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How Does the Mississippi Supreme Court Work?

The Supreme Court is the apex court and head of the appellate system in the state of Mississippi. It reviews the decisions of law and fact made by the trial courts. The Supreme Court may review rulings of the Court of Appeals, Chancery, Circuit, and County Courts. Both civil and criminal appeals may be heard in the court. Exclusive jurisdiction over certain appellate matters belongs to the Supreme Court, meaning no other state appellate courts are authorized to review the trial courts’ decisions except the Supreme Court.

Mississippi’s Supreme Court operates a deflective model, which means some cases are transferred to the Court of Appeals for hearing. In the state, appeals from the trial courts are first appealed to the Supreme Court. Subsequently, appeals involving matters that do not fall in the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction are moved to the Mississippi Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over matters involving:

  • Annexations
  • Bond issues
  • Constitutionality challenges
  • Death Penalty cases
  • Disciplinary matters involving attorneys and judges
  • Election contests
  • Certified questions from federal court
  • Utility rates
  • Cases of the first impression
  • Issues of broad public interest

The Mississippi Supreme Court meets for two terms a year. Usually, the first term begins on the second Monday in September, and the second term begins on the first Monday in March. Terms of the Supreme Court are held in Jackson. The court’s physical location is at:

Gartin Justice Building

450 High Street

Jackson, MS 39201

Phone: (601) 359–3694

The Mississippi Supreme Court has three districts:

Counties in Supreme Court District 1

  • Bolivar
  • Claiborne
  • Copiah
  • Hinds
  • Holmes
  • Humphreys
  • Issaquena
  • Jefferson
  • Kemper
  • Lauderdale
  • Leake
  • Madison
  • Neshoba
  • Newton
  • Noxubee
  • Rankin
  • Scott
  • Sharkey
  • Sunflower
  • Warren
  • Washington
  • Yazoo

Counties in Supreme Court District 2

  • Adams
  • Amite
  • Clarke
  • Covington
  • Forrest
  • Franklin
  • George
  • Greene
  • Hancock
  • Harrison
  • Jackson
  • Jasper
  • Jefferson Davis
  • Jones
  • Lamar
  • Lawrence
  • Lincoln
  • Marion
  • Pearl River
  • Perry
  • Pike
  • Simpson
  • Smith
  • Stone
  • Walthall
  • Wayne
  • Wilkinson

Counties in Supreme Court District 3

  • Alcorn
  • Attala
  • Benton
  • Calhoun
  • Carroll
  • Chickasaw
  • Choctaw
  • Clay
  • Coahoma
  • Desoto
  • Grenada
  • Itawamba
  • Lafayette
  • Lee
  • Leflore
  • Lowndes
  • Marshall
  • Monroe
  • Montgomery
  • Oktibbeha
  • Panola
  • Pontotoc
  • Prentiss
  • Quitman
  • Tallahatchie
  • Tate
  • Tippah
  • Tishomingo
  • Tunica
  • Union
  • Webster
  • Winston
  • Yalobusha

The requirements to serve on the Supreme Court of Mississippi mandates that a candidate:

  • Must be at least 30 years old
  • Must be a practicing attorney
  • A citizen of the state for at a minimum of five years.

There are nine justices on the court elected from the three judicial districts in non-partisan elections to serve eight-year terms. The elections are staggered to ensure that all nine seats are not open at the same time. The nine justices comprise one Chief Justice, two Presiding Justices, and six Associate Justices. Seniority plays a significant part in the determination of how justices are distributed among the roles.

In situations where a seat becomes open, the Governor of Mississippi appoints a new justice to fill the seat. Such tenures only last for the remainder of the term. Interim justices who want to remain on the court must run for the seat in the next election.

Mississippi Supreme Court justices may be removed if two-thirds of the Mississippi House of Representatives votes to impeach them, and two-thirds of the state senate votes to remove them. A Justice may also be removed by the Governor upon the joint address of two-thirds of both Mississippi legislature houses. Lastly, the Judicial Performance Commission may recommend removing any justice where gross judicial misconduct has been determined. Such removals also require a two-thirds vote by secret ballot of a tribunal of seven circuit or chancery judges, chosen by lot. Each Supreme Court justice participates in deciding appeals. Decisions of the Supreme Court are made by a majority vote of the court.

The Mississippi Supreme Court sits in panels of three justices labeled A, B, C. Panel A is presided over by the Chief Justice, the senior Presiding Justice presides over Panel B, and the junior Presiding Justice presides over Panel C. Besides the presiding justices, the two justices of each panel are rotated regularly. As circumstances sometimes require, substitutions may be made on the justices on the panel. As practical as possible, each justice is assigned the same workload.

Upon filing a notice of appeal, the Supreme Court may, at any time, order the attorneys of the parties to appear before the court, a justice of the court, a Court of Appeals judge, or any person assigned by the appropriate court for a pre-hearing conference. The conference aims to consider the simplification of the issues and other matters that may help in the proceeding of the court’s disposition, such as settlement. After a pre-hearing conference, the court, judge, justice, or assigned individual makes an order which recites the action taken at the conference and the agreements made by the parties concerning any of the matters considered. The action thereof limits the issues to those not disposed of by admissions or agreements of counsel. When entered, the order controls the subsequent course of the proceeding, except where modified to prevent manifest injustice.

Oral arguments in the Mississippi Supreme Court may be requested by stating so in the brief’s cover. Parties who prefer not to have oral arguments must also note “ORAL ARGUMENT NOT REQUESTED” on the brief’s cover. By law, oral arguments are required in all death penalty cases. The Supreme Court permits oral arguments except where the court, or the panel to which the case is assigned, unanimously agree that:

  • The appeal is frivolous;
  • The dispositive issue or group of issues has been recently authoritatively decided; or
  • The facts and legal arguments are sufficiently presented in the briefs and record, and the decisional process would not significantly aid the oral argument.

Each side is usually afforded 30 minutes in an oral argument in the Supreme Court. However, a party is not obliged to use all of the allotted time, and the court may terminate an argument if, at its discretion, it determines that further argument is unnecessary.

Decisions of the Supreme Court 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. 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. Oral arguments of the court are available on the Oral Argument Webcast page. A video archive of previous oral arguments dating from 2004 may be found on the Mississippi College School of Law’s Judicial Database.

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