Thursday, January 31, 2008

Judicial food fight?

Magnolia Bar President Carleton Reeves publicly criticized Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Smith for not appointing black judges to help clear the backlog of criminal cases in Hinds County. Mr. Reeves claimed:
"Chief Justice Smith has made a habit of only appointing white male special judges to Hinds County," said Magnolia Bar Association President Carlton Reeves, a Jackson attorney.....
"The net effect of these appointments is that although Hinds County has only four elected Circuit Court judges, the representation of African Americans among Hinds County Circuit Court judges has been reduced from 50 percent to 29 percent, and the representation of women has been reduced from 25 percent to 14 percent," Reeves said...."
http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080131/NEWS/801310363/1001

This is a serious charge leveled by the Magnolia Bar President against the Chief Justice. However, the Chief Justice stated that he has tried to find black judges to appoint and several have refused to serve:
"Smith said he has made a concerted effort to find African Americans willing to serve as special judges in the county but to no avail.
"For two years, I have actively looked to appoint an African American as a special judge in Hinds County without success," Smith said.
Smith said he recently offered a special judge position to Reeves and has offered positions over the last two years to retired African American judges and others.
Smith said he has told Magnolia Bar Association officials to send him names to consider, but he hasn't received any.
Reeves confirmed Smith asked him to consider a special judge appointment. "I told him it was not about me," Reeves said."


The Chief Justice also stated he was trying to use retired judges as it costs the state less money than paying an active full-time judge. In case Mr. Reeves has not noticed, this is Mississippi, which is not exactly the richest state in the union (am I allowed to use "union" in this state?).

In fact, the Chief Justice states he asked Mr. Reeves if he would like to serve and that Mr. Reeves declined. This makes one wonder what Mr. Reeves is more interested in when he has spare time: helping to reduce crime in Hinds County by serving as a judge or lapping up the attention and prestige that goes with being the president of the Magnolia Bar. So much for leading by example.

In case anyone thinks I am being too critical of Mr. Reeves, consider this suggestion. If Mr. Reeves thinks there are retired black judges out there who have something to contribute to the Chief Justice's attempt to improve the backlog in Hinds County, why doesn't he compile a list of them (after contacting them to see if they would be willing to serve) and publicly give it to the Chief Justice? The media would love to publish such a list as it would allow them to create some controversy. If they don't, send it here and I will gladly publish it on this website. However, making such a list does require some initiative and effort, but it would put the burden on the Chief Justice to either choose from these jurists or explain why he has chosen to ignore them. In fact, one would think as Magnolia Bar President, that would be part of his job. I hate these public food fights and would rather see these two learned men work together to help those of us who do live in Jackson. Mr. Reeves, get a list together and give it to Mr. Smith so we can tell him to put up or shut up.

Note: Feel free to offer in the comments sections any black jurists in the Jackson metro area so that the public can determine for themselves if Mr. Reeves's charges against Mr. Smith are true.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

African Americans, European Americans, Spanish Americans. What does it matter as long as they are QUALIFIED Americans?

And when did Carleton move here from Africa anyway? I thought he was simply American, and just happens to be black.

Tom Head said...

anonymous, the term "African-American" describes Americans of African ancestry.

Re special judges, I would humbly suggest that if you're looking for retired judges, that means old judges, and if you're looking for old judges, that means people who became judges a LONG time ago, and if you're looking for people who became judges a LONG time ago...you're not going to find very many black folks who fall into that category in Mississippi. I wouldn't accuse Smith of racism, but by focusing on retired judges he is choosing a category of potential candidates that does not include very many people of color, and probably does not include very many women, either. If he's specifically looking for diversity, then he needs to go with younger candidates.

Kingfish said...

The problem is there are not very many younger candidates who are qualified to be judges and for six month terms, you don't want one spending 5 months figuring out how to be a judge.

Like I said, Carleton is the head of the Magnolia Bar. If he is going to complain then he should lead by example and submit a list. I think the Magnolia Bar is uniquely qualified for such a task. and like I said, he clerked at the Mississippi Supreme Court and is aware of how a judge truly runs a courtroom although at that level it is not a trial court. Having said that, if he was truly interested in helping Hinds County and setting an example, he should've taken the appointment. It is easier to sit back, go to Magnolia bar meetings, the seminars, representing yourself as the president of the Magnolia Bar, enjoying all the attention that comes with the job etc.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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