Mississippi has seven different types of courts. Five of these use nonpartisan elections (Supreme, Appeal, Circuit, Chancery, County), one uses a straight appointment (Municipal) and one continues to use partisan elections (Justice). Currently, the state’s legislature is considering several bills that take entirely different courses of action for these judicial races.
HB 304 and HB 409 would change Justice Court races, along with those for chancery clerk, circuit clerk, and all other county offices, into nonpartisan races.
HB 460 and HB 494 on the other hand would convert all nonpartisan judicial elections into partisan ones.
Meanwhile, HCR 22 would change the Supreme Court into a modified appointment system. Under the constitutional amendment, justices would be nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. After serving their full term, they would be subject to a yes/no retention election.
It remains to be seen what changes, if any, the legislature opts to make.
On January 21, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The decision may be found here.
Citizens United, along with the Caperton case from 2009, may very well alter the playing field for judicial campaigns for decades to come. While several state courts of last resort have attempted to address issues through the judicial canons, the state legislatures have not been idle. This special edition of Gavel to Gavel looks at the legislation introduced in 2009 and thus far in 2010 that contend with Judicial Campaign Contributions and Expenditures.
The Special Edition can be found here.