

•    JIM KITCHENS (James T. Kitchens, Jr.), of Caledonia (Lowndes County), is not the same as the current District 1 Supreme Court Justice Jim Kitchens of Crystal Springs but is the Circuit Court Judge for the 16th District (Clay, Oktibbeha, Lowndes & Noxubee) (2002-present). He previously served as an Assistant District Attorney in Lowndes County (1996-2002). In a 2002 asbestos claim case filed by several groups of plaintiffs before Circuit Judge Kitchens, he refused to allow venue shopping in the plaintiff-friendly jurisdiction of Noxubee County and forced all plaintiffs to prove the proper venue, thereby dismissing numerous claims. Judge Kitchens has served as the Secretary and Vice-Chair and Chair of the Mississippi Conference of Circuit Judges. In 2007, he served as the Vice-Chair of the Mississippi Task Force on Justice Court Reform. He has also served on the Plain Language Jury Instruction Committee and has served on the Justice Court Rules Committee. He currently serves on the Curriculum Committee for the Mississippi Conference of Circuit Judges. 

SUPREME COURT JUSTICE–District 3 (Northern), Place 1

There is only one candidate on the ballot in this race.

•    JIMMY MAXWELL, of Oxford, is the current State Supreme Court Justice, having been appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant in January 2016 to succeed retiring Justice David Chandler. Justice Maxwell had been serving on the Mississippi Court of Appeals (2009-16) at the time of his appointment, having been initially appointed by then Gov. Haley Barbour and later elected in 2010. As an Appellate Court Judge, Maxwell received a judicial rating of “fair and balanced” by the Business & Industry Political Education Committee (BIPEC).  He previously served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi, particularly prosecuting criminals for public corruption, white collar crime, money laundering, drug trafficking, counterfeiting, smuggling, immigration and gang-related crimes.

APPELLATE COURT JUDGE–District 1, Position 1

There is only one candidate on the ballot in this race.

•    JIM M. GREENLEE joined the Mississippi Court of Appeals in January 2016, appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant to the vacancy created when Judge James D. Maxwell II was appointed to the state Supreme Court. Greenlee previously served as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi (2001-2010), heading the office which prosecuted public corruption and judicial influence cases and major drug distribution networks, and assisted in the cold-case investigation of the murder of Emmett Till. He served on the initial U.S. Attorney General’s Advisory Council during the aftermath of 9/11, and served on the Office of Management and Budget Subcommittee, White Collar Crime Subcommittee, Controlled Substances/Asset Forfeiture Subcommittee and the Terrorism and National Security Subcommittee. Greenlee was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s office (1987 -2001). He became the lead civil fraud attorney, trying bankruptcy, tort, employment rights, eminent domain and white collar criminal cases. He was in private practice with the Oxford firm of Holcomb Dunbar from 2010 until his appointment to the Court of Appeals in 2016. Judge Greenlee earned a bachelor of engineering degree from the University of Mississippi in 1974 and a law degree in 1981. He served active duty in the U.S. Navy 1974 to 1978 and in the U.S. Navy Reserve until 1997. During his reserve service, he was commanding officer of a Reserve Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Unit. He retired at the rank of captain.

APPELLATE COURT JUDGE–District 2, Position 2

•    CEOLA JAMES, of Vicksburg (Warren County), is the incumbent Appellate Court Judge having been elected in 2012 to fill the remaining term of then Appellate Judge Leslie King upon his appointment to the State Supreme Court. She is a former (1992-2002) Chancery Court Judge for the 9th District (Washington, Sunflower, Humphreys, Sharkey, Issaquena, Warren Counties). She has also served as a Special Master Chancery Judge, Justice Court Judge, Special Appointed Chancery Judge and a Special Appointed City Judge. Prior to her legal career, she was a teacher and community leader. James was publicly reprimanded by the state Supreme Court in 2005 for representing a client in a matter she previously ruled on as a judge in violation of the Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct. 

•    LATRICE WESTBROOKS, of Jackson, has her own law firm (L. Westbrooks Legal, PLLC) in Jackson. She was one of the plaintiff’s attorneys against NFIB member Double Quick in the premises liability lawsuit that also challenged the legislatively enacted non-economic damage cap. Her activism as a trial attorney included representing the Mississippi Conference of the NAACP against the State of Mississippi in joining with Hinds County public defenders against Circuit Judge Jeff Weill who had restricted certain public defenders from his courtroom due to their prior behavior; and in representing several legislators against the Legislature regarding the alternative Constitutional Amendment the Legislature had passed to overcome the very controversial Initiative 42 regarding school funding, which was opposed by NFIB.

APPELLATE COURT JUDGE–District 3, Position 1

•    ED HANNAN, of Madison, is the current Senior Madison County Court Judge and Youth Court Judge (2006-present; elected 3 times) and was appointed by the State Supreme Court as a Special Circuit Judge presiding over the Twentieth Circuit District Drug Court for Madison and Rankin Counties (2011-2018). He previously served for nine years as the Municipal Court Judge for the City of Madison and practiced law in the Satterfield & Allred law firm in Jackson, and in the Boyd, Akin, Hannan & Smallwood firm where he handled cases representing both plaintiffs and defendants in federal and state courts. He has also served as Chair of the Conference of County Court Judges and on the Judicial Advisory Study Committee. He holds a Bachelor of Public Administration and law degrees from the University of Mississippi.

•    JACK WILSON, of Madison, is the incumbent Appellate Court Judge, having been appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant June 16, 2015, to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Judge Larry Roberts. Wilson had served as the Governor’s Legal Counsel prior to his appointment. From 2009-2012 he was an attorney with Bradley, Arant, Boult, Cummins law firm in Jackson defending business clients and specifically defended setting constitutional limits on punitive damages. Wilson served as an adjunct professor of law at Mississippi College School of Law (2010-11), a Commissioner on the Uniform Laws Commission (2012), and initially an attorney with the Mayer Brown law firm in Washington, DC (2005-09). Gov. Bryant appointed Wilson to serve on the Board of Trustees for the Public Employees’ Retirement System (2012-14). He holds an undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Mississippi and a Harvard law degree. Wilson served as a law clerk for a U.S. Court of Appeals Judge in the 11th Circuit (2004-05).

•    DOW YODER (George McDowell Yoder, III), of Ridgeland, is currently the managing member of The Dow, PLLC, a Government Affairs Law Group (2015-present) and previously served as an Assistant District Attorney for Madison County (2008-15), a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern Division of Mississippi (2009-11) assisting with white-collar crime and fraud prosecutions. He was in private practice from 2000-07 and clerked for former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Mike Mills and former U.S. District Court Judge Charles Pickering. He holds an accounting degree from Mississippi College and a law degree from the University of Mississippi. Yoder served on the Mississippi Supreme Court Mediation Rules Committee; the Ethics and Lawyers/Judges Assistance Committees of the Mississippi Bar; and as Counsel for the Mississippi Federation for Immigration Reform and Enforcement.

APPELLATE COURT JUDGE–District 5, Position 2

There is only one candidate on the ballot in this race.

•    DAVID ISHEE is the incumbent Appellate Court Judge having been initially appointed in 2004 by then Gov. Haley Barbour and having been subsequently re-elected. As Appellate Court Judge, Ishee has received a judicial rating of “fair and balanced” by the Business & Industry Political Education Committee (BIPEC). He previously served as Municipal Court Judge for the City of Gulfport, having previously been a Municipal Court Judge for both Pascagoula and Ocean Springs, a Youth Court Judge and was also had an extensive private practice in all federal and state courts in Mississippi. 

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