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How Does the Mississippi Court of Appeals Work?

The Mississippi Court of Appeals was established to relieve the backlog of cases before the Supreme Court. It is the intermediate appellate court in the state and is considered an error-correction court. The Court of Appeals hears and decides appeals on issues that the law has already settled, although the facts remain in controversy. Generally, appeals are not directed to the Court of Appeals in Mississippi. Appeals are directed to the Supreme Court, which assigns cases to the Court of Appeals for hearing. The Mississippi Supreme Court may review the decisions of the Court of Appeals. In cases where the Supreme Court declines review, the conclusion of the Court of Appeal is final.

The Supreme Court considers a few factors in deciding to assign a case to the Court of Appeals. Such factors include the relative workloads of both courts. Excluding matters where reassignment occurs on the Supreme Court’s motion, neither the Court of Appeals nor any party can file a pleading or certification for reassignment after the apex court assigns the case to the Court of Appeals.

In some issues which could be adequately handled by appellate courts but are initially retained by the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court may, at any time before the issuance of a ruling or opinion, transfer the case to the Court of Appeals. However, this is only done if it determines that an expeditious disposition requires the Court of Appeals to decide the case.

Generally, the Supreme Court may assign any appeal to the Court of Appeals except appeals of cases related to:

  • Attorney discipline
  • Judicial performance
  • Utility rates
  • Annexations
  • Bond issues
  • Election contest
  • A trial court’s holding a statute unconstitutional.
  • Certified questions from a federal court
  • The imposition of the death penalty
  • A major question of the first impression
  • Fundamental and critical issues of broad public importance requiring immediate or ultimate determination by the Supreme Court
  • Matters where there is inconsistency in the Court of Appeals’ decisions or the Supreme Court or conflict between the decision of the two courts

The Court of Appeals is divided into five districts:

Counties in the Court of Appeals District 1

  • Alcorn
  • Benton
  • Calhoun
  • Chickasaw
  • Choctaw
  • Desoto
  • Grenada (some precincts split with District 2)
  • Itawamba
  • Lafayette
  • Lee Marshall
  • Monroe
  • Montgomery
  • Oktibbeha (some precincts split with District 3)
  • Panola (some precincts split with District 2)
  • Pontotoc
  • Prentiss
  • Tallahatchie (some precincts split with District 2)
  • Tate
  • Tippah
  • Tishomingo
  • Union
  • Webster
  • Yalobusha

Counties in the Court of Appeals District 2

  • Attala (some precincts split with District 3)
  • Bolivar
  • Carroll
  • Claiborne
  • Coahoma
  • Grenada (some precincts split with District 1)
  • Hinds (some precincts split with District 4)
  • Holmes
  • Humphreys
  • Issaquena
  • Jefferson
  • Leake (some precincts split with District 3)
  • Leflore
  • Madison (some precincts split with District 3)
  • Montgomery (some precincts split with District 1)
  • Panola (some precincts split with District 1)
  • Quitman
  • Sharkey
  • Sunflower
  • Tallahatchie (some precincts split with District 1)
  • Tunica
  • Warren
  • Washington
  • Yazoo

Counties in the Court of Appeals District 3

  • Attala (some precincts split with District 2)
  • Clarke
  • Clay
  • Jasper
  • Jones (some precincts split with District 4)
  • Kemper
  • Lauderdale
  • Leake (some precincts split with District 2)
  • Lowndes
  • Madison (some precincts split with District 2)
  • Neshoba
  • Newton
  • Noxubee
  • Oktibbeha (some precincts split with District 1)
  • Rankin
  • Scott
  • Smith
  • Wayne (some precincts split with District 5)
  • Winston

Counties in the Court of Appeals District 4

  • Adams
  • Amite
  • Copiah
  • Covington
  • Franklin
  • Hinds (some precincts split with District 2)
  • Jefferson Davis
  • Jones (some precincts split with District 3)
  • Lawrence
  • Lincoln
  • Marion
  • Pike
  • Simpson
  • Walthall
  • Wilkinson

Counties in the Court of Appeal District 5

  • Forrest
  • George
  • Greene
  • Hancock
  • Harrison
  • Jackson
  • Lamar
  • Pearl River
  • Perry, Stone
  • Wayne (some precincts split with District 3)

There are ten judges in the Mississippi Court of Appeals. Judges are elected from the five Court of Appeal Districts in non-partisan elections. These elections are staggered to ensure that all the judges are not up for re-election at the same time. Court of Appeals judges serve eight-year terms and may run for re-election if they wish to continue serving. The court has a Chief Judge appointed by the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice, who serves as the overall head for the court. Upon nomination, the Court of Appeals Chief Judge serves for four years. In order to serve as a judge on the Court of Appeals, a candidate is expected to be:

  • At least 30 years old
  • A citizen of Mississippi for at least five years
  • A practicing attorney for at least five years

Court of Appeal judges may be removed:

  • By the Governor upon the joint address of two-thirds of both houses of the Mississippi legislature
  • By impeachment on the votes of two-thirds of the house of representatives, and two-thirds removal vote by the senate
  • By a recommendation of the Judicial Performance Commission

When a seat becomes vacant on the Court of Appeals, the Governor of Mississippi appoints a new justice to fill the position. Such tenures only last for the remainder of the term. Interim justices must run for election in the next election if they wish to retain their seat. The Court of Appeals judges may sit en banc or in panels of no fewer than three.

Decisions of the Court of Appeals may be accessed through the Decisions page of the Mississippi Court’s website. Users may navigate to a specific month or year on the calendar tool provided on the page to select a date. Once selected, the hand down list on the page will populate under the calendar to reveal the Supreme Court decisions for that date.

Persons interested in obtaining case information from the Supreme Court may also use the General Docket search tool on the Mississippi Supreme Court website’s homepage. The court also makes its docket calendar available online. Live oral arguments of the court are available on the Oral Argument Webcast page. Also, a video archive of past oral arguments dating from 2004 may be found on the Mississippi College School of Law’s Judicial Database. Oral argument archives for recent years are also available on the Oral Argument Webcast page.

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