Judge Larry Roberts announces retirement plans

I am saddened to report that Court of Appeals Judge Larry Roberts has informed the Governor and the Court of his intention to retire effective June 30, 2015.

Judge Roberts will have served over 37 years as a County Court Judge, Circuit Judge, and Court of Appeals Judge.  He is often the first judge to arrive at the Court and the last to leave.  He is dedicated, loyal and always shows proper judicial temperment.  It has been my honor to serve with a man and judge of such integrity.

I wish you the best in retirement Judge Roberts.  Well done.


Mississippi Constitution: Education (Article 8)

I don’t intend to get in the controversy about the IHL’s decision to not renew Dr. Dan Jones contract.  I also don’t want to allow this site to be a forum of public discussion.  I do, however, like it when citizens are interested in the Mississippi Constitution.  I encourage all citizens to read the constitution.

There have been a number of efforts to revise Mississippi’s Constitution, but none have been successful.

Mississippi’s Constitution has divided the State’s primary and secondary education.

Grades K through 12, are governed by the State Board of Education (Art. 8, Sec. 203) through the Superintendent of Public Education (Art. 8, Sec. 202), the Superintendent of Public Education for each county (Art. 8, Sec 204), and the superintendent of municipal schools (not a constitutional office).  The State Board of Public Education is appointed by the Governor (5 appointees, which includes 1 school administrator and 1 school teacher, the Lt. Governor (2 at large appointees), and the Speaker of the House (2 at large appointees).

Secondary education, or “institutions of higher learning,” are governed by the “Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning.”  The following information comes from Article 8, Section 2013-A of the Mississippi Constitution.

These “institutions” include: University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, Mississippi University for Women, University of Southern Mississippi, Delta State University, Alcorn State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi Valley State University, “and any others of like kind which may be hereafter organized or established by the State of Mississippi.”

There are 12 members of the board, and they are appointed by the Governor.  The members serve 12 year terms.  One-third of the board is replaced every 4 years.

The qualifications of the board members is as follows.  “The Governor shall appoint only men or women as such members as shall be qualified electors residing in the district from which each is appointed, and at least twenty-five (25) years of age, and of the highest order of intelligence, character, learning, and fitness for the performance of such duties, to the end that such board shall perform the high and honorable duties thereof to the greatest advantage of the people of the state of such educational institutions, uninfluenced by any political considerations.”  (Emphasis added).

The Board’s authority is limited.  “Such board shall have the power and authority to elect the heads of the various institutions of higher learning, and contract with all deans, professors and other members of the teaching staff, and all administrative employees of said institutions for a term not exceeding four (4) years; but said board shall have the power and authority to terminate any such contract at any time for malfeasance, inefficiency or contumacious conduct, but never for political reasons.”  (Emphasis added).

The final provision states, “Nothing herein contained shall in any way limit or take away the power the Legislature had and possessed, if any, at the time of the adoption of this amendment, to consolidate, abolish or change the status of any of the above named institutions.”

Questions with the Judge – Prentiss G. Harrell

Circuit Judge Prentiss G. Harrell
Jefferson Davis, Lamar, Lawrence, Marion & Pearl River Counties
14th Circuit District

Judge Prentiss G. Harrell is the proud father of two children and six grandchildren. He is a member of Main Street Baptist Church where he is a Sunday School teacher and has served on numerous committees.

Judge Harrell graduated from William Carey College in 1979. He was an adjunct instructor at William Carey College for several years. He received his Juris Doctor Degree from the Mississippi College School of Law in 1986.

Judge Harrell’s primary area of practice was business law from 1987 to 2007.

Judge Harrell was first elected to office in 1996 when the voters of Lamar County elected him County Attorney. While County Attorney, Judge Harrell was active in the Mississippi Bar Association and the Mississippi College School of Law Alumni Association, serving as president. In addition, Judge Harrell was the managing shareholder in a seven person law firm located in the Oak Grove area. In 2007 he was elected as the Circuit Judge for the 15th Judicial District of Mississippi and re-elected again in 2010

1. What do you like most and least about being a judge?

Most: My decisions impact individuals and society as a whole, and I do my best to make decisions that will have a positive impact.

Least: Playing babysitter to bickering attorneys.

2. Identify one judge, living or dead, whom you admire the most and explain why?

Judge Keith Starrett because of his spirit of helping society.

3. What three suggestions would you give to a lawyer about how to improve their writing?

1. Clear and to the point.
2. Brevity when possible
3. Cite supporting authority and cite correctly
4. What three suggestions would you give to a lawyer about how to present an effective case in your court?

1. Organize and prepare
2. Practice professional courteousness
3. tempered zealousness

5. If you could change any law or rule, what would it be?

Reign in Civil Discovery. Current civil discovery rules and practices have almost eliminated one’s ability to go to trial.

Friday Funny

The young man from Mississippi came running into the store and said to his buddy, “Bubba, somebody just stole your pickup truck from the parking lot!”

Bubba replied, “Did y’all see who it was?”

The young man answered, “I couldn’t tell, but I got the license number.”

Supreme Court April Oral Argument Schedule

Monday, April 6, 2015
10:30 a.m.
2013-CA-01660-SCT Illinois Central Gulf Railroad Company d/b/a Canadian National/Illinois Central v. Luther W. McLain

Tuesday, April 7, 2015
10:00 a.m.
2013-IA-01139-SCT Jourdan River Estates, LLC, and Jourdan River Resort and Yacht Club, LLC v. Scott M. Favre, Cindy Favre and Jefferson Parker

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
1:30 p.m.
2013-CA-01213-SCT Perry A. Elchos and Wife, Lori A. Elchos v. Kevin J. Haas Wife, Lisa T. Haas

Tuesday, April 14, 2015
10:00 a.m.
2012-CT-01032-SCT Christopher Lee Baxter v State of Mississippi

Monday, April 20, 2015
1:30 p.m.
2014-CA-00592-SCT State of Mississippi, Ex Rel. Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics v. Bobby Ray Canada and Beverly Turman

Tuesday, April 21, 2015
10:30 a.m.
2014-CA-00999-SCT Intrepid, Inc. v. Joseph S. Asa Bennett

RIP Jack Pool

Here is the obituary for Jack Pool.  Jack served as the Supreme Court Administrator for a number of years.  I found always enjoyed my interaction with Jack.  He was kind, courteous, dedicated, loyal and honest.  He was an excellent public servant.

My sympathy and condolences to his family.  RIP Jack.  Thank you.

Questions with the Judge – Jim Davidson

Chancery Judge H. J. “Jim” Davidson
Chickasaw, Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee, Oktibbeha & Webster Counties
14th Chancery District

Judge Davidson was elected as Chancery Judge on November 21, 2006. Judge Davidson has 35 years of practice primarily in the Chancery Court and also served as a tenured Professor at Mississippi University for Women for 32 years. He also served as a trained Arbitrator and Mediator for over 16 years. Judge Davidson received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from the University of Mississippi and his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1974.

Judge Davidson has been active in his community serving as President of the Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce, the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science Foundation, the Lowndes Community Foundation, and the Salvation Army Advisory Board.

Judge Davidson and his wife, Jamie, have three adult children and two grandchildren.

1. What do you like most and least about being a judge?

I like the feeling I have when a newly adopted three year old toddles out of my office with his/her new parent(s) having come oftentimes from desperate circumstances. I know that by entrance of the Decree, I have helped bring legitimacy to completely change his/her life. I also like the fact that my fellow lawyers now either take or promptly return my phone calls. I dislike the feeling of isolation and sometimes the inability to really say what is on my mind!

2. Identify one judge, living or dead, whom you admire the most and explain why?

I always held Judge L.T. Senter, Jr. in very high regard. One of my first Court appearances was before Judge Senter when he was a circuit judge. Things did not go well for me, but he treated me as if I was a peer and though could have exposed my inexperience publicly, instead was gracious in his remarks and did so with respect for the profession. I vowed that if I ever was lucky enough to serve in this capacity that I would follow Judge Senter’s example. He was a fine man and a fine judge. Judge William E. Bearden,, former Chancellor from Lowndes County, now deceased, would be up there also.

3. What three suggestions would you give to a lawyer about how to improve their writing?

(a) Read vociferously. You can learn so much by reading accomplished writers. (b) Practice by typing yourself. If a lawyer merely dictates to a secretary, he will not develop the actual process of coordinating words and thought on paper. (c) Make buddies with a good writer and submit papers to your pal for critique. I once wrote an article for the Mississippi Lawyer and thought I had done so well until I submitted it for proofing to MUW English professor, Dr. Bridget Pieschel. Needless to say, I told her not to worry about me vying for her job!

4. What three suggestions would you give to a lawyer about how to present an effective case in your court?

(a) Be precise and to the point. i.e. don’t polevault over mouse droppings. (b) Be prepared and know your case. (c) Be candid with the Court particularly in custody cases where you know a fact that literally may mean life or death to a child and your good advocacy skills keep it out of the record and hence not considered by the Court.

5. If you could change any law or rule, what would it be?

In my eight plus years on the bench, I have attended many judges’ conferences. Just like here at home, we all have an opportunity to discuss how it is done in “our state” To my surprise, I have found that the State of Mississippi has some really good ways of handling a myriad of issues. I have been quite proud to let them know that we do have shoes and do most things right. I have some law and rules that I think could be applied differently, but do not have a strong feeling about changing them.